Malta passport agents deny swindling Russian boarding school parents

Russian boarders’ parents say they paid school fees right before owners closed it down

Evgueni Bodishtianu and his wife Snezhana ran the Russian Boarding School Malta together and own roughly half of its shares
Evgueni Bodishtianu and his wife Snezhana ran the Russian Boarding School Malta together and own roughly half of its shares

Evgueni Bodishtianu, one of the owners of the closed Russian Boarding School Malta (RBSM) in Qawra, has denied being reckless with students’ parents’ money in the run-up to the school’s closure in 2016.

The boarding school for Russian-speaking students closed its doors in January of that year with thousands of euros in debt to both suppliers and parents. That same year the courts ordered the school to refund a combined €84,000 in tuition fees to four parents, and last February, the school’s operators were also ordered to repay BNF bank over €2 million in loans.

Evgueni Bodishtianu and his wife Snezhana ran the school together and own roughly half the its shares, through the company DHM Property Investments.

Another of Bodishtianu’s companies, RM Estates, was granted a concessionaire licence to act as an agent for the sale of Maltese citizenship through the Individual Investor Programme (IIP) in 2015.

That same year, Evgueni Bodishtianu wrote to students’ parents, informing them for the first time that the school was in financial trouble. He said the school was €600,000 short of the €900,000 needed to see a scholastic year through, and asked parents to loan it money over and above their children’s tuition fees which in many cases had been paid years in advance.

He insisted with parents that he and his wife would not be taking a penny for themselves because they were earning a living “selling real estate and passports”.

They definitely have money and are very open about their luxurious lifestyle, but there is not the slightest hint that they are going to repay the debt

Bodishtianu had also told parents that they were in the process of selling half the school, which they had been operating since 1997, as well as their house, to repay the debt.

During court proceedings, the parents said he had continued to accept payments right up to the day before closing the school down.

“They definitely have money and are very open about their luxurious lifestyle, but there is not the slightest hint that they are going to repay the debt,” one creditor told this newspaper. “Besides our case, there are other creditors, including teachers, whose debts amount to many thousands of Euro.”

When contacted and asked about the fact that he had continued to accept payments when it was clear, even by his own admission, that there weren’t enough funds to see the year through, Bodishtianu said he had retained hope and fought to keep his beloved school from closing its doors till the end.

He denied claims that he had used parents’ money to fund other ventures, but rather, insisted that he had only turned to parents after using up his own personal funds to save the school. The reason the school was in financial trouble, he said, was because it had seen a drop in students, as a result of the financial crisis in Russia at the time.

Asked whether, given the school’s situation, it would have made more sense to use proceeds from his real estate and citizenship businesses, rather than borrow even more money, Bodishtianu initially denied being an IIP agent.

Celeb snap: Snezhana Bodishtianu gets a selfie with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, the chief promoter of the IIP
Celeb snap: Snezhana Bodishtianu gets a selfie with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, the chief promoter of the IIP

When it was pointed out that his company was listed as such on the programme’s website, and that the school’s email address was listed as the main contact, Evgueni then said the company had not sold any passports before closing the school and that the company was no longer operational. The couple runs at least two websites for Russians seeking citizenship, residency and property in Malta.

Asked whether he had sold any of the properties he had promised creditors he would be selling in order to pay his debts, Bodishtianu said he was still in the process of selling his house.

He said he had signed a “primary agreement” to sell his €4 million home, and that he would have “paid everyone” in a few months, adding that it was not easy to sell such an expensive property. He noted that while he intended to sell the property to pay his debts, he was not obliged to do so.

Moreover, he pointed out that the school had over 40 students when it closed, yet only a handful or parents had taken him to court. “I don’t know why they decided to go to court because I gave them a guarantee letter saying they will get their money back,” he said.

Last month it was also reported that the couple had also purchased Maltese citizenship for themselves and their two children in the same year that the school was closed.

Bodishtianu insisted that their Maltese passport had been granted since they have lived in Malta for 20 years, and that during this period his school had taught over 500 “satisfied students” and brought over €25 million to the country.

 

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