It has been widely reported lately that London is a hotbed of financial corruption and the links to Russia are growing by the day. The issue has reached a boiling point, forcing the British government to launch a parliamentary inquiry into Russian corruption.
UK lawmakers are searching for ways to stop illicit Russian proceeds from entering their country. Finally, it seems London is cracking down on money laundering. No more can they afford to turn a blind eye to suspect business owners under the assumption that any business is ultimately a gain for London and its plethora of firms. In reality, British firms are often finding themselves at the mercy of Russian oligarchs. One case in point involves the UK-based private equity firm Lehram. The company has been battling oligarch Alexander Shchukin for the return of a £350m stake in a mine located in Russia’s Kemerovo Oblast. Under threat of imprisonment, the firm’s local director, Igor Rudyk, was forced by investigating officials in 2015 to sign over the mine to a holding owned by Shchukin.
Shchukin has repeatedly denied allegations that he undertook a “hostile” takeover. However, in 2016, he also obtained control of the Inskoy coalmine in the same way – investing his proceedings from both transactions in a network of companies based primarily in Cyprus and the UK. Shchukin, who made it on Forbes’ list of Russia’s top 200 wealthiest in 2011, has been under house arrest for more than a year due to a criminal investigation against him, as well as against some authorities, who allegedly assisted him. He is suspected of committing a criminal offence and is also suspected on bribery.
All the while, Shchukin’s close relatives and friends have been able to obtain British citizenship and have purchased an international security company, 3e International. The company is officially owned by a shareholding company, but the UK High Court of Justice ruled that ownership belonged to Shchukin’s son-in-law, Ildar Uzbekov. At the same time, he is the director of several other companies in the UK and sits on the board of Bryankee Holdings in Cyprus, together with his wife Elena, daughter of Shchukin’s, and his father-in-law.
This company receives most of the dividends paid out from Shchukin’s Russian mining operations – money that is reportedly used to support Shchukin family’s lifestyle in London. His daughter Elena, for instance, reportedly owns a £3m gallery in Mayfair and a £15m mansion in Highgate. According to reports, Uzbekov and his business partner Dmitryi Tsvetkov – both working on behalf of Shchukin, have transferred huge amounts of money from Russia through Cyprus to the UK.