Alpha Consulting, registered in Seychelles, has also helped set up more than 900 British business partnerships that used the secrecy loophole to hide their true owners. One association was involved in operating an oil tanker in violation of sanctions, while other associations committed crimes. Alpha claimed that it had always followed the legal path.
the BBC An investigation by Finance Uncovered and the Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation also analyzed Alpha’s internal documents and thousands of company records to identify some of the people who secretly benefited from the company’s offshore activities in the Indian Ocean island nation.
Legal loopholes were exploited
Alpha Consulting not only served members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, but also served as a “secret factory” – one of the most prolific companies helping to exploit loopholes in British law. Some of the partnerships he created were involved in alleged fraud. One of them was accused of interfering in foreign elections.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner Group who died this year, was one of those who used Alpha’s services. The United States has imposed sanctions on his company Beratex Group Ltd. In 2019 as a shell company that concealed ownership of his private jet and yacht.
The leaked documents – obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and examined as part of the 2021 Pandora Papers investigation – show that Alpha helped set up Beratex in Seychelles. Alpha claimed that it “never engaged in any commercial activity” in relation to Beratex.
Leonid Ryman, a close friend and colleague of President Putin, was also an Alpha client. In 2006, a Swiss court found that Reimann As Russian Minister of Communications He was the secret owner of a company that received corrupt payments.
Despite Reiman’s well-documented relationship with the Russian president, documents reveal that Alpha provided a director for one of its companies who failed to declare that Reiman was a “politically exposed person” — someone who, because of his position or connections, is more exposed to corruption risks and therefore requires a higher level of oversight.
Alpha said that it conducted all the necessary tests on Rayman and did not find any information indicating that he is a politically exposed person or involved in money laundering. Alpha said it “does not deal with clients or professional intermediaries who are found to be involved in criminal activity.”
The investigation also revealed that Alpha, run by a Russian businesswoman called Viktoria Valkovskaya, had helped set up 927 limited liability companies since 2017 – one in five registered in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
An LLC—a type of corporation typically formed by two or more people to jointly own and manage a business—can also be used to circumvent transparency rules.
Following the introduction of legislation in 2016 requiring UK companies to declare who effectively owns and controls them, there has been an increase in registrations of limited liability companies that have been exempt from this requirement. This requirement was extended to Scottish limited companies a year later after it emerged that they were increasingly being used for money laundering and other crimes.
But last year, the BBC and Finance Uncovered revealed the increasing use of English limited companies and evidence linking many of them to fraud, terrorism and money laundering.
Despite this, the government has failed to extend laws requiring companies to name the beneficial owners of all limited companies – known as “critical controls”.
Among the beneficiaries is also an Albanian politician
In March 2017, a company related to Alpha, Biniatta Trade LP, paid a US lobbyist on behalf of Lulzim Pasha, the leader of the Albanian Democratic Party. The lobbyist organized access to Republican politicians and a fundraiser where Pasha was able to take a photo with then-President Donald Trump — which was later used in the Albanian election campaign.
According to reports last year, US intelligence believed that Pasha’s election campaign, whose slogan was “Make Albania Great Again,” was secretly supported by Russia to the tune of $500,000.
Pinata’s ownership was hidden by offshore encryption and shell managers, but among the leaked Alfa documents is a 2015 agreement when the partnership was formed that names a Russian national named Maxim Trofimets as the beneficial owner.
After media reports of a possible Russian connection in 2018, Alfa’s owner, Victoria Valkovskaya, explained in an email how the piñata was able to hide its ownership.
Last month, Seychelles was added to the European Union’s blacklist of tax havens.
Britain’s Department for Business and Trade said the draft Economic Crimes Bill would make it easier to “crack down on dishonest customers, crack down on illegal limited companies” and attack suspicious information.
(Cover image: Yevgeny Prigozhin will be remembered on August 25, 2023. Image: Shutterstock)