The prosperous Russian businessman nicknamed “Putin’s chef” – Yevgeny Prigozhin – has his fingers in a whole lot pies.
He made his fortune working catering corporations throughout the 1990s – subsequently the nickname. And he joined President Vladimir Putin’s elite circle when the Russian chief began eating at his luxurious floating restaurant in St Petersburg, referred to as New Island, in 2001.
Care for many different Russian oligarchs, Mr Prigozhin, 58, has branched out into diverse corporations, makes use of darkish offshore corporations and enjoys a lavish jet-dwelling day by day life.
Nonetheless the US authorities is making an attempt to clip Mr Prigozhin’s wings: it has stepped up sanctions towards him and his corporations attributable to his alleged meddling in US elections.
Investigations by Western journalists and replicate tanks furthermore hyperlink Mr Prigozhin to a Russian mercenary group referred to as Wagner, accused of pursuing Russian negate pursuits in battle-torn Syria and Libya, as neatly as hotspots in sub-Saharan Africa.
He has denied the Western allegations, nevertheless his commerce ventures stay very opaque.
He got here to prominence in St Petersburg, Mr Putin’s dwelling metropolis, nevertheless was once not throughout the uncommon group of Putin allies, who usual a dacha (country-dwelling) membership referred to as Ozero.
In his twenties, earlier than turning right into a scorching-canines salesman and profitable caterer, he was once jailed for 9 years for theft and fraud.
Russia’s “shock remedy” capitalism of the 1990s created many commerce alternatives for criminals, as they’d name on firm to fend off aggressive opponents.
Mr Prigozhin has stored a low profile for years, nevertheless in 2011 he knowledgeable a St Petersburg newspaper a pair of younger people’s chronicle he as soon as wrote, which featured midgets defending a king towards enemies.
How did he salvage inquisitive about US politics?
The US Treasury launched new sanctions towards Mr Prigozhin on 30 September, accusing him of steering Russian efforts to information the US 2018 mid-term elections.
He was once implicated all as soon as extra through the irascible Net Analysis Firm (IRA), recognized as a St Petersburg “troll manufacturing facility” which, US authorities say, historic misguided internet accounts and misguided information to information US voters throughout the 2016 presidential election.
Mr Prigozhin, his Concord Catering agency, commerce friends and IRA had been indicted by a US Intensive Jury in February 2018 over that election interference.
The prices had been drawn up by US Explicit Counsel Robert Mueller, who was once investigating alleged Russian makes an attempt to help Donald Trump’s election promoting and advertising and advertising marketing campaign.
Mr Prigozhin shrugged off the indictment, asserting: “Americans are very impressionable people; they look what they need to stare. I am not at all upset that I am on this record. Inside the occasion that they need to stare the satan, allow them to look him.”
Probably the most up-to-date sanctions purpose Mr Prigozhin and some of his luxurious sources over “affect operations” linked to the US 2018 mid-term elections.
Throughout all as soon as extra, the US authorities says, his IRA historic “fictitious personas on social media and disseminated misguided data”. The actions are not thought to carry distorted the US election outcomes.
The US believes he funds the corporate by technique of Concord Catering.
The US sanctions title three private jets and a luxurious yacht allegedly historic by Mr Prigozhin, his household and colleagues – luxuries registered throughout the Seychelles and Cayman Islands offshore tax havens.
US people and firms are actually prohibited from doing commerce with him or providing merchandise and firms for his jets and yacht, referred to as St Diet. The jets maintain flown most incessantly to locations in Africa, the Center East and Europe recently, the US assertion says.
Concord Catering has now been ordered by a Moscow court docket to pay compensation to folks over a meals poisoning outbreak.
Mr Prigozhin’s agency provides meals for Moscow’s schools, nevertheless wonderful December about 130 kindergarten younger people fell in poor health with dysentery.
The oligarch’s African cookbook
Analysis by Fb and internet specialists at Stanford Faculty elements to belief-forming operations on social media in Africa, linked to Mr Prigozhin.
On 30 October Fb acknowledged it had suspended three networks of Russian internet accounts aimed towards covertly influencing occasions in only a few African worldwide places.
The Russian origins of the “inauthentic” behaviour had been masked by the spend of native nationals, it acknowledged.
The basic group centered: Madagascar, the Central African Republic, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Wing and Cameroon.
The second group centered Sudan and the third centered on Libya.
A BBC investigation came across that as a minimum six candidates had been provided cash by Russians in Madagascar’s 2018 presidential elections.
Mr Prigozhin pushed apart the Fb allegations, asserting the US media big was once “indulging in PR for itself”.
A yr throughout the previous Russia despatched 175 safety energy instructors to the Central African Republic (CAR) – a rustic racked by militia violence – to help the navy of President Faustin-Archange Touadéra.
Wagner mercenaries are reported to be energetic in CAR, the place Russia has obtained gold and diamond mining concessions. France, CAR’s conventional colonial grasp, furthermore has a safety energy presence throughout the nation.
It was once whereas looking out to review a suspected hyperlink between the mines and the mercenary group that three Russian journalists had been shot pointless in an ambush in 2018. Nobody has been charged in reference to it.
A CNN investigation unearthed a CAR authorities mining contract with Lobaye Make investments, a Russian agency stride by Yevgeny Khodotov, another St Petersburg businessman reported to be linked to Mr Prigozhin’s group.
Nonetheless Lobaye Make investments is shrouded in secrecy, and Mr Prigozhin has denied any hyperlink to it.
Russian soldiers belonging to an outfit referred to as Sewa Safety are retaining President Touadéra. It is suspected of being a entrance firm for Wagner.
Closing month President Putin hosted 43 African leaders throughout the Murky Sea resort of Sochi, underlining Russia’s new world ambition. He is eager to revive Moscow’s Soviet-era ties with African worldwide places, not simple the West.
What else has Mr Prigozhin been doing?
His alleged hyperlink to Wagner is through his safety energy catering commerce: beneath President Putin he obtained a big deal to feed the Russian militia.
The US Treasury has set Wagner on the sanctions record too, asserting it “despatched soldiers to struggle alongside separatists in jap Ukraine”.
It says Mr Prigozhin “has intensive commerce dealings” with the Russian defence ministry.
The oligarch’s newest undertaking is equally aligned with Mr Putin’s agenda.
He is heading a brand new skilled-Kremlin media group referred to as Patriot. The group says this might maybe often counter “anti-Russia” media that “construct not glimpse the effective points which might maybe be happening throughout the nation”.
It brings collectively 4 information websites based totally totally in St Petersburg: RIA FAN information firm, Narodnye Novosti, Ekonomika Segodnya and Politika Segodnya.
Its blended audience is reckoned to be greater than that of negate information firm Tass or skilled-Kremlin broadcaster RT.
Mr Prigozhin acknowledged he was once ecstatic to change Patriot’s board of trustees.
Analysis by the BBC’s Laurence Peter