What is the most forbidden information in Russia? The information that caused thousands of web pages containing it to be blocked under numerous court rulings? You may think that it has something to do with anti-corruption investigations by FBK, extremism or terrorism, but you’d be wrong. This secret that’s being kept so well is the fact that Andrey Kostin, head of the government-owned VTB Bank, has an affair with Nailya Asker-zade, journalist from Russia-1 TV channel.
The fact that Kostin and Asker-zade are in a relationship is actually quite well-known. They often attend various events together, there are lots of photos of them on the internet. We even managed to find a bench in Central Park in New York with a plaque that says: “Andrey Kostin, don’t forget we are of the same blood. I love you. Nailya 2015”. Studying through Central Park’s records for 2015 helped us confirm that this plaque was paid for by Nailya Asker-zade and not some other random Nailya who’s in love with some Andrey Kostin. So, why are our banker and TV host in such denial about it?
The reason is that Kostin has been making some very expensive gifts to Asker-zade. Of course, there’s nothing wrong about the head of a bank buying expensive presents for his lover. However, even Kostin’s annual salary of several milion dollars a year wouldn’t be enough to afford most of what he’s purchased for Nailya: elite apartments, a dacha on Rublyovka, a private jet and even a yacht.
Let’s start with the apartments. In 2011, Naila Asker-zade received a 229 m2 apartment in the center of Moscow. as a gift from VTB Bank top manager Kirill Zimarin. Three years later, she also received the adjacent 155 m2 apartment that was previously owned by the bank directly. The total market value of these two apartments is around $5.3 million, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
In 2015, Asker-zade became the proud owner of a 5000 m2 land plot on Rublyovka with a 1000 m2 mansion on it. Such a dacha is now worth around $3.9 million, but this obviously wasn’t enough. In 2018, she also purchased 4 hectares (40,000 m2 ) of land in the same area, worth almost $45 million. The offshore company that this land plot was purchased from is registered at the same address and has the same nominees as Andrey Kostin’s personal apartment in Moscow. This year, the press learned about this purchase, so Asker-zade decided to sell the land plot to avoid unwanted attention.
Let’s talk about Asker-zade’s job for a moment. She has her own show, in which she takes really adulatory interviews from high-rank officials and Vladimir Putin’s cronies, like his press-secretary Dmitry Peskov, head of Chechnya ramzan Kadyrov or head of Rosneft Igor Sechin. Such people are usually very busy, and to get to them, Nailya obviously has to travel a lot. We calculated the dates on which the show’s episodes were shot in various cities, searched for planes that landed in all of these cities at these dates and found only one match: a Bombardier Global 6000 private jet. Studying its flight history and comparing it to the photos on Asker-zade’s Instagram helped us confirm that she’s been using the jet since 2018. It was purchased by VTB Bank 9 month earlier, but then suddenly sold to a Belize-registered offshore company that has absolutely nothing to do with the bank. Such a jet costs $60 million to purchase, and its hourly operating costs are around $8,600. With his official income, Kostin could not have possibly afforded to either buy or purchase this jet, so it’s safe to assume that he’s outright stolen it from his bank.
Judging by her Instagram photos, Nailya loves spending her vacations at the sea. Upon closer look, we noticed that many of her photos were taken on the same ship. However, we weren’t able to identify it just by looking at the small details in the background. Luckily, all vessels have tracking systems, and their tracks can be easily accessed online. So, we started checking all ships that put out to sea next to various cities while Asker-zade was there. Soon enough, there was only one left that matched these criteria: a 62-meter yacht “Sea & Us” worth $62 million.
The total value of all the presents that Nailya Asker-zade has received from Andrey Kostin exceeds $170 million. His official income would only cover a small fraction of it. The worst part about this is that VTB constantly makes losses and needs to be rescued by the government. Over the last 10 years, it has received over $15 billion of financial aid from the budget. This means that Kostin didn’t just steal money from his own bank, he stole from all of us. And that’s why he’s doing everything in his power to remove any mentions of this from the internet.
You can learn more about Andrey Kostin and Nailya Asker-zade by watching Alexey Navalny’s latest video with English subtitles