German authorities are investigating a peculiar case involving a Berlin dentist who sold millions of euros’ worth of properties owned by the Russian state, allegedly by using forged powers of attorney, German outlet Der Spiegel reported in cooperation with OCCRP.
In March, a real estate agent named Sascha Klupp was visiting a plot of land he thought he had bought in the up-and-coming Berlin district of Karlshorst when he was stopped by two Russian embassy staff who claimed the Russian government had not actually sold the property.
Both Klupp and the Russian embassy filed a criminal fraud complaint.
It turned out that other properties owned by the Russian state had also been sold, apparently without Moscow’s knowledge.
Investigators are still trying to work out whether the sales resulted from corruption, fraud, sabotage, or for some other reason.
Der Spiegel and OCCRP reviewed hundreds of pages of purchase contracts, alleged powers of attorney, internal chats, and company documents.
One name appeared repeatedly: Jefim Brandmann.
The 69-year-old retired dentist was born in what is now Ukraine and investigators found he portrayed himself as a representative of the Russian state to land registries and real estate agents, presenting professional-looking powers of attorney.
The Berlin criminal police suspects the dentist had a close relationship with a woman from Ukraine who posed as a high-ranking officer of a Russian intelligence service and allegedly endowed Brandmann with the power of attorney.
On seized mobile phones, police found chats from February 2020 in which the woman — identified as “Olena G.” — sent Brandmann an image of a document allegedly signed by the head of the presidential administration authorizing him to sell Russian land in Berlin.
OCCRP researchers were able to compare signatures on unrelated documents signed by the same officials who allegedly granted Brandmann power of attorney, which showed that they looked highly dissimilar.
The sale to Klupp took place in September 2021. In February this year, Brandmann also sold a lakeside property in Brandenburg and the former USSR consulate general in West Berlin to a company owned by his sons, the investigation found.
Documents also suggest there were aims to sell parts of the embassy complex in central Berlin. But before the sale could happen, Russian officials caught on to Brandmann’s deals and moved to invalidate them.
The Soviet Union maintained various barracks and residential complexes in Germany after the end of the Second World War. A large amount of property still belongs to Russia today, including old military properties, commercial agencies, or consulates, often in prime locations.