Investigation: Billionaire Staged Death on Matterhorn to Join Russian Girlfriend

Years after a supermarket billionaire went missing near the Matterhorn in the spring of 2018, nobody expected him to come back — so much so that a court in Cologne, Germany eventually declared him legally dead.

But a new investigation shows not all may be as it seems.

Karl-Erivan Haub was 58 when he visited the famous peak to train for a ski mountaineering race. On the morning of April 7, 2018, he quietly boarded a ski lift alone and ascended toward the peak.

a man with ski gear in a black and white photo

Haub leaves his hotel on the morning of April 7, 2018. Photo: Courtesy of Swiss police


That was the last time anyone saw him. Rescuers scoured the Swiss landmark for any trace of Haub but gave up after six days. The executive of the Tengelmann Group, the world’s fourth-largest retail supermarket and distribution company behind titans like Wal-Mart, had disappeared without a trace, as one publication put it.

Haub’s younger brother, Christian, took over sole control of the company 10 days after his death. He later swore in a courtroom that there was no indication that Karl-Erivan, with a reported net worth of $6.4 billion, remained alive.

Now, six years later, it turns out he may be living in Moscow with a woman 20 years his junior.

Lost and found — in Moscow

In a bombshell report, German broadcaster RTL claims it has identified Haub in Moscow. The outlet believes the lost billionaire, now 64, is accompanied by 44-year-old Veronika Ermilova.

“There are strong indications that he could have caused his disappearance intentionally” and “at least parts of his family were aware of it and, against their better judgment, kept this secret from the Cologne District Court and the public,” RTL’s Liv von Boetticher told German magazine Capital.

Indications that Haub is alive include photos from 2021 showing him in Moscow, Boetticher disclosed.

“As far as I know, these photos were obtained on behalf of Christian Haub and two internal investigators working for him by an Israeli-American company that searched the biometric surveillance system in Moscow for images of Karl-Erivan Haub,” she said.

Russian entanglements

Haub’s Russian entanglements included visits with Ermilova as early as 2008, the outlet reported — after he had already been married to his wife, Katrin, for 19 years.

Ermilova’s LinkedIn profile indicates she is a Marketing Director at Russian Event, which is styled as an events management firm. Shadowy rumors that she works as an agent for Russia’s Federal Security Service (the modern version of the old Soviet KGB) “cannot be proven,” according to investigators.

“What can be proven, however, is that she is always in the same places at the same time as Karl-Erivan Haub,” said the report, obtained by the Daily Mail. “In July 2008, both were in Moscow and Sochi within a few days… In May 2009, both traveled on the same night train from Moscow to St Petersburg, in separate compartments. The trips were booked at the same time and by the same person.”

Overlaps kept occurring throughout the years in Russia — in Omsk, Sochi, Baku, and Moscow, according to the Daily Mail.

The real kicker: Haub allegedly made 13 calls lasting up to an hour to Ermilova’s phone in the three days before he disappeared, the probe found.

Survivors under scrutiny

The same Cologne court that declared Haub dead is now investigating Christian Haub on suspicion of making false statements under oath. Christian Haub’s lawyer, Mark Binz, has denied culpability. “Of course, there is no truth to the accusation,” Binz told RTL.

Disputes wracked the Haub family in the wake of Karl-Erivan’s disappearance. Katrin Haub refused to validate her husband’s death certificate in 2021, Euronews reported. But she and her children, along with other members of the family, eventually agreed with the court’s decision. Many of them held shares in the Tengelmann Group.

man and woman together

Karl-Erivan and his wife, Katrina Haub, in January 2018. Photo: Hubert Burda Media/Flickr


The decision brought a swift end to a convoluted power struggle in which the remaining shareholders fought over the redistribution of wealth. Georg Haub, who co-ran the Tengelmann Group with Karl-Erivan and Christian, withdrew his 2020 application for Karl-Erivan’s death certificate three months after he filed it.

That came amid multiple reports questioning whether the billionaire was, in fact, dead. Court officials, though, eventually dismissed contradictions as “possibilities, assumptions, and non-verified documents,” reported Euronews.

When Katrin and the rest of Haub’s living heirs signed the certificate in early 2021, their shares in Tengelmann finally transferred to Christian Haub. Negotiations had proven tense.

Ties with oligarchs

Meanwhile, RTL reported that Karl-Erivan had entertained Russian business ties. He called Russian banker Andrey Suzdaltsev in both Russia and Geneva in the hours leading up to his disappearance, the report said. Haub also conducted business with Russian moguls, including Sergey Grishin. The “Scarface Oligarch” controversially sold Prince Harry and Meghan Markle a California mansion in 2020, and claimed to have committed “the largest bank fraud scheme ever” during the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Whether or not Haub is alive, Grishin is among his former associates who are not. The 56-year-old died in a Russian hospital in March 2023 from reported circulatory problems in his brain. Incidentally, Haub’s father, Erivan, died one month before his son’s disappearance at his Wyoming home in 2018.

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson takes any writing assignments he can talk his way into while intermittently traveling the American West and Mexico in search of margaritas — er, adventure. He parlayed a decade of roving trade work into a life of fair-weather rock climbing and truck dwelling before (to his parents’ evident relief) finding a way to put his BA in English to use. Sam loves animals, sleeping outdoors, campfire refreshments and a good story.