Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin’s family and associates began divvying up his business empire in the days before his death, it has emerged.
Prigozhin was aboard his private jet when it was allegedly blown from the sky between Moscow and St. Petersburg killing everyone onboard.
Some have speculated that the crash was retribution by Vladimir Putin for the abortive coup attempt launched by Prigozhin and Wagner earlier this year.
Although Russian officials have claimed with certainty that Prigozhin was aboard the plane when it crashed, conspiracy theories are rife – particularly in Russia – that the Wagner boss is still alive.
Now an investigation by the Russian media outlet Mozhem Obyasnit (We Can Explain) has found that his family began dividing the billionaire’s assets days before his death, adding to the mystery surrounding the plane crash.
In the days before Prigozhin’s abrupt demise, structural changes were made to eight of the warlord’s most profitable companies.
Changes were also made at a company owned by Prigozhin’s son, Pavel, which created a spinoff company for tax purposes.
Mozhem Obyasnit also found that Prigozhin’s mother Violetta hid information about herself from state registers while his widows was stripped of her ownership of two of Prigozhin’s biggest companies which were then handed to his business partner Dmitry Koshara.
While the true extent of Prigozhin’s business empire remains a mystery, a raid at his St. Petersburg home found documents suggesting he was involved in hundreds of companies in at least 15 countries.
The mercenary leader began his career as a hotdog salesman and then caterer who rose through the ranks of Russian society by securing lucrative Kremlin contracts.
For this reason, he eventually became known as “Putin’s Chef”. The oligarch continued his rise and eventually formed the “troll farms” which spread disinformation in the West. He then formed or took over, the budding Wagner group in 2014.
Prigozhin’s private army went on to fight for Russian interests in Syria, Ukraine and Africa making him extremely wealthy in the process.
During that campaign, Prigozhin became increasingly hostile towards the Russian Ministry of Defence – in particular, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov.
This rivalry eventually boiled over with Prigozhin demanding they be removed while turning his forces towards Russia, a move which may have cost him his life.
Still, not all Russians are convinced of his death and conspiracy theories are running rampant in the country.
Many believe Prigozhin was not on the plane at all or that a body double was there in his place. Some theories purport that Vladimir Putin is aware he is alive while others suggest he is planning his revenge against the Russian President.
The timing of Prigozhin’s family dividing up his wealth while he was still alive is likely to fuel the flames of these rumours.