How the Russians got their hands on the last slice of the Romanian heavy industry. Fortus Iasi taken by the state company Rosatomstroy

The Heavy Equipment Plant in Iasi was the only plant where the Russians had not yet put their tail in.

But in 2007, this last stronghold also fell, being taken over by Rosatomstroy, a Russian state-owned company.

With the support of some Romanians, the Russians took the Iasi plant strictly in order to destroy it and to establish a bridgehead in Romania.


Fortus SA, the former Heavy Equipment Plant in Iași, was once, like all communist factories, at the peak of profitability. At least on paper that’s how it looked.

Large machines were manufactured here, including parts for tanks, mostly for export.

But, like most former communist factories, since the 1990s, things at Fortus SA have started to get worse. The market economy proved to be too strong an enemy for the Iasi plant that began to get bogged down in debt.

So, in 2002, the Nastase government prepared Fortus SA for privatization in the hope that it would get rid of a new black hole.

Although occupying an area of ​​over 140 hectares, the plant was valued at 28 million euros and with an investment need of 30 million euros. So, APAPS proceeds with privatization.

However, buyers did not crowd the APAPS door. The first attempt to sell fails due to lack of bidder. In the second, he introduced himself business Romanian Metalexportimport SA which did not meet the criteria and is rejected. However, the same Metalexportimport submits the only offer on the third attempt.

Wanting to get rid of Fortus at any cost, the government sells the plant to Metalexportimport SA for only 700,000 euros and an investment promise of 7.5 million. That is, 40 times cheaper than it had been estimated.

APAPS then justified its sale at a sub-price due to “the declining financial and economic situation of Fortus”. The plant had debts to the state of 32 million euros and loss of ten million.

In a short time, it turned out that the choice of Metalexportimport was not auspicious for the plant in Iasi, which had remained the last redoubt in industry Romanian heavyweight not taken over by the Russians.

Famous stories

Metalexportimport SA was a Romanian company founded in 1948 and dealt with the import, export and processing of metals.

Since 1982, Metalexportimport has carried out its foreign trade activity through the newly established Danube Foreign Trade Enterprise.

A Securitate company, ICE Dunărea was a buffer structure through which all Romanian foreign trade companies operated.

In the last communist period, Metalexportimport had exported steel and aluminum worth two billion dollars a year. Now, the company no longer exists, being bankrupt.

Metalexportimport was the subject of two famous stories. The first is related to the longest trial in the history of Romania.

For 29 years, the Romanian company was sued with some foreign companies (from the USA and Germany) for not paying a freight transport worth 60 million dollars. In 2012, the lawsuit ended against Metalexportimport, which did not recover its money.

The second story is related to an informative note which is said to have been made by SIE around 2000.

According to it, in December 1989, the Cypriot company Crescent was carrying out a series of export operations for sheet metal, pipes and steel-concrete, with payment 120 days after delivery.

But the revolution came and Metalexportimport never saw the money again.

“The goods exported by Crescent were delivered by ICE Metalexportimport and ICE Danube, which were the companies that were to collect the value of the exports. At the expiration of the payment terms (February – April 1990), Crescent did not transfer any amount of money in the accounts of the two Romanian enterprises with which it had export contracts. ”, The document specified.

From here, the press came to the conclusion that the money owed by Crescent to the Romanian foreign trade company was appropriated by Dan Voiculescu, the then director of the Cypriot company. The amount we are talking about is somewhere between 150 and 300 million dollars.

Capitalist ICE

After the revolution, Metalexportimport was privatized by its takeover by employees. And it continued its export activity on the already known markets of metallurgy.

The main market was Russia where it sold equipment from Metalurgica Aiud. Wanting to expand, Metalexportinvest bought, in 2003, 81.3% of the shares of Fortus SA in Iasi.

At that time, the shareholders of the foreign trade company were convinced that they would be able to export to Russia also the metallurgical equipment produced by Fortus.

Interestingly, a Digi 24 investigation says that there are documents attesting that part of the money intended for the purchase of Fortus SA came from the company Benefica SA which had among its shareholders, at that time, the company Crescent and the company GRIVCO SA, founded by Dan Voiculescu.

The Russians are coming

In a short time, it turned out that Fortus was too big a hat for Metelexportimport. In order to survive, the Bucharest company started selling Fortus land and equipment and started the efforts to alienate its own headquarters in Bucharest. Although, these actions violated the privatization contract. A contract that the Romanian state had not respected anyway, not deleting the factory’s debts.

According to the former employees, a good part of the equipment was sold to Benefica SA, a company in which Dan Voiculescu also had interests.

Many pointed at him Paul Tudorshareholder and chairman of the board of directors for two years, starting in 2003, for the disastrous situation.

Paul Tudor, an employee of Metalexortimport since 1988, had founded the Besta Group shortly after the revolution. The new company did about the same thing as Metalexportimport. And for this reason, Tudor was accused of ticking Fortus causing great damage.

At the same time, the Russians appeared in the landscape. And the Rosatomstroy Concern, part of the Atomstroy group, has begun bombarding Metalexportimport’s management with offers.

The Russians offered five million euros, given that the land alone was worth over 200 million.

The Russians, who smelled the weakness of the Iasi plant, were refused. The only one who considered the sale of Fortus beneficial was Paul Tudor who got involved. So the Russians tried to seize shares in Fortus SA on the individual even with the support of some people inside.

The final attack

Because they failed, the Russians launched the final attack by buying Metalexportimport, which also owned Fortus.

The takeover of the former foreign trade company is very similar to a raider attack.

Paul Tudor, who had become the majority shareholder and who sold his stake to the Russians, was also found guilty of alienating Metalexportimport.

The takeover of the majority stake was made by a successive transfer through several associates of Metalexportimport, individuals.

Thirteen of them bought the shares from more than 180 of the partners and sold them to four others.

Of the four, including Paul Tudor, the shares were taken over by Russian businessman Khavazah Tunguev.

He then sold them to the offshore Rivalion Trade Invest Corp. in the British Virgin Islands. From here, the majority package of Metalexportimport reached the final recipient Rosatomstroy, a Russian concern with state capital.

Putin’s decree

According to its website, Rosatomstroy also offers “services and products for all Russian nuclear power plants, both existing and under construction.”

In mid-2008, Rosatomstroy signed a protocol with NEC (the Bulgarian electricity company) to build the Belene nuclear power plant (a project canceled after $ 1.8 billion was spent).

In fact, Rosatomstroy’s branch for non-Russian activities, Atomstroyexport, also targeted Romania when it offered its services for the construction of new units of the Cernavoda power plant, and even of a new nuclear power plant.

Since July 2007, Rosatomstroy has been part of the Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation, 100% owned by the Russian state.

The concern was established by a presidential decree signed by the then Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and consisted, along with Rosatomstroy, of 89 companies that provided a complete technology cycle, from the extraction of raw materials to the generation of electricity at nuclear power plants. At its inception, the president of this “mammoth” became a former prime minister of Russia, Sergei Kirienko.

Sergey Kirienko

A close relative of Vladimir Putin, Sergei Kirienkoa was promoted, in 2016, to the position of first deputy head of the presidential administration.

In the same year, by decree of the President of the Russian Federation, his successor was appointed Alexei Evgenevich Lihaciov.

Alexei Evghenievici Lihaciov

The state is waking up

Despite repeated breaches of the privatization contract, AVAS (formerly APAPS) agreed in 2007 to postpone the combined investment by two years.

A year later, being fooled, AVAS demands the bankruptcy of the Iaşi plant in order to recover a debt.

So, in 2008, the plant went into insolvency and the state also woke up, which, following a control, realizes that Fortus was undervalued when the privatization took place.

AVAS also decides to terminate the contract, and the state takes over the majority stake in Fortus.

There follows a long series of trials and attempts by the Russians to regain the majority stake in Fortus, but without any chance of success.

The only result was the final putting on the hubs of the Iași plant. Insolvency practitioners take control of the plant with a single purpose: to squeeze out of assets as quickly as possible.

In 2015, Fortus even cut the railway bridge to ensure the supply and delivery of goods and sold it to scrap metal.

And the largest creditors – the Authority for the Administration of State Assets and the City Hall of Iași – were waiting to receive in payment halls, equipment and land on account of debts of over 50 million euros.

Today, the shareholders of Fortus SA consist of AVAS – 60%, the Russians from Rosatomstroy through Metalexportimport – 26% and SIF Moldova with 14%. And, as in most factories where the Russians put their tails, the business turned into a real estate one.

The tens of hectares of land on which the Heavy Equipment Plant operated are now a war zone. Everyone wants to get their hands on them.

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