SBK Holdings USA is based in Beverly Hills, but turmoil at the company has all the makings of a Hollywood drama — from allegations of money laundering to fraud to ties to organized crime lords.
The commercial and residential real estate investment firm is suing its former president and legal counsel, Edgar Sargsyan. The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court’s Central District on Sept. 26, alleges Sargsyan misused company funds to acquire a more than $22 million real estate portfolio, The Real Deal has learned. It also claims he used those properties to launch his own firm, Regdalin Properties, in 2015.
SBK Holdings USA alleges it was under the impression Sargsyan wanted the properties to help build his credit and would return them upon request, or if he ever stopped working for SBK. When Sargsyan did leave — in June 2016 — he refused to return or pay for two properties the company lent him, SBK claims. The firm alleges that while it was investigating the matter, it found that the two properties were among 17 parcels Sargsyan allegedly “concocted a scheme” to acquire for his own benefit.
SBK Holdings USA did not respond to requests for comment. Sargsyan said the accusations are groundless.
In a declaration, Sargsyan initially claimed the two properties were given to him without any condition bearing their return, and that the more than $22 million portfolio the company is claiming was either “provided as compensation” or “as a loan for investment purposes.”
The two properties in question are 14027 Margate Street in Sherman Oaks and 6507 Teesdale Avenue in North Hollywood. The others are scattered around Los Angeles.
The plot thickens
In Sargsyan’s declaration, he mentions that his former boss, SBK’s CFO and owner Levon Termendzhyan, is under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security for money laundering, tax evasion and stolen petroleum. Two other employees at the firm — Termendzhyan’s secretary and pilot — were interviewed by federal agents about these charges, he claims.
Sargsyan says it was Termendzhyan’s “questionable and secretive” business practices that ultimately caused his self-willed departure.
Termendzhyan, a Russian businessman, was convicted of battery in 2013, according to court records. He’s also been charged with tax fraud and armed assault.
According to a report by Propublica, SBK Holdings USA is the American sister of SBK Holdings, the investment arm of the international firm affiliated with the President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan.
The company, owned by Sezgin Baran Korkmaz, has known business interests in Turkey and Russia, and once pledged $850 million in financing to carry out a major project for President Vladmir Putin, ProPublica reported. Since 2013, Korkmaz’s SBK has managed $500 million of investments in Turkey from another one of Termendzhyan’s companies and from a third American company called Washakie Renewable Energy. Washakie is reportedly controlled by polygamous Mormon clan called Kingston Group, which has been dubbed a “hate group” by Southern Poverty Law Center.
SBK Holdings is also member of the Turkey U.S. Business Council, chaired by Ekim Alptekin. Alptekin has come under fire in recent months for his relationship with retired United States Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, who served for a singular month as President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor.
According to ProPublica, Korkmaz’s association with Alptekin led to a recent subpoena from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who’s leading the investigation alongside Zainab Ahmad against Flynn.