How Russian businesses use the UK for money laundering

Transparency International has released a report on how the UK is used for money laundering and reputation, the document contains examples related to Russia.
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For the first time, Russia was mentioned in a report in connection with the “Russian Landromat” - a money laundering scheme, which was described in 2017 by the Corruption and Organized Crime Investigation Project (OCCRP) and Novaya Gazeta. According to them, funds were withdrawn from Russia through Moldova and Latvia. The scheme operated at least from 2011 to 2014, for which about $ 21 billion was laundered. About $ 545 million went through the British HSBC bank, the OCCRP publication said. In total, 17 banks from Great Britain were called in it, specified The Guardian. This example, according to Transparency International (TI), suggests that British banks are often used for money laundering. Billions of illegal funds pass through them every year, we are confident in TI.

Vulnerable to the legalization of criminal proceeds and British institutions trading in securities, according to Transparency International. In this regard, the organization recalled the Deutsche Bank case, which paid a fine of $ 630 million to British and American regulators for settling an investigation into a fraudulent securities scheme. The bank was convicted of conducting “mirror transactions” between the Moscow and London offices, with the help of which about $ 10 million was withdrawn from Russia.

Often, suspicious companies in the UK are registered at the same address. So, in one of the houses in Birmingham there are almost 1,500 such enterprises, TI learned. One is Meridian Companies House, which established Nomirex Trading Limited. She, in turn, was featured in the Hermitage Capital fund’s case of embezzlement of $ 230 billion from the state as one of the recipients of funds, claimed OCCRP and Novaya Gazeta.

Persons who may have been associated with corruption, but have not been held accountable for this, often seek to resolve disputes in UK courts, since if they win, they can thus legalize their status, Transparency claims. In 2018 and 2019, a total of 119 plaintiffs from Russia, India, Kazakhstan and Ukraine (these countries recognize jurisdictions with a high level of corruption, Transparency notes) used the services of British courts. As an example, the organization recalls the lawsuit of billionaire Oleg Deripaska and the former head of VEB Vladimir Chernukhin because of the Trekhgorny manufactory - a complex of buildings in the Presnensky district of Moscow. In February 2019, the High Court of London sided with Chernukhin.

Another UK problem is companies that are willing to provide legal services to wealthy foreigners for money. Transparency cites the law firm Mishcon de Reya, which in 2017 required a number of British publications not to publish material on the so-called “kleptocracy tour”: tours of the richest houses in London. One of the objects of the tour was the house of Andrei Yakunin - the son of the former head of Russian Railways, Vladimir Yakunin. Mishcon turned to the media just on behalf of Andrei Yakunin and threatened the court if the material comes out. Most of the media ignored the demand (materials about the tour are available, for example, from The Guardian and The Times), however, the district newspaper Ham & High Property removed the material and apologized to Yakunin on his website. The newspaper clarified that it does not have evidence of the illegal origin of Yakunin Jr.’s funds and its connection with “corruption regimes”.

In the UK, there are enough lobbyists who are ready to work in the interests of the customer, Transparency International claims. One of these companies she calls New Century Media. She was featured in an investigation by The Guardian in 2014. The newspaper claimed that the company helped introduce former sparring partner Vladimir Putin and former State Duma deputy Vasily Shestakov to senior British politicians, including former Prime Minister David Cameron.

Full picture: Transparency International claims to have analyzed more than 400 cases of corruption and money laundering in which UK-registered companies participated. The total amount of funds received as a result of these illegal operations reaches 325 billion pounds (approximately $ 417 billion), the organization estimated.