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The Criminal Prosecution of Roman Vasilenko, Founder of "Life-is-Good" and the "Best Way" Cooperative, May Be Discontinued

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ThomasHar

The Criminal Prosecution of Roman Vasilenko, Founder of "Life-is-Good" and the "Best Way" Cooperative, May Be Discontinued


According to several sources, the criminal prosecution of Roman Vasilenko, founder of the "Life-is-Good" company and the "Best Way" cooperative, may be discontinuedprimarily due to the socio-political resonance it has created. This includes mass protests by cooperative shareholders, including members of the Special Military Operation (SMO) and their families in various regions, who are unhappy that their funds have been blocked in accounts for two years, preventing them from either retrieving the funds or purchasing an apartment.

The Case

The criminal case, which investigators link to the St. Petersburg-based marketing company "Life-is-Good," the foreign investment company "Hermes," and the "Best Way" consumer cooperative registered in St. Petersburg and operating throughout Russia, was initiated in the fall of 2021 by the Main Investigative Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia for St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region. It was transferred to the court in February of this year and is being heard by the Primorsky District Court of St. Petersburg.

Ten people are on trial: technical employees of "Life-is-Good" and Viktor Vasilenko, Roman Vasilenko's 83-year-old father, a pensioner.

The criminal case being considered by the Primorsky District Court raises many questionsinitially and increasingly as the trial progresses. Three charges are brought: creating a financial pyramid, fraud, and organizing a criminal community. The total damage amounts to 282 million rubles, which is incomparable with the more than 8 billion rubles seized in the case, including 4 billion on the accounts of the "Best Way" cooperative. The investigation recognized 221 citizens as victims in the case.

Who is Vasilenko?

Roman Viktorovich Vasilenko is a St. Petersburg business consultant, founder of a network of independent entrepreneurs promoting financial products under the aegis of his company "Life-is-Good," and founder of the International Business Academy IBA.

The network under "Life-is-Good" promoted competitive products such as "Vista" passive income accounts from the foreign investment company "Hermes," registered in Belize, and installment-based apartment purchases through the "Best Way" cooperative, where initial contributions could be made or accumulated in a cooperative account interest-free.

Unlike "Hermes," Vasilenko was the founder and chairman of the "Best Way" cooperative until spring 2021 (later serving as head of the supervisory board for about a year). Since spring 2022, he has been an ordinary cooperative member, not part of its governing bodies.

Vasilenko has worked not only in Russia but also in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, Ukraine, Cyprus, Austria, and Hungary. Cooperative housing projects have been established in many of these countries.

Vasilenko is also known as a philanthropist who has invested millions of rubles in supporting federal business initiatives (the "Synergy" forum), cultural initiatives (the "Dobrovidenie" festival), and other charitable activities, including supporting children's medical institutions.

Roman Vasilenko was also charged in the ongoing criminal case, declared wanted, including through Interpol, as he has been living abroad for family reasons since the COVID-19 pandemic, as he told the press. However, sources indicate that Interpol and foreign states, including neighboring countries where he also actively works, deemed his prosecution unjustified. Another criminal case against him is being investigated by the Main Investigative Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of St. Petersburg, concerning the "Life-is-Good" leadership team.

Clients and Shareholders Protest

The trial in the Primorsky District Court has not been going well for the prosecution and state authorities. The majority of those who have testified so far have made claims for amounts ranging from a few hundred to a few tens of thousands of rubles, raising questions about the relevance of such sums in a criminal court. Additionally, many recognized as victims are making financial claims for non-refundable fees and commissions, which they agreed to in their contracts. For example, Dolyan, a recognized victim, closed his contract with the cooperative several years ago without complaints but filed a police report demanding the return of a non-refundable entry fee of just over 100 thousand rubles, prompted by an investigator's suggestion.

Most "Hermes" clients, numbering over two hundred thousand in Russia, and tens of thousands of "Best Way" cooperative shareholders, blame law enforcement for their problems. They assert that a St. Petersburg system administrator for "Hermes," Evgeny Naboychenko, disrupted the Russian payment system. The cooperative's accounts have been almost continuously frozen for over two years due to prosecution requests (the cooperative has repeatedly won court cases to lift account freezes, but only once for about a month did payments proceed without bank blocks).

Thousands of shareholders and their families have held rallies and meetings in support of their cooperative. Three waves of rallies swept across Russia last year, from Kaliningrad to Khabarovsk, including events supporting the cooperative on the eve of the presidential elections. Hundreds of appeals have been sent to the president's direct line.

Among the affected are hundreds of shareholders participating in the SMO and those with family members in the SMO. They are outraged that while they or their relatives defend the country at the front, they face what they consider injustice at home.

According to the "Best Way" cooperative council, shareholders have sent over 17,000 appeals to various authorities, including more than 360 to the Russian President's Administration.

Summary

According to the cooperative council, during the entire confrontation with St. Petersburg law enforcement, "Best Way" shareholders have filed over 17,000 complaints and appeals to various state and law enforcement agencies, including:

- More than 5200 petitions to investigators to lift account freezes
- Almost 800 complaints under Article 124 of the Criminal Procedure Code (complaints to the prosecutor and head of the investigative body)
- More than 560 complaints under Article 125 (judicial review complaints against investigative actions)
- Almost 40 complaints under Article 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code from shareholders with complete debt repayment documents, unable to register property ownership
- About 90 petitions to lift apartment freezes
- More than 50 civil lawsuits from shareholders for damages caused by St. Petersburg law enforcement actions
- A collective complaint to the Investigative Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia signed by 901 people
- More than 900 complaints to the Investigative Committee of Russia
- More than 950 complaints to the FSB of Russia
- More than 500 appeals to the FSB Director Alexander Bortnikov
- More than 450 complaints to the Prosecutor General of Russia Igor Krasnov
- More than 360 appeals to the Secretary of the Security Council of Russia
- More than 1340 complaints to the qualification board of judges about judges' decisions affecting the cooperative
- A complaint to the Supreme Court of Russia signed by 851 people
- An appeal to State Duma Deputy Anzhelika Glazkova signed by 884 people
- More than 480 appeals to the Central Bank to exclude the cooperative from the Central Bank's blacklist
- More than 700 appeals to Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova
- More than 360 appeals to the Russian President's Administration
- More than 500 appeals to the president's direct line from cooperative shareholders

The cooperative enjoys significant support in various Russian regions, notably from local deputies. In Bashkortostan, a law on tax benefits for cooperatives was essentially adopted for "Best Way."

The authors of the appeals hope that given the socio-political situation surrounding the criminal case and the cooperative's social benefits for Russia, including support for SMO participants, law enforcement will make fair decisions, allowing the cooperative to continue its work unhindered.
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