01-06-2024 More 255

How BlackList Aero Scammers Built a Criminal Scheme Worth Millions of Dollars

How BlackList Aero Scammers Built a Criminal Scheme Worth Millions of Dollars

Since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine began, the air transportation market in Eastern Europe has undergone significant changes. These changes were driven by sanctions against Russia, the exit of leading airlines from the market, and the inability to fully operate private planes owned by individuals close to the Putin regime.

As a result, many businessmen and politicians sought companies that could help them circumvent these sanctions. They needed services to pay contractors and suppliers in the aviation industry through fictitious front companies. Recognizing the potential to make quick money in this environment, some enterprising companies stepped in to offer their services. One such company was the British firm BlackList Aero, which claimed to specialize in debt collection within the air transportation market.

BlackList Aero was led by Artem Degtiarov, who has a long history of involvement in political scandals and criminal activities dating back to the early 2000s. The scammers' scheme was simple: they targeted clients facing issues in the aviation industry, offered to resolve these problems, collected payments, and then disappeared without delivering on their promises. Degtiarov was assisted by his colleague, Alex Melnychenko, a Kyiv native who graduated from the Aviation University in Ukraine's capital but quickly shifted to the more lucrative criminal business.

Artem Degtiarov (left) and Alex Melnychenko (right)

To find potential victims, the scammers enlisted the support of several controversial politicians, including the pro-Russian former Ukrainian parliament member Ilya Kiva. Kiva, who had previously worked in law enforcement and was repeatedly convicted of bribery, fled to Russia on the eve of the war. He became an excellent partner for BlackList Aero, helping to identify potential victims in Russian-occupied territories and Russia itself. During this time, the scammers managed to extract large sums of money, possibly amounting to millions of dollars, from various businessmen and politicians.

However, it's worth noting that the scammers occasionally helped some clients or returned their money when they deemed the risks too high. As they say, sometimes the risks far outweigh the benefits.

Artem Degtiarov and Ilya Kiva

Artem Degtiarov and Ilya Kiva

The British-Russian partnership in this fraudulent enterprise was short-lived. On December 6, 2023, Ilya Kiva was killed near Moscow, likely by Ukrainian special services and possibly due to his involvement in fraudulent activities with BlackList Aero.

Degtiarov and Melnychenko, however, emerged unscathed, settling in Britain and continuing their operations under the guise of providing legal services. They have now shifted their focus to the Asian and Middle Eastern markets, where they continue to find new clients to exploit. The story, it seems, will continue...

This material reflects the author's opinion and assessments.

Read also