Ilya Surkov, the Russian businessman who stole real money with a fake identity

Ilya Surkov, the ex-president of Finstroy Holding, taking advantage of his position, stole more than six million euros from the company. In 2019, he was sentenced to five years in prison by the Moscow Nikulinsky court, and in 2020 his punishment was increased to eight years by the appeals court. Ilya Surkov was accused of embezzling and transferring stolen funds to his offshore company abroad (Panamanian Boulder Associated). 

Greece has been a “window to Europe” for a while now. It has detained hundreds of immigrants who tried to depart to Western and Central European countries using fake documents, either by plane or ferry. This is what refugees often do to get into European countries. Another way to get a real passport and become a European Union citizen is to make investments. According to Knight Frank’s data, half of super-rich Russians with more than 50 million dollars on their bank accounts have dual citizenship.

Ilya Surkov chose the first option, to fake his documents. As claimed by Russian media, he obtained Greek citizenship before escaping from Russia. According to the information revealed during the public judicial investigation, Ilya Surkov got a fake Greek passport referring to his Greek origins from his mother’s side, when in fact, he has no Greek roots.

One of his forged documents says that he was born in Shymkent, Kazakhstan – an area that Greeks historically inhabited. However, the official response from the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan declared that this information is false and that Ilya Surkov even never visited Kazakhstan. Also, there is no record found of his “Greek mother” Prionidi Panaila in Shymkent. 

In fact, Ilya Surkov was born in Moscow on July 14, 1962, as it was written down in his real passport and birth certificate. Moreover, his grandfather, Aleksander Surkov, was a famous Soviet Union poet, and his mother’s real name is Natalia Surkova. One can change several things in his life, including gender, but there is no way to change one’s place of birth or choose a second one if one wishes. Ilya Surkov deliberately gave the Greek authorities false information about the place of his birth. 

Ilya Surkov chose Shymkent as his imaginary birthplace for a reason. Let us go back in history to understand why better. Shymkent was one of the places where the Greek diaspora settled in the 40s. In 1926, only 157 Greeks lived in Kazakhstan. However, in 1944, the eviction of Greeks to Kazakhstan from Crimea, Georgian SSR, Armenian SSR, and the North Caucasus began. 5984 Greeks were deported from Crimea. In 1949-1950, Greeks were expelled from the Georgian SSR, the Armenian SSR, and the North Caucasus. The total number of deportees was about 60,000 people. They were transported in 18-ton cargo wagons equipped with bunk beds. Upon arrival, those deported had to build their temporary homes themselves. Deportees were not allowed to leave the area further than 5 km away. Besides, those over 16 years old had to declare themselves present at the commandant’s office.

Ilya Surkov escaped the judicial investigation in Russia by leaving the country with a fake Greek passport and a new identity in December 2013. He was under house arrest when he faked sickness to go to the hospital. However, he refused treatment, escaped the medical centre and left the country the same day. On December 24, 2013, Ilya Surkov was put on the international wanted list. Later, the court has also arrested the property of Ilya Surkov – an apartment (up to 300 m2) in Moscow, a house in Barvikha, lands in the Moscow region, and a house with a plot of land in France. Surkov’s wife, Lilia Scheffler-Sennowa, was trying to release a part of the property by trying to get a “divorce” from him and filing a claim for several hundred million rubles. Nevertheless, the Moscow City Court has rejected her request since Ilya and Lilia are still together. Ilya Surkov’s photos with his “ex-wife” Lilia Scheffler-Sennowa constantly appear on her social media. At the moment, he is hiding from justice in the UK.

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