Oligarchs Deaths

Oligarch Mikhail Watford Found Dead in UK Mansion on 28 February 2022

Ukraine born Russian Oligarch Mikhail Watford was found dead at his Surrey home on March 3, 2022, days after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Watford, 66, was found hanging in his $18 million mansion in Virginia Water, Surrey. He made his fortune in the oil and gas industry.

Watford was born as Mikhail Tolstosheya in Ukraine, but changed his surname when he moved to the UK.

Mikhail Watford lived with his Estonian wife Jane, who is 41 years old, and their two children, Michelle and Alexander, in a mansion on the Wentworth Estate in Surrey. He also had an older son, Michael, from his first marriage.

Early Life and Education of Mikhail Watford

Mikhail Watford was born Mikhail Tolstosheya on May 31,1955 in then-Soviet Ukraine. The oligarch changed his name to Mikhail Watford when he arrived in UK in the early 2000s.

He was born in Ukraine, Mikhail Tolstosheya into a relatively wealthy (but communist) family.

He described his childhood as relatively extravagant, telling a newspaper: “We had a big four-bedroom apartment with a bath, and a car — which, in terms of luxury, was the equivalent of travelling by jet now.”

Career in the Oil and Gas Industry

The Watford Group have big shares in two western Ukrainian refineries named Naftokhimik Prykarpattya and Halychyna Oil Refinery.

In 2003 , the Watford Group and Privatbank were involved in a legal suit.

The Watford Group claimed that Privatbank mismanaged a joint venture, Watford Petroleum Ukraine Holdings Limited, registered in Cyprus, which is a shareholder in the refineries. Privatbank, an influential banking group rated one of Ukraine’s largest financial institutions, serviced the joint venture.

In a statement issued by the Bank , it said “Results of an investigation conducted by competent authorities show that the bank has encountered monetary fraud connected with Michael Watford, a businessman with a criminal past. [His real name is] Mikhail Tolstosheya. He is a citizen of the Russian Federation; he has a Greek passport and lives in Great Britain. He has been found guilty of money-fraud crimes under laws of the Russian Federation.”

In 1997, according to Igor Palitsu’s biography, Mikhail Watford, a British businessman, was born as Mikhail Tolstoshey, a Soviet citizen. He was a former employee of the Soyuz State Circus and was convicted of Vneshposyltorg check fraud . Mikhail Watford then emigrated abroad, obtained British citizenship, married, and changed his surname. He then returned to Russia to do business in the oil industry.

Vneshposyltorg is a Russian private bond currency. It was used in a 1990 pyramid scam. 

The main sign of fraud is deception. Individuals have widely used checks issued by the USSR State.

Vneshposyltorg check fraud
Vneshposyltorg Check Fraud

In response to Privatbank’s allegations, Watford Group issued another statement saying ” “Official documents from the Russian Federation show that Mr. Watford was falsely indicted and a Russian court has proven his complete innocence.”

Since 2015, Mikhail Watford ran his new ultra-prime property development company High Life.

Why Russian Oligarchs Killed in 2022 ?

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been accused of silencing his critics for many years. In 2017, USA TODAY and British journalist Sarah Hurst compiled a list of 38 high-profile Russians who had died under suspicious circumstances or were victims of unsolved murders since the beginning of 2014.

The list included:

  • 10 high-profile critics of Putin
  • 7 diplomats
  • 6 associates of Kremlin power brokers who had fallen out with them
  • 13 military or political leaders involved in the conflict in eastern Ukraine

The causes of death varied, but many were violent:

  • 12 were shot, stabbed, or beaten to death
  • 6 were blown up
  • 1 died of mysterious head injuries
  • 1 reportedly slipped and hit his head in a public bath
  • 1 was hanged in his jail cell
  • 1 died after drinking coffee
  • The cause of death of 6 people was reported as unknown

This list is just a small sample of the many Russians who have died under suspicious circumstances in recent years. It is a reminder of the dangers of criticizing Putin and his regime.

The 2022 list shows a significant increase in the number of sudden deaths, with fewer shootings and more strange accidents.

In other words, the number of Russians who have died suddenly has increased in 2022, and the way they are dying has changed. There are fewer shootings and more accidents that seem suspicious.

This could be interpreted as a sign that the Russian government is trying to silence its critics in a more subtle way, by making their deaths look like accidents.

There are several overlapping patterns that stand out.

Many of the businessmen on the list of suspicious deaths in Russia are connected to the oil and energy industry, including holding key positions past or present in state-owned energy giant Gazprom, or the country’s second-largest private oil company, Lukoil, as well as the country’s largest independent gas company Novatek.

At least two (three, if you count Sungorkin) are connected to the Far East and Arctic Development Corporation (KRDV), Putin’s Vladivostok-based project that aims to develop the country’s rich energy and mining resources in the Arctic region. This project has become an important focus for Putin since the limitations of the Western sanctions hit the country.

There were only a couple of suspicious deaths over the summer, but as Ukraine’s counteroffensive recaptured territory in Eastern Ukraine in September, oligarchs started dying again.

Three crypto billionaires (Mushegian, Kullander, and Taran) died within weeks of each other shortly after the collapse of FTX.

Two of the most recent incidents involve military-adjacent businessmen. Buzakov is the Director General of the company that is currently building Kilo-class diesel-powered submarines that can be used to launch Kalibr cruise missiles. Maslov, who was formerly the commander in chief of Russia’s ground forces, was working for the world’s biggest tank manufacturer and was to meet Putin the day before he died, before Putin cancelled the meeting at the last minute.

Many on the list, including Antov, are known to have at some point criticized Putin’s war in Ukraine.

In simpler terms:

Many of the Russian businessmen who have died under suspicious circumstances in recent years are connected to the oil and energy industry, or to Putin’s development project in the Arctic. There have been more deaths of oligarchs and military-adjacent businessmen in recent months, as Ukraine has made gains in the war. Some of the people on the list had criticized Putin’s war in Ukraine.

It is important to note that all of these deaths are still under investigation, and there is no concrete evidence that they were ordered by the Russian government. However, the timing and circumstances of many of these deaths are suspicious, and they have raised concerns about the safety of Putin’s critics.

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