A sanctioned Russian oligarch is trying to “blow up” three Manhattan development projects he’d invested in via shell companies, according to a lawsuit.
Nine days before Russia invaded Ukraine, Mikhail Vasilyevich Klyukin — a board member for Sovcombank, Russia’s ninth largest bank — sent letters to the financial institutions, lenders and attorneys supporting the three projects, claiming developer Gary Vinbaytel should be removed, without saying why, Manhattan Supreme Court papers show.
The developments include a six-story Chelsea condominium at 192 Eighth Ave., for which all the residential units have already been sold; a seven-story condo complex at 238-240 East 3rd St. in the East Village, which was on the verge of getting a permanent certificate of occupancy; and a five-story, nearly-complete commercial building at 128 West 26th St. in Chelsea set to be finished by the end of the year, the current project managers said in the legal papers.
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Klyukin, 44, accused the various companies managing the projects of wrongdoing and claimed his own company, Ahimsa, should assume control — but never said what the alleged wrongdoing was, according to the litigation filed by D&V Realty and other corporations developing the projects.
The oligarch’s letter “could not have been other than an attempt to ‘blow up’ the projects and the Companies,” according to the lawsuit.
The result was “devastating” to the companies involved, they charge in the court filing. One bank froze the accounts of the developers, while another delayed funding for a construction loan for the Wet 26th Street work.
Sovcombank was sanctioned by the US on Feb. 24, the same day Russia invaded Ukraine, while Klyukin was sanctioned a month later, along with more than a dozen others, as part of a wave of penalties meant to punish Russian interests over the invasion.
The penalty meant two of the projects on which Klyukin has a controlling interest are now barred from doing business. The West 26th Street development, in which Klyukin doesn’t have a controlling interest, is the only project which could have proceeded despite the sanctions.
“We don’t exactly know his motivations, but our interest is protecting New York and US citizens and United States residents,” said D&V Realty lawyer Christopher Travis.
In a legal filing responding to the lawsuit, a lawyer for Klyukin accused Vinbaytel of withdrawing $120,000 from the companies bank accounts without providing documentation. Travis called the allegations baseless.