Indeed, Viktor Gushan and Ylia Kazmalii have come to dominate the economy of Transnistria – the pro-Russian separatist region of Moldova where Sheriff is based – since it threw off rule from Chisinau in months of fighting in 1992 following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Sheriff Tiraspol is merely the shiny, soft-power part of a ‘Sheriff’ business empire with interests in caviar, cars, fuel, medicine, vodka, hotel services, telecommunications, banking, insurance, real estate and media.
Today, Sheriff the company is the biggest private contributor to the Transnistrian budget, but its rise has not been without controversy.
A sliver of land, Transnistria is about 400 kilometres long and less than 20 kilometres wide. It considers itself a state, but is unrecognised outside its borders, even by Russia, which has troops on its territory.
Transnistria used to be the crown jewel of the Moldovan economy. Since the war, Gushan, 58, and Kazmaly, 59, have come to control most of it.