Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin's oil, gas, gold and diamond businesses generated $250 million in revenue despite sanctions, report says

  • Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin’s natural resource operations generated $250 million in revenue, the Financial Times found.
  • The sales came from his gas, diamond, gold and oil operations in Africa and the Middle East.
  • That’s despite being one of the world’s most sanctioned individuals.

Commodities companies controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Russian mercenary Wagner Group, have generated $250 million in revenue in recent years despite sanctions, the Financial Times reported. 

The quarter of a billion dollars in revenue was generated in the four years before Russia invaded Ukraine, coming from Prigozhin’s gas, diamond, gold and oil operations in Africa and the Middle East. The sales figure excludes his domestic Russian catering and real estate businesses.

The report cites how Evro Polis, a Prigozhin operation that received energy concessions granted by Syria, was sanctioned in 2018 and still turned a $134 million in revenue two years later. That’s equivalent to an equity return of 180%. 

Some of Prigozhin’s companies would shift their operations into something different when threatened by sanctions. Mercury LLC, a Syrian oil and gas firm, made $67 million before being sanctioned by the EU, according to the FT.

Other examples include M Invest, a sanctioned Prigozhin company that made $2.6 million in 2021 sales from gold mining in Sudan. And two other of his companies generated $6 million in revenue that same year.

Sanctions against him first emerged in 2016 when he was penalized for funding the construction of Russian military bases near Ukraine, followed by further rounds from the European Union and UK, making him one of the world’s most sanctioned people. 

Much of this stems from the activities of Wagner, a mercenary unit he founded in 2014, which has been active in places such as the Central African Republic, Sudan and Syria — helping him build a multinational natural resource empire, at times by taking over local enterprises.

The group, labeled a “transnational crime organization” by the US, has also had a growing presence in the Ukraine conflict, where it recruited thousands of soldiers for Russia and has been accused of committing war crimes.

“I consider any sanctions against me, PMC Wagner, as well as any legal entities and individuals of the Russian Federation, to be absolutely illegal,” Prigozhin wrote on a Telegram channel, responding to a previous Financial Times article on the subject: “I spit and I will spit on any sanctions.”

He also admitted that there was truth to another article’s coverage of Wagner military activity in Africa, but denied its assertion that he had made a profit out of it: “Much seems to be true. Except for the last part, where they talk about my financial enrichment.”