Put up the shutters in Ukraine… It doesn’t matter! Let’s move to Europe! Rustam Gilfanov from «Lucky Labs» plans to buy out British, Latvian and German game startups

   The real agiotage in the media caused ambitious statements by a Ukrainian IT-company about their bold plans to invest tens of millions dollars in acquisitions in Europe. It would seem that such statements are proof of the economy’s development, at least in the IT-sphere

What can be wrong is that business in the country is developing at such a rate. And the fact that Ukrainian business is expanding into Europe, not selling parts of its companies here, can already be considered an achievement. Imagine how much this company had to pay taxes to get a huge profit. It seems that the owners of this company are simply brilliant businessmen. So what is this pride of Ukraine? Let’s get acquainted with it closely.

 So, the Ukrainian IT-company «Lucky Labs» officially promotes software for gambling. The company’s founders, according to the open register, are citizens of the Russian Federation, in particular, Gilfanov Rustam, Gilfanov Roman, Tokarev Sergei and Ivan Norenko

The IT-company «Lucky Labs» became well-known to the broader community after the situation when the Security Service of Ukraine makes searches in the Kyiv company’s office and seized more than hundreds of equipment and documents. The «Lucky Labs» started against law enforcement agencies a real information war but, despite all kinds of accusations and pressure in the media, the representatives of the Security Service of Ukraine didn’t back down. After studying the seized materials and carrying out the necessary investigative actions, the representative of the Security Service of Ukraine Alexander Tkachuk stated at a specially organized briefing that a criminal case was brought against the company’s directions under two articles of the Criminal Code of Ukraine – «Gambling» (Article 203-2) and «Financing of Terrorism» (Article 258-5). According to representatives of the Security Service, the company’s employees were engaged in supporting online-casinos, and gambling-related funds were withdrawn through the electronic payment system QIWI and filmed through terminals in the territories of the DNR and LNR. Thus, the main offense of the company is the online-casinos’ management on the territory of Ukraine and Russia, where it is prohibited at the legislative level.

In addition to these accusations, the «Lucky Labs’» founders – Russian entrepreneurs Rustam Gilfanov, Roman Gilfanov, Sergei Tokarev and Ivan Norenko –   were on the sanctions list signed by the President of Ukraine

The reasons for personal sanctions are «actions that create real threats to the national interests of Ukraine and violate the interests of society and the state». They are threatened with blocking assets in Ukraine, restrictions on the use and disposal of property, suspension of economic and financial obligations, and prohibition of entry into the country. «Lucky Labs’» owners proceeding from all the above-produced software for casino games: not just creating software, but frankly copying (or simply stealing) hundreds of famous games of world producers (for example, «Playtech», «Novomatic», «NetEnt»). «Lucky Labs» was plagiarized in such games as «Book of Ra», «Lucky Lady’s Charm», «Dolphin’s Pearl», «Ironman», «Hulk», «Gonzo’s Quest», «Starburst» and many others. The company didn’t just steal popular world games: it also transformed them a little in a special way. The copied games, in addition to pirated images, had special mathematics: the percentage of player’s winnings (RTP) was much lower than in licensed programs. It’s no coincidence that the company flourished just after the 2007 year – the time of the official prohibition of offline-casinos in Russia.

After these scandalous events around the company «Lucky Labs» all over the world, with a huge speed, statements began that the Ukrainian state is attacking the developing IT-business that brings «live» money to the country

The IT-community almost unanimously stands up for the protection of colleagues, and social networks shake the loud voices: «Hey, Rube!» The accusations against the power structures were showered with hail. But if we analyse more closely the situation with the IT-business and the information that circulated around it, it can be concluded that far from all IT-specialists have been attacked by Ukrainian law enforcers. Top Ukrainian IT-companies, such as «EPAM», «SoftServe», «Luxoft», «Ciklum» and many others are steadily growing, paying taxes and having no problems with the state. And one more interesting point, while Russian businessmen turn things around and return home, several IT-teams with possible Russian roots are moving to Ukraine. At the same time, they continue to make their illegal «business» in Russia, treating Ukrainian players only as small extra earnings, since everything has been worked out in the Russian Federation for a long time, and much more money. Outwardly, everything looks pretty decent: IT-business, a beautiful office, about five hundred employees, a call center. But at the same time, the main «Lucky Labs’» shareholders are involved in a scandalous ship trial, where with the same «honest businessmen» they cannot share the millions earned by «excessive» labor in the gambling business, which they have already managed to take offshore. Increased attention from the Security Service of Ukraine doesn’t seem unreasonable. And after the active investigative actions of the SSU, the company’s representatives loudly complained of the huge losses incurred by them due to the withdrawal of equipment and documentation. And here’s the unexpected turn: the Ukrainian IT-company «Lucky Labs» is looking for a company with a value of twenty to thirty million dollars in the UK, Latvia, and Germany. The company’s representative said that the transactions will be financed by private cash reserves. «Lucky Labs» is aimed at start-ups in the gaming and gambling spheres, and they are ready to conclude about five deals. The company’s press release quotes one of its shareholders, Rustam Gilfanov: «We are ready to continue growth in international markets with a focus on the UK, Germany, and Latvia, where we have already noticed ambitious start-ups doing incredible things». That’s just a similar business is no longer an IT-development, because the new game assets will have to be managed. This, albeit indirectly, confirms the company’s experience of managing similar projects, which the SSU previously blamed on it.

There is one more interesting thing and it is possible to tell a strategic question to the management of «Lucky Labs». How the company, which is on the sanctions list, plans to implement these investments remains a mystery

According to the addendum to Presidential Decree No. 467/206, Lucky Labs owners Roman and Rustam Gilfanov and Sergei Tokarev are subject to restrictions such as the prohibition on issuing permits and licenses from the NBU for investing in a foreign country, stopping the issuance of permits and licenses on the export of currency values ​​from Ukraine. In such conditions, it is obviously a matter of means that aren’t controlled by the Ukrainian authorities and will not come to Europe from Ukraine. Such bold public statements of people against whom the state-imposed personal sanctions, once again confirm the assumption of their very influential curators. Perhaps, in this way, Russian special services can redirect cash flows to finance their hybrid operations in European states that are reasonably actively preparing to fight Russian propaganda.

To understand these issues – it is the Security Service’s of Ukraine jurisdiction. Yes, Ukrainian security forces are sometimes not ideal

Quite often their work is subjected to absolutely justified criticism, but to attribute to them a passionate desire to «grab assets» such IT-business in favor of new Ukrainian officials is questionable. The fact that there are businessmen in the country who already have quite extensive experience in the field of illegal online gambling is confirmed by endless advertising on the Internet of various online-casinos. It is silly to deny that online gambling, despite strict prohibitions, continues to exist, and also rapidly develops. The huge financial flows received from the gaming business are constantly transferred to offshore accounts. Who and why in any part of the world can apply these millions of dollars, worries the world community. Legalization of the gaming business, of course, could create serious problems for fans of the shadow business. Control of the state, payment of taxes and competition with world leaders in this sphere will significantly reduce incomes of offshore supporters and protect the interests of gambling consumers. Europe is also concerned about the excessive number of offshore accounts of some IT-companies. The International Monetary Fund considers the legalization of gambling business as a necessary measure in order to stop corruption in this sphere. After this, will «Lucky Labs» be able to afford large investments in the European gambling market.