Russian Oligarchs

Sergei Makhlai: Biography of Togliatti Azot Chairman

Brief Introduction of Sergei Makhlai

Sergei Makhlai, born in 1969, is a prominent figure in the global chemical industry, renowned for his leadership as the Chairman of the Board of Directors at Togliattiazot OJSC since 2011. Hailing from a family deeply rooted in the sector, his father’s role in heading Togliattiazot marked the inception of Makhlais’ influence.

Sergei’s educational journey, including a master’s in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina, fortified his expertise. Under his stewardship, Togliattiazot became a major player in global fertilizer production, contributing 15% to the world’s output. With a net worth of $1 billion, Sergei balances professional success with a commitment to family and philanthropy.

Early Life and Family Background

Sergei Makhlai was born in 1969 in the city of Gubakha, Perm Territory, into the family of Vladimir Makhlai. His father, Vladimir, played a significant role in the family’s fortune by heading Togliattiazot in 1985, a position that marked the beginning of the Makhlais’ influence in the chemical industry.

Education and Military Service

In 1987-1989, Sergei fulfilled his military service obligations before embarking on his educational journey. In 1993, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Togliatti State University, specializing in Chemical Production Machines and Apparatus, Enterprise Construction, and Patent Science. The educational foundation laid the groundwork for his future endeavours.

Transition to the United States and Business Ventures

Business Ventures
Business Ventures

In a pivotal move in 1994, Sergei relocated to the United States, where he subsequently became the General Manager of a company specializing in the sales of equipment for the chemical industry and real estate trade. His move to the U.S. marked the beginning of a chapter where he would further expand his expertise and influence.

In 2003, Sergei earned a master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina, solidifying his knowledge in business management and administration.

Professional Career and Leadership at Togliattiazot

Sergei’s professional journey includes significant roles in Russian banks such as Togliattikhimbank and RTS Bank, where he served on the Board of Directors starting in 2004. However, his most notable position is as the Chairman of the Board of Directors at Togliattiazot OJSC, a position to which he was elected in March 2011.

Under Sergei Makhlai‘s leadership, Togliatti Azot became a major player in the global fertilizer industry, producing approximately 15% of the world’s fertilizers, including ammonia and carbamide-formaldehyde concentrate (CFC). The company, employing over fourteen thousand workers, exported its products to more than a hundred and twenty countries.

Togliattiazot OJSC: Details and Background

Details of Togliattiazot OJSC
Details of Togliattiazot OJSC

Togliattiazot, commonly referred to as TOAZ, is a prominent chemical producer based in Russia, specializing in the manufacturing of mineral fertilizers and chemical products. The company has a huge annual production capacity, possessing three million metric tons of ammonia, which positions it among the top three ammonia producers in Russia and secures a spot in the global top ten.

Togliatti Azot’s primary product portfolio includes ammonia, urea, and carbonic acid. With a workforce of over 5,000 employees, the company plays a huge role in the Russian chemical industry, serving customers across five continents.

Togliattiazot is recognized for its commitment to innovation, technology, and environmental safety. The company focuses on improving and sustaining practices. As part of the Uralchem conglomerate, Togliatti Azot’s production capabilities allow it to meet approximately 20% of the Russian market demand and contribute 11% to global ammonia exports.

The company’s dedication to ecological responsibility, coupled with its noteworthy production capacity and international presence, establishes Togliattiazot as a key player in the chemical industry, both domestically and globally.

Togliatti Khimbank

Togliattikhimbank, or Togliatti Azot, is a significant Russian nitrogen fertilizer producer, with Sergei Makhlai as one of its key owners.

Makhlai also serves as the chairman of the board of directors at Togliattiazot. He assumed leadership in 2011 when his father, Vladimir Makhlai, retired from the position.

Philanthropy and Social Initiatives

Sergei Makhlai, acknowledging the social responsibility of Togliattiazot, actively invested in social initiatives. The company, under his guidance, became socially oriented, providing extensive benefits to employees and contributing to various community projects. Makhlai’s philanthropic efforts extended to areas such as education, healthcare, and environmental causes.

Personal Life

Sergei Makhlai is a family man, married and the father of two daughters. Despite the challenges and controversies surrounding his professional life, his commitment to family remains a central aspect of his identity.

Sergei Makhlai’s Net Worth details

Forbes states that Sergei Makhlai, co-owner of Togliattiazot, a prominent Russian fertilizer manufacturer, possesses a net worth of $1 billion. His wealth was reported as $1.1 billion in 2022 and $1 billion in the preceding year, according to the magazine.

Legal Challenges and Controversies

The Challenges in his Life
The Challenges in his Life

Despite Togliatti Azot’s success, Sergei Makhlai and his father, Vladimir, faced legal challenges. The Russian government initiated an investigation in May 2019, leading to a conviction in absentia in July of that year, sentencing each of them to nine years in prison for large-scale fraud. Despite these legal troubles, both deny any wrongdoing.

In 2021, Makhlai faced a bribery case related to tax charges, further complicating his legal situation. The investigation implicated key members of his group, including Alexander Popov, the former head of Togliattikhimbank.


Sergei Makhlai, the current chairman of Togliattiazot, a major Russian nitrogen fertilizer producer, took over the helm in 2011 following his father Vladimir Makhlai’s resignation. Despite being embroiled in various legal controversies, Sergei remains at the company’s forefront.

In June 2020, he was accused of orchestrating a $1.2 million bribe, with similar charges levied against Alexander Popov, the former CEO of Togliattikhimbank, an entity fully owned by Sergei Makhlai.

Another legal setback occurred when Sergei, his father Vladimir, and three others were found guilty of fraud. The court determined that they diverted a substantial RUB 84 billion ($1.4 billion) from Togliatti Azot through ammonia sales to Nitrochem Distribution AG, a Swiss trader controlled by their Swiss partner, Andreas Zivy.

The Makhlai family has been entangled in legal troubles for years, leading some members to choose self-imposed exile. Despite the persistent challenges, Sergei Makhlai retains his position as the chairman of Togliattiazot’s board of directors.

Business Ventures and Ownership Changes

The legal battles took a toll on Makhlai’s business interests. In 2023, Togliattikhimbank became the new owner of Togliattiazot, with Dmitry Mazepin taking control. The change in ownership followed Makhlai’s conviction for embezzlement in a suit by a minority shareholder of the Uralchem plant.

Roots of the ToAZ Dispute: 2019 Fraud Convictions and Allegations of Illicit Activities

Fraud Convictions
Fraud Convictions

In a corporate dispute spanning a decade, the Irish High Court heard allegations against Togliattiazot (ToAZ), the world’s largest ammonia producer based in Russia. Former major shareholders and management, previously convicted of massive fraud by Russian courts, sought to regain control of the company from its new owner. They claimed that Russian court rulings should be disregarded.

The dispute arose in 2019 when Russian courts found four individuals associated with TOAZ guilty of engaging in extensive fraud. The scheme involved selling ammonia to a Swiss company at a low value, which then sold it at market price, resulting in a $1.4 billion profit withheld from ToAZ shareholders. Russian courts determined that the shareholders and managers committed illegal activities, defrauding both ToAZ and its minority shareholders.

Sergei Makhlai, the former TOA chairman, his father Vladimir and two Swiss partners were accused of orchestrating the plot. The money was funnelled through related-party transactions using the Swiss firm Nitrochem Distribution AG, controlled by Makhlais’ Swiss partner Andreas Zivy.

Amid escalating military action in Ukraine, EU sanctions included oligarch Dmitry Mazepin but not the Makhlais. The majority of shareholders, represented by Caribbean-registered trust firms linked to the Makhlai family, initiated proceedings in Ireland against United Chemical Company Uralchem (UCCU) and others, alleging fraudulent actions and corporate raiding.

Makhlais, sentenced to prison in Russia, fled before enforcement. The Caribbean firms sought a judge’s ruling that UCCU violated an undertaking to the High Court by not enforcing a $1.2 billion Russian court judgment. They claimed a deliberate breach by UCCU led to the sale of ToAZ shares.

The Irish High Court heard arguments, with UCCU asserting a fundamental respect for legal proceedings in foreign jurisdictions. UCCU’s defence argued that the Makhlai bankruptcy was separate from the $1.2 billion judgment case, and there was no breach of the undertaking.

The dispute took an international turn as ToAZ, a major ammonia exporter through a pipeline from Russia to the Black Sea via Ukraine, faced challenges with the pipeline closure due to the war in Ukraine. Discussions on resuming Russian ammonia exports were tied to grain deals, and the United Nations expressed optimism for an agreement between Russia and Ukraine on pipeline terms.

Pandora Papers: Details

Details from Pandora Papers
Details from Pandora Papers

Russian father and son, Vladimir and Sergei Makhlai, accused of defrauding their company, Toglittiazot (ToAZ), used New Zealand-based trusts to conceal sales revenues and assets, as revealed by the Pandora Papers. Makhlais was convicted in Russia in 2019 but had already fled. They are accused of stripping ToAZ of profits through fraudulent schemes.

The Pandora Papers expose details of their offshore structures, including New Zealand trusts and complex ownership charts. Sergei faces bribery charges, and the family is involved in legal disputes and tense relations with rival Dmitry Mazepin. The documents also reveal financial issues involving the second son, Andrei, who lives in Switzerland.

Key Points

Early Life:

  • Born in 1969 in Gubakha, Perm Territory, Russia, to Vladimir Makhlai.
  • Vladimir’s role at Togliattiazot in 1985 marked the family’s entry into the chemical industry.

Legal Issues:

  • Faced legal challenges, including a 2019 fraud conviction in Russia.
  • Sentenced in absentia to nine years in prison.
  • Accused in a 2021 bribery case related to tax charges.
  • Involved in a corporate dispute in 2023 leading to ownership changes due to embezzlement conviction.
  • Accused of using New Zealand-based trusts to conceal assets, as revealed in the Pandora Papers.


Sergei Makhlai, born in 1969 in Gubakha, Perm Territory, Russia, is the son of Vladimir Makhlai. His father’s role at Togliattiazot marked the family’s entry into the chemical industry. Sergei served in the military before earning a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Production Machines and Apparatus. In 1994, he moved to the U.S., eventually becoming the General Manager of a chemical industry equipment company. In 2003, he obtained an MBA from the University of North Carolina.

Returning to Russia, Sergei played key roles in Togliattikhimbank and RTS Bank. Notably, he became the Chairman of the Board at Togliattiazot in 2011. Under his leadership, the company became a global fertilizer industry giant.

Despite Togliattiazot’s success, Sergei faced legal challenges, including a 2019 fraud conviction. In 2023, Dmitry Mazepin took control of Togliattiazot due to Makhlai’s legal troubles. A corporate dispute has emerged, with allegations of fraudulent schemes and asset concealment revealed in the Pandora Papers. The Makhlais’ complex offshore structures, including New Zealand trusts, were exposed. Legal battles continue, intertwining with international affairs, including the war in Ukraine. Sergei Makhlai’s net worth was reported at $1 billion in 2022 by Forbes.

Alexander Harris

Alexander Harris - The Digital Bloodhound Alexander isn't your typical investigative journalist. He thrives in the digital world, scouring the web for hidden connections and leaked documents. An expert data analyst and coder, he builds intricate digital trails to expose fraud, cybercrime, and government overreach. Alexander Harris began his career as a journalist. He is one of the founders of the " Russian Oligarchs Tracker Unit ".

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