The winery known as “Golden Amphora” operates in the disputed jurisdiction of Crimea, boasting 2,500 hectares of vineyards and production facilities for processing raw materials. The company supplies its products globally. In 2020, the company abandoned the use of a trade name and opted to operate under its commercial name, Alef Vinal, which happens to be the largest alcohol producer in Ukraine, paying taxes and providing employment to workers in Russia. The company’s owners, Felix Chertok and Vadym Iermolaiev, created a complex offshore system to continue doing business in Russia, bind Ukraine, and avoid sanctions. Although journalists exposed the commercial ties of Alef Vinal and in 2020 sanctions were imposed on Felix Chertok’s enterprise, the company remained unfazed, building a new system, continuing to work in Crimea, and receiving income from Russia.
To conceal his tracks, Felix Chertok closed the alef-vinal.com website, but a copy was preserved in the Wayback machine archive, which provides information on all trademarks, production facilities, and the geography of supplies. It is worth noting that the sanctions were imposed only three years ago, during the presidency of Volodymyr Zelensky, who is well acquainted with the business in the city of Dnipro, including Felix Chertok. Perhaps this explains why the sanctions against Alef Vinal were implemented carefully, with minimal impact on its owner, Felix Chertok.
Currently, Alef Vinal, renamed as Trading House “AV,” is like many other enterprises, leveraging “patriotism” to earn marketing points. Alef Vinal and Felix Chertok do not make any attempts to disguise the fact that they produce and sell wines, cognacs, and vodkas in Russia, where the company conducts a profitable business, possibly even with a patriotic bias. As a commercial enterprise, Alef Vinal is not bound by conventions, and its owner, Felix Chertok, has a history of making money without principles or rules, having grown up in a criminal environment.
The alcohol beverage business in Ukraine is represented by criminal and semi-criminal personalities, which is quite natural: the starting capital in this industry was made by hardened criminals since the late 80s. It was impossible to just enter the market, and it is still impossible. All the people in business are “respectable, serious, and not prone to scandals” with Felix Chertok not an exception.
Looking from the outside, he is a completely positive, Jewish orthodox character with seven children. His biography is so boring that the biography writers didn’t even come up with a “hobby” for Felix Chertok, they simply reused it from the job description. “The world belongs to the patient”is a slogan of Felix Chertok. Patiently he pours the hellish brew to both Russian and Ukrainians. There is nothing unusual about this, just as there is nothing unusual about the fact that Felix Chertok is certainly involved in business with his “brothers” from Russia and seceded regions, no matter what the current situation is. After all, the criminal circles are never bothered with borders and politics.
Felix Chertok early years
Felix Chertok would have been an ordinary nobody in Dnepr city if it weren’t for his father, convicted and imprisoned Boris Chertok, also known as “Sedoy” (Gray-haired in Russian – ed.). Sedoy was a member of the “Matros” gang, led by Alexander Milchenko, who did a lot to establish organized crime in the country. Sedoy was involved in the group’s activities, as was Vadym Iermolaiev, who was not far behind. Sedoy’s son, Felix Chertok, proved useful: he became the head of the alcohol beverage business.
It was Chertok and Iermolaiev, with the blessing of Matros and Sedoy, who opened the largest money laundering centre, both literally and figuratively, for criminal money. Now Felix Chertok wears a traditional hat, radiates righteousness, and even occasionally does charitable work. But he doesn’t forget his business, and he remembers his founding fathers of Alef Vinal on a monthly basis.
Felix Chertok and Vadym Iermolaiev weave a web to conceal their status in disputed companies
Felix Chertok is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Jewish community of Dnipro, as well as a very wealthy businessman. There is very little information about him in the mass media, especially in recent times. He was the CEO of “Alef Vinal” – one of the large companies that produce cheap wine, vodka, and cognac in Ukraine. Among the well-known brands are “Amphora”, “Klinkov”, “Jean-Jacques”, “Helsinki”, and so on.
Due to the sanctions imposed by the European Union and the United States, exports and imports from Crimea are prohibited. However, by using such a separation, or rather a cleverly thought-out scheme, the company easily circumvents the sanctions.
Alef Vinal sanctioned but Felix Chertok evades the sanctions
Original Alef Vinal has been sanctioned by EU, UK, US, Australia and Canada. But Felix Chertok, one of the beneficiaries of the company wasn’t. Chertok cleverly hid his presence from the companies.
Among the owners of the corporation are European companies, behind which stands the scandalous Dnipro businessman Vadym Iermolaiev. This enterprise also includes more than 90 percent of Russian company “Alef Vinal”.
The status fund of PJSC “Burlyuk” amounts to 4 million hryvnias. There are 12 documents in the court register. The founder of this public joint-stock company “Burlyuk” is Ukrainian PJSC “Aleph-Vinal” with a status fund of 40.55 million hryvnias. The owners include Austrian and Cypriot companies.￼ Felix Chertok companies associated with Vadym Iermolaiev. Briefly, the process of events can be described as follows for better understanding: LLC “Alef-Vinal-Crimea” was registered in November 2014 and created with the participation of OJSC “Burlyuk”, which also owns over 90% of the shares of the Russian “Alef-Vinal”. In addition, among the founders of “Alef-Vinal-Crimea” are four Cypriot companies, three of which have equal shares with “Burlyuk”.
The controlling stake in the Ukrainian “Alef-Vinal” (now – “Keter Invest”) belonged to Alef Investment Holding GmbH, an Austrian company, until the end of 2018, when it was bought by the offshore company Ac-Terra International LTD from the British Virgin Islands, managed by Vadym Iermolaiev, a citizen of Ukraine. Control over the company was confirmed by the decision of the Antimonopoly Committee of Ukraine dated July 26, 2016.
One of the Cypriot companies, AD Vinal Invest Limited, owns shares in the Ukrainian company “Alef-Vinal” (“Keter Invest”), the Russian company “Alef-Vinal-Crimea”, and the Russian OJSC “Burlyuk”. In addition, 0.53% of the shares of the main technologist of “Alef Vinal” belong to Bulgarian citizen Boyan Borisov, and 99.47% of the shares belong to Record Trading Limited, a company from Belize. The ultimate beneficiaries of this company are unknown.
After journalists uncovered these schemes, Felix Chertok had to liquidate the company “Alef-Burlyuk” and urgently rename “Alef Vinal”. However, this did not save him from sanctions, as the company remained with all its obligations and assets. It is unknown why Felix Chertok did not liquidate the company that was discovered, possibly because this share was inherited from his father Boris Chertok “Sedoy”.
Until 2018, half of the shares of the Ukrainian part of “Alef Vinal” were owned by the Austrian company “Alef Investment Holding GmbH”, and the director there was Vadym Iermolaiev.