MTS Leasing – A Russian Perfumed Swindle
*More than 700 Losers
MTS Leasing has grown in one year and got representatives in all major Romanian towns. Local dealers managed to conclude for MTS more than 700 financing contracts for buildings. The large part of the contracts was on the roll but nobody knows how are they going to roll on, since the MTS offices are now empty and the German owners are no where to be found. The Police launched an investigation but the modality in which this business was set up won't leave too many possible ways for recovering the money paid as advances by the MTS clients. And we are talking here about amounts ranging from several tens of thousands to several hundreds of thousand of euros, for each of the more than 700 MTS clients. But who are the owners of the leasing company? Behind the little official information we could have found about MTS, we have discovered a group of people with strong connections with the Russian mafia, people that have been working in Romania without any problems for more than 10 years now. The connections we are to talk about were strengthened in time by common participation in all sorts of suspicious activities. More than that, inexplicably, President Traian Basescu has repeatedly showed up besides the owners of MTS, thus participating in consolidating the company's image.
*From Importing Fish and Producing Wine to Real Estate Leasing
Searching through the documents behind the MTS company, we could observe that we are dealing with a family business with no grounds in Romania and no history whatsoever in Germany . The German company represented in Romania is registered as having headquarters at the Metzen family house in Kronberg, near Frankfurt . At the same address there are also registered as existing two other companies MTS Investition und Handel since 1994 and Metzen und Partners Consultants since 1988. The two companies have managed to get 5 employees after many years of activity. The owners of the companies are the Metzens, through Theo or Christiane Metzen, and the companies' social capital is of 150, respectively, 250 thousand euros.
Besides all these family ventures developing million euros contracts in Romania , we have also found another family member involved in the MTS operations: Peter Metzen from Aachen , who is a partner to several construction companies or to additional technical activities. From his having associating to the Dierings, the German company Human Resources AG emerged, which has set in Bucharest at the end of the previous year, the company Diering Engineering, that was to provide the technical check up for all building erected by MTS in Romania.
All the companies owned by the Metzens are almost inexistent when it comes to portfolio or previous activity. All successive searches in different data basis mentioning activities of those companies pointed out only some activities with no relation whatsoever to the leasing financing. On the other hand, some information is quite interesting. The official description of the Metzen und Partners mentions that the company deals with exclusively trading activities in Russia and Kazakhstan . Moreover, the little available information recommends the company as an importer of oceanic delicatessen from Sankt Petersburg. The German company is also described as a representative of a Sankt Petersburg – based company, Interfrosty.
In Romania , MTS is not the only business owned by the Metzens. Besides the Bucharest registered company, Diering, the youngest member of the family, Matthias Metzen, born in Kabul, as his documents say, has registered the telecommunication company Elex Car, while Metzen und Partners GmBH owns the Craiova based company, Piemont, company dealing with wine production, and managed by a Romanian citizen.
*Osmium, Rackets and Secret Service / Intelligence Agencies
All suspicious connections of the Metzens are about to be cleared up in Bucharest . A visit to the MTS headquarters in Bucharest can make anyone dizzy, especially clients. There's empty everywhere and the offices looks like they had been emptied in a hurry. The empty boards have their doors wide open, wires hanging down all around, closed doors, and landlords that hadn't got their rent. It is exactly the same feeling we have got three years ago when having visited the headquarters of another leasing company: Compania Populara de Leasing, which was evicted in a hurry at the request of the fooled clients. The two companies have strong connections. The owner of CPL, Armen Calin, formerly known as Armen Eduardovici Gouchtchian, was till recently a consultant for MTS Leasing. He vanished from the country together with the German owners. Armen spent more than a year in jail, because of all defalcations he managed in CPL. In that case there were also several clients that had paid the advance for leasing contract and they never saw the promised financing. According to the listing of all phone calls Armen made from the CPL phone numbers right before evicting his offices and being arrested, he would call almost everyday Theo Metzen in Germany . The same number is nowadays expected to be owned by MTS. Moreover, the Romanian site of MTS is registered at the same address where another partner of Armen set up a leasing company. Actually, the same address in Bucharest - 62 Mihai Bravu Blvd , was the headquarters of the company Eltana, and after that MTS Leasing showed up. Eltana belongs to Anatol Bakajef, German citizen of a Russian origin, who had been trying to set up several business ventures in Romania . All the above mentioned prove that Bakajef, Metzen and Armen have been business partners for a long time, long before MTS was set up.
It is likely that because of the connections with the former Soviet countries, Metzen approached the rare metals trade too. Before setting up MTS in Romania , the name of Theo Metzen could be found on different web-sites where he was quoting for sale osmium 187, a substance also used in the guns manufacturing industry, the nuclear weapons field. The information was confirmed by Benedict, Theo Metzen's son, who claims that at that time, his father was only researching the market and that he had never done any trade with osmium. Moreover, there is some information about the three of them to set up in Bucharest in 2003, together with some other Russian businessmen, a racket export to Kinshasa in Congo , a deal managed in Bucharest by Omar Hayssam. According to all this information, Hayssam assured the obtaining of a clean end-user certificate issued by a country not under embargo. At that time, Congo was under an embargo with respect to importing weapons, because of the bloody conflicts taking place in the area for several years then.
According to some sources in the Secret Service, Metzen had developed activities with BND (the Western Germany 's External Intelligence Service); while Bakajef had held a high rang position in the economic department of the Soviet Secret Service. Benedict Metzen stated on the phone that his father had never worked for BND, but he had traveled a lot and dealt with managing different projects in African and Soviet countries.
*Metzen close to Basescu
The MTS Leasing operation wouldn't have been successful in gathering so many clients unless they had an aggressive image promotion campaign. For a year or so, the advertisements to MTS were everywhere on the TV, in the streets, in all important newspapers and especially in all important economic press. An important part of this image promotion campaign was organizing several economic seminaries and inviting there economic and political personalities in Romania . Two such events should make us do some thinking; we are talking here about two economic forums where aside MTS Leasing representatives, at the presidium, Traian Basescu stood. For the first time he was standing there as the Mayor, and for the second time, he was standing there as the President, on February the 8 th . Both events were organized by Business Media Group, but the room was invaded by the banners with MTS Leasing, which can mean that the very company participated in financing the event. If Basescu the Mayor didn't know who the persons consolidating their image on the TV news besides him were, Basescu the President should have been informed about the connection Metzen had with all sorts of mafia-like groups. If it wasn't for the image, then that should have been for the sake of his safety.
* In Germany we got the Answering Machine on the Phone
The first Metzen to answer the phone as Peter Metzen from Aachen, who considered that his only connection with MTS was a contract and he didn't want to comment upon anything related to the future of the company and to the suspicious connections of the Metzens. At the MTS headquarters the phone line is suspended, and the fax is the only thing working, while at Theo Metzens place there's still an answering machine doing its job. Calin Armen is no where to be found, the MTS employees state that he ran out of the country. Bakajef doesn't make any comments; both his home phone and mobile phone are suspended.
In the end, we were called by Benedict Metzen, the youngest in the family. “I had been working with Armen in Germany at the MTS offices until Friday night. We had dinner, we had a beer together, and then he went to the hotel to get some sleep. The next day Armen disappeared without a trace, together with about several hundreds of thousands of euros from the MTS accounts.” Benedict said he was shocked by what Armen had done and gave us some more useful information. Therefore we found out that it had been Armen's idea to set up MTS Leasing; he had been working with the company since the very beginning till July the 1 st . Benedict also accused Armen of setting up a real conspiracy to cover up his running away. “My brother, Matthias had received death threats the week previous Armen's running away. There were some people calling him and asking him to chose between money or 9 mm. Then Armen insisted on Matthias leaving Romania immediately. We also found that Armen had been behind the first article in Romania Libera, the one that had started all the hysteria. Armen wanted MTS to get in that situation.” Moreover, Benedict states that Armen cashed lots of dirty money, from the constructors working with MTS. Benedicts claims that his father is a victim because he has always been a naïve person and that he never knew a thing about Armen's past. Theo Metzen could not be contacted directly to clear up all his business connections, the last cover being a new counselor, Juergen Schoen, who refused to make any comments and who added that Benedict should have said a thing, because he is only practicing with MTS.
By Stefan Candea and Sorin Ozon, the Romanian Centre for Investigative Journalism