05.02.22

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From Belarus With Love — Part XI: SaM’s Management Remains Suspiciously Silent

Posted in Europe, Patents at 8:18 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Series parts:

  1. From Belarus With Love — Part I: Schizophrenic EPO Policy
  2. From Belarus With Love — Part II: “Techwashing” an Autocratic Regime?
  3. From Belarus With Love — Part III: Apps From the Dictatorship
  4. From Belarus With Love — Part IV: “Software from Minsk” via Gilching and Rijswijk
  5. From Belarus With Love — Part V: From Start-Up to Success Story…
  6. From Belarus With Love — Part VI: “Big Daddy” Hammers the Opposition…
  7. From Belarus With Love — Part VII: The Post-Election Crackdown
  8. From Belarus With Love — Part VIII: “Seoul in the Centre of Pyongyang”
  9. From Belarus With Love — Part IX: The End of “Peaceful Coexistence”?
  10. From Belarus With Love — Part X: From “High-Tech Hub” to “No-Go Zone”
  11. YOU ARE HERE ☞ SaM’s Management Remains Suspiciously Silent

SaM Solutions' main delivery center
SaM Solutions’ main delivery centre is still located at 15 Filimonova in Minsk.

Summary: SaM Solutions, which handles parts of the EPO‘s work, is seemingly backing Lukashenko’s regime (whilst amassing EPO funds thanks to the dictatorship of Benoît Battistelli and António Campinos)

AS explained in the preceding parts, the political turmoil which engulfed Belarus in the 2020 did not leave the IT sector untouched. On the contrary, it is clear that these events signalled the end of a long era of “peaceful coexistence” between the IT sector and the country’s autocratic regime.

“As the political opposition was gradually silenced, many IT companies did in fact proceed to relocate some or all of their operations to other neighbouring countries such as the Baltic states and Poland.”When the authorities resorted to brute force to crush the protests, some 300 CEOs of IT companies based in Belarus threatened to move their business abroad if the government did not put a stop to the violent repression and permit a new election to be held.

As the political opposition was gradually silenced, many IT companies did in fact proceed to relocate some or all of their operations to other neighbouring countries such as the Baltic states and Poland.

Ironically, many IT specialists from Belarus chose to move to the Ukraine which – with the assistance and support of the Lukashenko regime – has recently become the victim of Russian military aggression.

In July 2021, the chief executive of a company that had abandoned Belarus was quoted as follows:

“Pretty much everyone is doing it [i.e. moving operations out of Belarus]. Most Belarusian founders with a brain and a heart don’t support the movement into an absolute dictatorship and what’s happening in Belarus, the terror. Because every week, there’s another atrocity, another move toward, like, North Korea.”

However, amidst the many media reports about these matters it seem impossible to find any mention of one particular company, namely SaM Solutions, the EPO’s preferred outsourcing partner for “Software from Minsk”.

The company’s website lists two relatively new delivery centres located in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius and in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro (currently under attack by the Russians). However, SaM’s main delivery centre is still located at 15 Filimonova in Minsk.

In the absence of any reports to the contrary, it seems fair to conclude that the management of SaM Solutions is not overly concerned about the political situation in Belarus and has no plans to relocate its operations despite what others perceive as “the movement into an absolute dictatorship … like North Korea.”

Andrej Bakhirev profile
Andrej Bakhirev, co-founder of SaM Solutions and chairman of the board, is reputed to hold German citizenship and he resides in Latvia.

Back in 2011, the company’s co-founder and CEO, Andrej Bakhirev didn’t have any inhibitions when it came to speaking to the German media about the political situation in his home country.

In an article which appeared in the current affairs weekly, Wirtschaftswoche under the title “Apps aus der Diktatur” (“Apps from the dictatorship”), it was reported that many young Belarusians – including employees of SaM Solutions – were involved in anti-government demonstrations coordinated via social media platforms such as Facebook. On that occasion, Bakhirev noted that “as a private company, we have an advantage. We don’t have to fire our employees if they demonstrate.”

“Nevertheless, during the autumn and winter of discontent of 2020 in Belarus, Bakhirev remained silent about the events which were rocking his home country.”But those were different times and, in the wake of the events of 2020, Bakhirev seems to have become more reticent and publicity-shy. In particular, he has not shown any inclination to share his thoughts about the wave of protests which engulfed the country or the violent backlash by the Lukashenko regime.

It’s worth noting that students at Bakhirev’s alma mater, the Belarusian State University of Informatics and Radioelectronics (BSUIR), were among those who played a prominent role in the anti-Lukashenko protests of 2020. Bakhirev is a founder and member of the Board of Trustees of the International Association of BSUIR Alumni.

belarus protest rally
Protest rally outside the Belarusian State University of Informatics and Radioelectronics in August 2020 with students holding white-red-white banners of the anti-Lukashenko opposition movement.

Nevertheless, during the autumn and winter of discontent of 2020 in Belarus, Bakhirev remained silent about the events which were rocking his home country. This is despite the fact that his personal situation would appear to afford him a considerable margin freedom to express criticism of the Lukashenko regime if he felt so inclined.

In this regard, it is worth noting that Bakhirev holds German citizenship and resides in Jūrmala, a fashionable seaside resort close to the Latvian capital of Riga which is popular with wealthy Belarusian expatriates.

Bakhirev in Latvia
Following his retirement from operational management in 2015, Bakhirev has resided in the picturesque seaside resort of Jūrmala close to the Latvian capital Riga.

According to the Latvian edition of the “luxury lifestyle magazine” VIP Lounge, Bakhirev is one of the top 50 wealthiest investors in Latvia. In 2017 he was ranked as no. 23 and in 2018 he managed to reach no. 17. In 2019 he dropped back to no. 30 with an estimated income of € 2.01 million – based on his 69.3% stake in the Latvian subsidiary of SaM Solutions which reported a profit of € 2.91 million.

The VIP Lounge blurb for 2019 reads as follows in translation:

30. ANDREI BAKHIREV – 2.01 Million Euro
A well-known representative of the IT business in Belarus, associate professor at the University of Kassel (Germany), who moved to Jūrmala with his family in 2015 and retired from operational management. In Latvia, he owns 69.3% of the limited liability holding company SaM Solutions, which earned 2.91 million Euros consolidated profit. He also fully owns Crocus Hall LLC, which ended the year with a loss of 7 thousand Euros.

Bakhirev, together with partners, has been developing IT outsourcing on an international scale since 1993. Among the clients of his international company SaM Solutions, which even entered the top 100 largest representatives of the world’s IT outsourcing, are Siemens, Kaspersky Lab, FUJITSU and others. Regional offices of SaM Solutions are located in the USA. Germany, Netherlands, Belarus and Ukraine.

VIP Lounge Latvia
According to VIP Lounge, Bakhirev is one of the top 50 wealthiest investors in Latvia, with an estimated annual income of over € 2 million based on his shareholding in the Latvian subsidiary of SaM Solutions.

From the company records of SaM Solutions in Germany, Bakhirev is also known to have had an address in Türkenfeld in Bavaria, close to Munich. However, it is not known whether he still maintains a residence in Germany.

Bakhirev's place in Germany
Bakhirev previously had an address in the Bavarian town of Türkenfeld near Munich but it is not known whether he still maintains a residence in Germany.

Bakhirev’s caution about expressing his views on the political situation in Belarus is perhaps understandable. After all, Lukashenko showed what he was capable of in the case of the émigré activist and journalist Roman Pratasevich who was arrested by Belarus security services in May 2021 after his flight had been diverted and forced to land in Minsk in an act of “state-sponsored piracy”.

“On the other hand, the unwillingness of SaM’s management to take a clear and unambiguous stance on the situation in Belarus, makes it impossible to determine how closely aligned with the regime the company’s bosses might be.”In Bakhirev’s case, his reticence is probably motivated by pragmatic business-related considerations rather than by concerns for his personal safety. Due to his German citizenship, he is unlikely to be at risk of being targeted in person. However, if he were seen to criticise the regime in public it could have “undesirable consequences” for the operations of SaM’s primary “delivery centre” in Belarus .

On the other hand, the unwillingness of SaM’s management to take a clear and unambiguous stance on the situation in Belarus, makes it impossible to determine how closely aligned with the regime the company’s bosses might be.

So far there does not appear to be enough information in the public domain to answer this question fully.

“So far there does not appear to be enough information in the public domain to answer this question fully.”However, local media reports about an internal dispute which flared up at SaM in October 2020 indicate that at least one senior member of the company’s management used his private Facebook page to make pro-regime statements and to post disparaging comments about those involved in the post-election protests.

We will look at this incident in more detail in the upcoming parts.

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