Mystery Russian Gold Mine Investor Revealed as Crypto Executive

(Bloomberg) -- One of the strangest stories in the mining industry this year has been the battle between Russian gold miner Petropavlovsk Plc and its activist, mystery shareholders.

For weeks, the company has demanded to know the identity of its new shareholders, who are leading a fight to oust the board and represented by little-known holding companies. On Friday, Petropavlovsk urged its new owners to stop hiding in a “cascade of shell companies and offshore trusts.”

Bloomberg News spoke to one of the investors by email, Evgeny Khata, a cryptocurrency executive and author. Khata is among the investors linked to CABS Platform Ltd., which along with Slevin Ltd. holds shares in Petropavlovsk.

Read: A Crypto Tycoon, Banking Heir and the Mysterious Fight for Gold

Khata said he is an independent investor and there’s no one else that stands behind the company. He criticized Petropavlovsk for its efforts against the new shareholders, saying the company is trying “all doubtfully legal methods to blacken shareholders and prevent democratic vote at the annual meeting.”

Multi-Billion Value

He voiced his support for Pavel Maslovskiy, a co-founder of Petropavlovsk who resigned last year after his partner Peter Hambro was forced out in a shareholder revolt. Maslovskiy will bring the company, currently worth about $350 million, back to a “multi-billion dollar” value, he said.

“All that is being done by the current board is to try to distract shareholders from the fact that Petropavlovsk needs to change the management,” he said.

He explained the investment in Petropavlovsk as a financial interest because “any educated person can understand that the company is strongly underestimated and has a great growth potential.”

Khata said he doesn’t know Kenes Rakishev, the largest shareholder of Petropavlovsk and son-in-law of a former Kazakh deputy prime minister. Rakishev, who is developing his own cryptocurrency, has been critical of the current management, but not voiced any support or opposition to the new shareholders.

Crypto Chief

Khata is chief executive officer of Cyber Trust Capital, which provides brokerage and custody services for crypto investments. According to his profile on Snob.ru, an online magazine for Russian professionals, he earned an MBA from Oxford University and worked at companies including KPMG LLP and Boston Consulting Group.

He also wrote a book with Nikolai Lioustiger in Russian that translates to “Wealth. How to Gain Economical and Military Superiority.”

Lioustiger has other links to the saga. On Friday, Petropavlovsk said in a statement that Lioustiger met with Maslovskiy and Hambro, the pair of founders that resigned last year, and former board members Roderic Lyne and Robert Jenkins to see if they would be willing to return to the company.

But it’s not clear that Petropavlovsk’s management wants that to happen.

On Monday, the company said that two shareholder advisory firms -- Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. and Glass Lewis & Co. -- recommended that investors support the current board at a shareholder meeting next week. They also advised voting against the election of Maslovskiy, Lyne and Jenkins.

Glass Lewis based its recommendation on the company’s “poor performance” under the previous board, according to the statement from Petropavlovsk.

Still, the ultimate decision maker in the situation will likely be Rakishev, the Kazakh tycoon who holds a 22 percent stake.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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