Russia Launches Criminal Investigation Of Prokhorov's RBC Media Holding

By RFE/RLMay 11, 2016

Russian authorities have launched a criminal case against a respected media group whose in-depth reporting has pulled back the curtain on the dealings of the country's business and political elites, including investigations into President Vladimir Putin's circle of friends and family.

The Moscow city police investigation into alleged fraud inside the Russian media group RBC, owned by billionaire businessman Mikhail Prokhorov, comes amid widespread speculation that the Kremlin is unhappy with the company's independent-minded editorial approach.

The existence of the investigation, which was launched on April 29, was first reported by the Russian news portal Rambler News Service (RNS) on May 11.

Citing a copy of the police order, RNS said the authorities were investigating the alleged theft of a 25 percent stake in Byte-Telecom, a firm previously owned by the RBC media holding, from two previous shareholders. Police estimate the value of the stake at $13.4 million.

RBC spokesman Yegor Timofeyev said on May 11 that the holding legally sold its 75 percent stake in Byte-Telecom in 2014, and that it was prepared to provide documents confirming the legality of the sale.

Prokhorov purchased RBC in 2010 and proceeded to pour resources into the holding, bringing experienced and respected journalists on board.

It has shot to prominence in recent years thanks largely to investigations focusing on the crossroads of business and politics in Russia.

In January 2015, RBC became the first media outlet to write about Katerina Tikhonova, the young woman believed to be Putin's younger daughter -- despite the Kremlin's long-running refusal to confirm details about the president's family. Tikhonova is currently running a development project at Moscow State University.

RBC did not identify Tikhonova as Putin's daughter in the article -- that claim was made later by journalist Oleg Kashin and opposition leader Aleksei Navalny on social networks.

In a broadcast last month, Russian state media boss and television anchor Dmitry Kiselyov held up a copy of RBC's newspaper and accused the holding of helping the United States with its deep coverage of the Panama Papers financial-document leak, in which Putin's allies figure.

With reporting by,,, and Vedomosti