The shadowy Russian ‘Scarface oligarch’ who sold Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s new home in Santa Barbara is a Moscow tycoon who claims to be at war with the mafia and top Vladimir Putin officials.
Sergey Grishin, 54, who is believed to be worth $500million, has made extraordinary boasts about ‘robbing’ the Russian banking system – including a scam with disappearing ink.
Based in Los Angeles, the banker has begged Donald Trump for a US passport, saying he needs it to stay safe from Russians who are after him.
His complex relations with glamorous women – including a Russian described by the Gazprom-owned NTV channel as a ‘porn webcam model’ – have led to a number of legal clashes, including alleged death threats.
Grishin has a degree in Physics but his first business venture in Moscow reportedly involved home-baked cookies and hot dogs.
Nicknamed the ‘Scarface oligarch’ due to his earlier purchase of the ‘Scarface’ estate – where Tony Montana got blown to bits and Winston Churchill and Albert Einstein also stayed – he made several videos on his private Gulfstream jet which purported to confess to involvement to financial machinations in the Reds-to-Riches 1990s in Russia.
He wanted to explain how ‘a single person like me can cause the collapse of the Russian banking system’, apparently as a come-on to the US authorities.
His aim seemed to be to coax a US passport from the Trump administration by implying he had inside knowledge of Russian wrongdoing which would be of interest to the FBI.
In one video filmed on his jet, he claimed he made Russian bankers use a Polish-designed pen to write cheques for $2million.
The special ink could then be made to vanish, allowing him to rewrite the cheque for $250million, he claimed.
This scam was earlier blamed on the Chechen mafia, he claimed.
The larger alleged robbery involved financial manipulations via Estonia at the time when the Soviet Union was collapsing into chaos, he said.
He has praised Trump and his slogan about making America great again, but made clear he wanted a US passport because: ‘I want to be safe.
‘I am kind of under fire right now by the criminal world of Russia…by the top government officials of Russia, too. ‘
In his video message he did not explain the alleged threats from the mafia or Putin’s officials but said: ‘I don’t like this…I hate this. I do not deserve this.’
In fact, surprisingly little is known about the Grishin.
In 2008, Finans magazine dubbed him ‘one of the most mysterious Russian bankers’, who made his first money in selling electronics and petrol.
He has been married at least three times, according to the Russian media.
His latest bride was Anna Fedoseeva, in her late 30s, who worked at an events agency and organised one of his birthday parties.
She moved from St Petersburg to California and ‘he started showering her with presents’, according to one account.
‘Her life turned into a fairy tale – Bentley, furs, expensive hotels and resorts.’
They married in March 2017 and split up 11 months later, amid demands for a return of his ‘gifts’ say reports.
His lawyer Alexey Melnikov, later said: ‘My client has spent over $5million on her, the exact amount is hard to establish since the presents were bought at different times for rubles, US dollars, euro and Swiss francs. Over this time they had traveled to a lot of places.’
There followed legal action in which he demanded the return of an alleged loan from Anna and her business partner Jennifer Sulkess.
They started legal action accusing him of death threats and false imprisonment.
He posted a picture of his bloodied face claiming he had been the subject of domestic abuse.
The oligarch later met former model Ekaterina Loginova and began a relationship with her, it is reported in Russia.
But later he filed a criminal lawsuit against an assistant who has worked for him for 25 years, Svetlana Grachyova, and Loginova.
He accused them of defrauding him while they countered that the banker allegedly threatened them with murder, jail and accused them of a lesbian plot, say reports in Russia.
Loginova was quoted as saying: ‘Grishin invited me, my eight-month-old son and my mother to live with him in the USA, and soon he proposed to me, giving me an expensive ring worth several million rubles.
‘He said he wanted to get married.’
She said: ‘In the summer of 2018, Grishin suddenly left for Moscow, explaining to his bride that he wanted to sue his ex-wife Anna Fedoseeva.
‘After his return, he began to behave extremely aggressively and completely inadequately.
‘Although before that, I heard strange things from him, for example, that he would become the next president of the United States.
‘But after this trip, he went off the rails: every day I heard how he would punish his ex-wife, put her in prison.
‘Frightened by the hatred and cruelty emanating from Grishin, I packed my things and returned to Moscow with my child and mother.’
An earlier wife Anna Grishina also became locked in legal dispute at the end of their relationship, it was reported in Moscow.