The case of Blinovskaya and Co.: why bloggers-marathoners came right now, and who is afraid of checks
Blogger Elena Blinovskaya
Photo: Ivan MAKEEV
The spring months for bloggers turned out to be really hot: from a string of arrests of social network stars, the entire Instagram “burnt”, as the participants in the events themselves put it (belongs to Meta, recognized as extremist in Russia, Meta’s activities are prohibited). In just a couple of months, those who just yesterday broadcast to a multi-million dollar army subscribers and tore Forbes ratings. And today they are defendants in criminal cases on money laundering and non-payment of taxes in amounts up to a billion rubles. This is such a crazy business…
DON’T TEASE THE TAX OFFICER
When, on the eve of March 8, employees of the Investigative Committee raided the luxurious house of Valeria Chekalina and her husband, known in the blogosphere as Lerchek and Artemchek, presenting them with a tax bill for 300 million and cutting off the Internet for the duration of the investigation, it seemed to be an accident. Like, with whom it doesn’t happen: the couple has a huge business selling online weight loss courses, their own brand of cosmetics, and even three children – well, they didn’t reduce the debit with the loan, they missed taxes. However, soon – a coincidence? – a similar accusation came to another millionaire blogger Sasha Mitroshinawho made her fortune selling social media success courses. And only when, on the border with Belarus, while trying to escape, the country’s main information gypsy was arrested Elena Blinovskayaknown for its marathons of desires, the pattern became obvious: they really came for bloggers.
However, this does not surprise experts, because the Federal Tax Service has been studying social networks for a long time and takes on board those who flaunt their wealth too vehemently (how infogypsy marathon runners earn huge money, see “BTW”). So, Lerchek and Artemchek loved to pamper each other with diamonds and luxury cars. In 2021, for example, a blogger gave her husband an orange Lamborghini: for the sake of such a performance, the race track was closed for visitors and a famous tiktoker was invited to speak. And a couple of days before the arrest, the Chekalins released a video in which their children, packed in luxury brands, trample on a carpet of dollars and boast of holidays in the Maldives-Dubai, “cash cutlets” and American passports. Well, how are you, tax inspector?
Another illustrative story of a rich life is Elena Blinovskaya’s shopping trip to Dubai, where, instead of a handbag, the marathon runner accidentally bought an apartment and, at the same time, residency in the United Arab Emirates. But the apogee of arrogance, of course, is Blinovskaya’s birthday in 2021, when she spent 120 million rubles to celebrate her 40th birthday in Altai (traditionally, the check was published on social networks). The party turned out to be the envy of the oligarchs: the guests were fed with the meat of the Red Book deer, and the people were entertained by Philip Kirkorov, Ksenia Sobchak and Ivan Urgant, to whom the tipsy hero of the day shouted “Suck!”. The guests, the same informational gypsies, did not lag behind and in their toasts continually proclaimed: “Yes, I sell air and I’m proud of it!” They say that this day became the countdown point to the arrest of presumptuous marathon bloggers.
300 BLOGGERS UNDER THE SIGHT
Now the main question is who will follow the “top three players”. They say that a special blogging department has been created in the Federal Tax Service, which will check the legality of earnings over 50 million a year. There are about 300 names on the black list: Oksana Samoilova, Nadine Serovski, Inna Tliashinova, Ayaz Shabutdinov, Gusein Gasanov (if the question “Who are all these people ?!”, congratulations: you live in the offline world of a normal person)…
But their online courses on how to become thin, young and rich are teeming with violations, which Komsomolskaya Pravda has written about more than once over the past couple of years. And it’s not even that the network tycoons trade in free and publicly available knowledge from the Internet, which is at best useless, and at worst dangerous. Most bloggers do not even try to hide that they are evading taxes and withdrawing money to the accounts of nominees: all this is easy to find in their offer agreements.
The gray scheme that Blinovskaya, Mitroshina and Chekalin have already presented is always the same: instead of honestly accumulating income on the accounts of one company and paying higher taxes as profits grow (the rate starts to grow after the income ceiling of 60 million a year), unfortunate entrepreneurs they split the business into several offices, selling courses through individual entrepreneurs of relatives, friends, assistants. So, with huge revenues, bloggers give meager deductions to the state, and the money saved ends up as elite real estate and brand new cars in their fleets.
For example, Lerchek sold her slimness marathons on behalf of an unknown office in Dubai. TV presenter Anfisa Chekhova, who also traded in weight loss courses, registered sales at IP Dombrovskaya E.V. Ksenia Sobchak, who promised to defeat the information gypsies with her exemplary useful course of success “The Sobchak Method”, also turned out to be nothing to do with the papers: a certain non-profit organization “Megacampus” was engaged in the marathon. The star of “House-2” Ksenia Borodina, who after two broken marriages taught women to divorce correctly, traded courses on her own behalf, but prescribed in the contract an illegal commission from the client when returning the money. Yana Rudkovskaya, who also got messy in infogypsy with the “I am super” marathon, generally wrote in the offer that she could reject the refund due to the buyer’s disrespectful attitude (Consumer Protection Law? Haven’t you heard!).
But more than others, the famous makeup artist Gohar Avetisyan was disgraced, who, after plastic surgery to pump out fat, decided to start a healthy weight loss course. She sold her marathon with a wide comb from as many as six different IPs, hoping to earn at least 360 million (60 million from each to pay the minimum tax). And only after the hype in the media, Gohar was forced to curtail the course, never starting.
So why did they come for infogypsy bloggers right now, if they have been an eyesore for at least a couple of years with a tax demonstration of a luxurious life?
“Yes, it’s just that the state always collects taxes, this is its job,” reasoned skeptics lawyer Mikhail Alekseevwho maintains his blog about business on YouTube and in Telegram. – There are no contradictions in the “blogger case”: it did not happen in one day and not by magic wand of the Federal Tax Service. In real life, everything depends on laws, legal regulations and procedures for their implementation. In order for us to see criminal cases in March-April 2023, checks should have begun last year. And last year, according to the regulations, the tax authority just checked the income for 2021, because declarations for this period were submitted before April 30, 2022, and earlier declarations are not audited. Thus, all the defendants are now being taxed until 2021 inclusive: it was at this time that the information business was in full swing. So the arrests are just the tip of the iceberg, behind which lies a long painstaking work.
And, according to the expert, not three hundred VIP bloggers need to prepare for checks, but in general everyone who makes money on the Web.
– Our Federal Tax Service is one of the most digitalized and technologically advanced tax services in the world. This is a recognized fact. And the identification of income from which taxes are not paid is a matter of time. Therefore, I advise everyone involved to switch to a legal scheme of work as soon as possible. Unfortunately, in 2023, many people still earn in the gray, – states the lawyer.
Blinovskaya fooled the people for 5.5 million right during the trial
It seems that the one and only night in the IVS cell, where Elena Blinovskaya ended up shortly after her arrest, is the first and last inconvenience for the accused. Now she is under house arrest, and after the verdict of the court is unlikely to be on the bunk. Blinovskaya has four minor children from three to 14 years old: for the court this is a mitigating circumstance and a reason for a delay.
“If the verdict is guilty and, let’s say, Elena is given a term of three, five years, and so on, then the deprivation of liberty can be postponed until the youngest child reaches the age of 14,” explains the human rights activist and specialist in prison law. Dmitry Naumov, who leads his channel in Zen “Prison Attorney” – Thus, the accused has a potential 11 years of freedom. During this time, both three and five years of the term will already expire, and after 11 years she will simply be released from punishment. Such is the law. And if the court assigns Blinovskaya a suspended sentence, she simply cannot leave the country and will have to report to the penitentiary commission.
It seems that the “performer of desires” understands this very well. One way or another, Blinovskaya managed to collect 5.5 million rubles from the people right during the trial. When the blogger was choosing a preventive measure, an appeal appeared on her social networks to “find out everything” for 1,000 rubles. There were as many as 5,500 such curious people who expected to hear the details of the detention. But instead, after a few days of waiting, the crowd was told “exclusive news” about the increase in prices for marathons and urged to buy them right now, and even in bulk. Yes, you were not mistaken: even under investigation, the “infogypsy queen” continues to make money on her courses.
BY THE WAY
How bloggers become billionaires
The most important thing for information gypsies (the so-called sellers of online courses that do not provide any valuable knowledge) is a large and loyal audience that will gladly buy a product from their favorite blogger. Crowds of followers today’s marathon runners gained with the heyday of social networks a few years ago, when they did not even think about grandiose earnings on the Internet. As Ksenia Borodina admitted, for example, in 2015-2017 she was lucky to advertise the glasses of a famous brand even without payment, just for those same glasses as a gift. And that’s how everyone started.
At the same time, as a rule, top bloggers had start-up capital in the form of finances or fame: Lerchek was paid for a comfortable life by a wealthy father-in-law; Blinovskaya, even before fame, had a wedding salon at the expense of her husband; Victoria Boni had a springboard in the form of “House-2”, Oksana Samoilova had a rapper husband Dzhigan, Regina Todorenko had a career on TV. Having gained several million subscribers in social networks, all of them from 2019-2020 began to slowly get involved in the sale of courses made on their knees. The simplest marathons (in particular, from Blinovskaya) are audio messages sent in instant messengers; the most packaged information products are video lectures. All this is recorded for years ahead and does not require special expenses. And incomes are not limited: if you sell a course for 10 thousand rubles to ten thousand people, you already have 100 million. This is the standard minimum of information gypsies: in fact, sellers have many times more.
“Marathons are needed not for knowledge, but for emotions”
But why do people continue to buy a dubious product if it does not provide any knowledge?
– Yes, because people go to information gypsy bloggers not for knowledge, but for inspiration, for a dream, for the opportunity to touch the worldview of someone who lives their best life, – I’m sure psychologist Liza Zaika. – People are actually told: “Hold my hand, I’ll take you to paradise. You are the chosen one! Stop thinking, hurry up and follow me!” These courses are designed for a fairly simple audience without much income, property, education, dissatisfied with their lives and eager for change. And they are willing to pay for a sense of belonging to the elite. People who buy such courses should not be pitied or considered stupid. As a result, they get delightful emotions that helped them escape from a mortgage apartment and, at least for a while, feel like the minions of fate.
According to the psychologist, success marathons are even useful, because they make you feel important, give up on complexes and present yourself to the world without any hesitation.
– People are forced to go beyond comfort, for example, to go to the boss and talk about a salary increase or try to open their own business, make new acquaintances. Another question is that all this can be done independently and for free, but few decide to take such patronage over themselves, concludes Zaika.
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