A people’s renegade: the story of a Russian MP turned defector

Magomed Gadzhiev was an MP for almost 20 years before he fled the country and was declared a foreign agent. He now wants to ‘help’ the West in exchange for a shiny new passport

In early March, Romania’s RBN media outlet published an investigative video featuring talks between a former member of the Russian State Duma, lower house of parliament, with an unidentified man. The former lawmaker is recorded discussing his desire to obtain a European or US passport in exchange for information about the Russian elites. “Give me the passport, I’ll bring him. I can even bring a man who can give them many interesting things. <...> I know a lot of things. But I don’t want to say it,” the grey-haired man says in the video.

This man is Magomed Gadzhiev, a State Duma member with 18 years of experience, who was designated a foreign agent by the Russian Justice Ministry last week for “supporting Ukrainian authorities”. Meanwhile, Russia-installed chief of Ukraine’s occupied Donetsk region Denis Pushilin just a year ago publicly thanked Gadzhiev for allegedly selling his yacht and buying military equipment for the Russian army with the money raised.

Novaya-Europe sheds light on the lawmaker from Russia’s Dagestan who earned billions of rubles from his gambling businesses but was forced to flee the country following a conflict with Russian senator Suleiman Kerimov and is now crafting a favourable image for himself in the West.

The person whose face can be seen in the leaked video is Magomed Gadzhiev, a former State Duma member from Dagestan.

Editor-in-Chief of Dagestan’s Chernovik newspaper Magomed Magomedov confirmed that it was indeed Gadzhiev: “I think that the recording is real. What he says is close to reality. He is negotiating a deal”.

Screenshot of a  video  showing Dagestan soldiers on the frontlines thanking Gadzhiev

Screenshot of a video showing Dagestan soldiers on the frontlines thanking Gadzhiev

After Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine was launched, Russian Telegram channels started posting videos where Dagestan soldiers stationed on the frontlines offered their gratitude. The men whose faces were fully covered claimed that Gadzhiev delivered military equipment to them which was allegedly bought for the cash raised after the former MP sold his yacht. Denis Pushilin, head of the so-called Donetsk people’s republic or Russia-occupied part of Ukraine’s Donetsk region, also thanked Gadzhiev for “the comprehensive support and personal involvement in the future of Donbas”.

Novaya-Europe was told that it could have been an information attack against Gadzhiev.

“If [Gadzhiev] wanted to support the army, he would have done so publicly and while being in Russia. Gadzhiev was keeping a low profile after leaving Russia. The reports that he began sending humanitarian aid to the frontlines emerged in sources, social media profiles, and blogger accounts close to the Kerimov and [active State Duma] MP Rizvan Kurbanov’s team — his opponents,” one of our sources in Dagestan close to the Kurbanov team says.

Gadzhiev left Russia after the war broke out and has no intentions of coming back. Another source tells Novaya-Europe that various plans were drafted to force the US to impose sanctions against him.

“For instance, an aid convoy for the special military operation zone was put together. Then, they posted a video where fighters thanked Magomed Gadzhiev for allegedly selling his yacht to send help for the army. These reports were sometimes emerging online to keep his name out there.”

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‘Serious fixer’ in the State Duma

Magomed Gadzhiev used the “With love for Motherland, with faith in Allah!” slogan for one of his first State Duma election campaigns. In the end, he spent a total of 18 years in the lower chamber of parliament: from 2003 to 2021. Throughout this time, he remained the right-hand man of billionaire Suleiman Kerimov. Like Gadzhiev, he was also born in Dagestan but still remains in power and retains his seat in the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament.

Suleiman Kerimov. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Suleiman Kerimov. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

The US imposed sanctions against Kerimov back in 2018, accusing him of “continuing to instigate violence in eastern Ukraine” and “supplying the [Syrian President Bashar al-]Assad regime with material and weaponry”. After Russia ordered missile strikes on Ukraine and tanks began to roll towards Kyiv on 24 February, his wife, daughter, and son also ended up on the sanction blacklist as well as several companies linked to the senator. However, Gadzhiev is still not sanctioned by the US or the EU.

Gadzhiev first was elected to the State Duma in 2003 as an independent candidate, but the next three convocations saw him nominated by the ruling United Russia party.

“He is one of those silent MPs,” Chernovik’s editor-in-chief says. “I can’t remember a single time when he would step up to the podium and say something.”

According to the transcripts of State Duma meetings, Gadzhiev took the floor just once in 18 years of working there: he shared his opinion about the proposed changes to the Budget Code in 2004.

Despite his reluctance to speak, Gadzhiev emerged as a prolific lawmaker and co-authored more than 300 bills. Gadzhiev backed politically motivated bills, such as the “Dima Yakovlev Law”, which banned US citizens from adopting Russian children, and the “Yarovaya Package”, which established surveillance of Internet and smartphone users.

Gadzhiev was among the co-authors of the first “foreign agents” bill passed in 2012 and voted for the law allowing individuals to be designated as “foreign agents” in 2020.

He supported the annexation of Crimea and took an active part in the legislative work on the “regulatory integration” of the peninsula.

When two old friends fell out over money

Even though Magomed Gadzhiev was planning to run for another term, the 2021 legislative election campaign went ahead without him.

In the leaked video, the former MP claims that this development was a direct result of his conflict with former associate Suleiman Kerimov, Chernovik’s Magomedov echoes this statement. Gadzhiev’s sudden exit from the world of politics is likely tied to the standoff between former billionaire friends that exacerbated following the Makhachkala port dispute in 2016.

The Makhachkala Sea Trade Port. Photo: Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Makhachkala Sea Trade Port. Photo: Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Makhachkala facility is Russia’s only ice-free deep-water port on the Caspian Sea, it accommodates transit oil exports from Central Asia. It remains the last publicly owned port in the country.

“Magomed Gadzhiev could never defend this port on his own, so Suleiman Kerimov always helped him out. I think Kerimov justifiably believes that the port belongs to him just as much as it does to Gadzhiev but he did not want to part with it. The role of the port is growing, and big money will now go through it,” Magomedov notes. “This trade corridor is needed to link Russia with Iran, to connect us to the Silk Road, and to reach the Persian Gulf. Although the port of Makhachkala is not very developed yet, it still receives goods from Iran.”

According to Chernovik journalist Magomedov,

Gadzhiev lost his place in the latest convocation of the State Duma precisely because of his conflict with oligarch Suleiman Kerimov over the Makhachkala trade port.

Following this electoral snub, former MP Magomed Gadzhiev left Russia and moved to Dubai. In May 2023, Gadzhiev, co-author of the first law on foreign agents, was himself designated as a foreign agent. The Justice Ministry declared that he, “while outside Russia, expressed his willingness to cooperate with foreign sources to obtain foreign citizenship” and “declared support for the Ukrainian authorities”.

“In these times, the foreign agent label is a green card,” Maxim Shevchenko, who knows Gadzhiev personally, says. “The foreign agent designation of a person who highly likely has between $3-10 billion is his ticket to the luxury class. It’s also possible that this conflict is staged to withdraw money to a safe haven. They are smart enough to do this, they are very clever people.”

The Justice Ministry, indeed, omits a very important detail: while Gadzhiev was an MP he managed to create and develop a multi-billion business by registering it to his family members. And just like Kerimov’s one, Gadzhiev’s business empire stretched far outside Russia, including the US.

A wine glass in one hand, the Quran in the other

Magomed Gadzhiev is not just a politician but also a devout Muslim. He even joined the State Duma committee on public associations and religious organisations in his final term there.

Gambling and deception for profit are frowned upon and considered sins in Islam. “O you who believe! Wine, gambling, altars and divining arrows are filth, made up by Satan. Therefore, refrain from it, so that you may be successful,” the Quran says. However, these religious restrictions did not affect Gadzhiev’s business whatsoever.

The Liga Stavok, a famous Russian betting company, was founded in 2008. The company that owns the Liga Stavok has been bringing in more than a billion rubles (€11.47 million) a year in the last few years. In 2021, the Liga Stavok became the first official betting partner of the NHL that features US and Canadian hockey clubs. Gadzhiev’s company represented them in Russia and post-Soviet countries. However, the NHL terminated the contract with its Russian partners four days after the Ukraine war broke out.

The Liga Stavok betting company in Moscow. Photo:  Yandex.Maps

The Liga Stavok betting company in Moscow. Photo: Yandex.Maps

The Liga Stavok is owned by PMBC, a company whose founders (up until 2018) were several offshore entities registered in the Virgin Islands, Seychelles, Belize, and Switzerland. However, other individuals were listed among its shareholders in 2018.

Gadzhiev’s second wife Alena Avdeeva, who lives in the US, owned 15% of PMBC in 2018-2022, and by 2023 the same stake in the company had passed to her 63-year-old father, Igor Avdeev. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on 24 February, Avdeev suddenly became a millionaire after working in the car mechanics business all his life. Gadzhiev’s eldest son, Magomedrasul Gadzhiev, obtained a share in his father’s business in 2021 and now owns 22% of PMBC.

Gadzhiev owns another betting company, Betsiti, whose legal entity is Fortuna LLC. Like the Liga Stavok, Betsiti is one of the top ten Russian betting companies and is even ranked higher.

Alena Avdeeva has owned 15% of Betsiti LLC since 2019. During that time, the bookmaker has earned about 2.5 billion rubles (€28.7 million), according to its financial reports.

Family ties 

Magomed Gadzhiev has never disclosed ownership of properties overseas but he does have them: all US assets of the former lawmaker are registered under his close relatives’ names.

Gadzhiev met his first wife, Dzhamilat Umailova, in Dagestan. The couple had their first son, Magomedrasul Gadzhiev, in 1997. Magomed Gadzhiev was diligently putting down his wife’s name in financial declarations until 2014 when she disappeared from the reports. Novaya-Europe discovered that

Gadzhiev and Umailova divorced in 2013 for unspecified reasons. However, the former lawmaker never severed ties with his eldest son Magomedrasul.

Gadzhiev Sr. then did not remarry officially but found Alena Avdeeva, a woman who became his common-law wife after he moved to Moscow and started his federal politics career. The couple had three more children: Adam, Sofia, and Suleiman (the same name as Gadzhiev’s former friend — billionaire and senator Suleiman Kerimov). The eldest of them is 12, the kids used to go to a Moscow school. However, Gadzhiev can be heard saying in the leaked video that he took his children to the US where Avdeeva now resides herself.

Alena Avdeeva. Photo:  Facebook

Alena Avdeeva. Photo: Facebook

Gadzhiev’s Miami property is officially owned by Avdeeva. She does ballroom dancing in the US and remotely runs a business in Russia: the woman owns a “resource-based improvement centre” called QuintesSense and attends neuro-linguistic programming seminars. Avdeeva does not make as much from QuintesSense as her husband’s betting companies: just about 2-3 million rubles (€23,000-34,000) a year.

Three companies, AIA FLOW INC, Masas Corp, and AMASS GROUP INC, are registered under Avdeeva’s name in the US. The latter emerged only recently, in April 2023. Its contact address is the same as the other two: a 300-sq.m. apartment on exclusive and affluent Fisher Island worth $6 million.

There’s another company registered in the same address — ROBERT BENGT VOLE', PA. It is owned by an individual called Robert B. Vole who gave the Fisher Island residence to AMA Corporate, an unknown offshore company from the British Virgin Islands, back in 2011. Despite the fact that it’s impossible to identify its owner, Avdeeva’s traffic fine tickets suggest that she’s still living there.

One of her other companies, Masas Corp, owns a whole floor in a prestigious high-rise in Miami. In February 2023, the business received 16 apartments worth between $2.5 million and $6 million each. Apart from the properties, Avdeeva also has two cars: a Mercedes-Benz and a Porsche Cayenne that are worth over $124,000 in total.

Gadzhiev’s eldest son, Magomedrasul, also got a slice of this US property cake. He owns two companies in the country: EXIT ENTERTAINMENT and PLC 7705. The former lawmaker’s son was only 18 when the first company was founded. EXIT ENTERTAINMENT was shut down on court orders after four years of existence but that’s when Gadzhiev Jr. opened the second company aged 22. PLC 7705 was up and running for barely ten days when it received an apartment from Daniel Kodsi, a well-known real estate developer, in Paramount Miami Worldcenter, an elite residential high-rise in downtown Miami, worth almost $1 million. This apartment is now specified as the company’s physical address.

Magomedrasul Gadzhiev’s US company is registered in one of the apartments in this high-rise in the centre of Miami. Photo:  Royal Palm Companies

Magomedrasul Gadzhiev’s US company is registered in one of the apartments in this high-rise in the centre of Miami. Photo: Royal Palm Companies

In 2022, the skyscraper lit up in the Ukrainian flag colours for a week. “It is a mammoth moving L.E.D. mosaic of national colours from around the world — signalling global solidarity with the embattled people of Ukraine in their war against Russian invaders,” explains Paramount Miami Worldcenter developer, Daniel Kodsi.

Nevertheless, RBN, the outlet that published the leaked video of Gadzhiev’s conversation, claims that Magomed is now dating a woman named Ninel Kolomiytseva and not Avdeeva. Kolomiytseva is a model and yoga coach who has been living in Dubai for the last few months, just like the former Russian lawmaker. Ninel — her original name is Nina — was born in Ukraine, her mother taught her esoterics and yoga because of her personal interest in these practices. Ninel is also a business owner: she sells designer clothes and lingerie branded as YASPIS and teaches other people yoga tricks via an app called yoga108.

Ninel Kolomiytseva. Photo:  Instagram

Ninel Kolomiytseva. Photo: Instagram

Ninel is a frequent topic for discussions on online forums dedicated to the lives of sex workers and escort girls. That’s where users are also trying to investigate who pays her bills, often succumbing back to the rumours that Ninel’s lifestyle is paid by “some Arab sheikh”. Not quite.

Apart from Gadzhiev himself, the mother of his kids Alena Avdeeva and Ninel Kolomiytseva are linked by one other person: Yevgeny Dmitriev who has seemingly been the ex-lawmaker’s authorised representative for many years. He holds the insurance for the car belonging to Alena Avdeeva and, at the same time, the domains of the shops owned by Ninel Kolomiytseva are registered under his name.

RBN reporters also note that Ninel and Magomed spend time together in Courchevel, the Russian elites’ favourite vacation spot for skiing, which can be proven if we take a look at the model’s Instagram photos.

With contributions from Rima Abu Zalaan

Editor in chief — Kirill Martynov. Terms of use. Privacy policy.