A BRITISH company has helped the circle of the Ukraine’s disgraced ex-president of profit last year, the Eurovision Song Contest, a BBC investigation has found.
Kiev exhibition centre is paid for hosting the Eurovision events is owned through a Padova-registered company.
At least £1.2 billion was paid through companies registered on the same Potters Bar address.
The Department for Business company information in the UK “is under constant control”.
The Parkovy Exhibition and Congress Centre, an elegant and modern building in the centre of Ukraine, the capital Kiev, was the venue for last year’s Eurovision after-party.
The competitors and their families from all over the continent, danced and drank until dawn on the roof with spectacular view on the River Dnepr.
The Ukrainian company that owns the Parkovy the building is owned by a British company called Fineroad Business LLP, registered in Potters Bar.
That society is a partnership of two opaque companies registered on the Caribbean island of Nevis.
According to the documents seen by BBC Radio 4 File 4 program, the Ukrainian state broadcaster paid the owners of the building to host the event.
The profits apparently ended up in the pockets of people closely linked to the regime of former President Viktor Yanukovych, fled the country for Russia four years ago, after anti-corruption protests in the Maidan square of Kiev.
In 2017, a Ukrainian court has found reasonable grounds to believe that the Parkovy building itself was funded by money stolen from the state.
Ukraine, the procurator general has estimated that while in office former President Yanukovych and his colleagues, he stole a total of $40 billion (£29bn) by the state.
Parkovy Exhibition and Congress Centre
The Potters Bar connection
The research with the campaign organization Transparency International has identified the Potters Bar office as the registered address for more than 100 other companies engaged in international money laundering schemes, most involving dirty money from Russia and the other republics of the former Soviet union.
Working with the illicit finance expert Richard Smith, and the use of leaked bank data published by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, we have estimated that $1.7 billion was laundered through companies registered to that single address.
Billions more could be paid through a similar program, of which little detail is currently known.
UK companies are “once the role of facilitators of the global corruption”, says Duncan Hames, Transparency International’s policy director.The new rules of transparency
The vast majority of the more than 100 companies of the BBC looked at the list of their officials or members of other companies, registered in secret jurisdictions such as Seychelles or Belize.
But by June of 2016, UK companies were required to list a “person with significant control”, or PSC. This should reveal the real people really in control of the enterprises.
In an exclusive analysis for File on 4, the anti-corruption organization Global Witness has revealed that almost one in 10 UK companies – 350,000 – and you have not yet appointed a PSC with the U.K. registry, Companies House.
While there are some legitimate cases for do not list a PSC, Murray Worthy, senior campaigner at Global Witness, says he is “shocked” by the “worrying number” that are not, and that the others are sending data “is clearly inaccurate”.
He cites the Psc over the age of 300 or alleged to be born in the future.
The analysis has found another 7,000 companies claiming that they are controlled by companies based in secret jurisdictions.
“This is exactly what the registry was supposed to end,” says Mr Worthy. “The vast majority of those companies that do not meet the requirements of the register and hide who really owns and controls these companies.”
Another 25,000 companies seem to have circumvented the rules, stating that the latter is controlled by companies that themselves list no PSC.
A particular type of company, Scottish Limited Partnerships (SLPs), is particularly scarce. Four in five SLPs have not appointed a PSC. Of those, over 40% has a PSC with headquarters in a former Soviet country. SLPs have been included in the new rules in June 2017 – alongside a promise that they would face daily fines of up to£ 500, if they do not comply.
Companies House has told us that systematically checks the information it receives, but so far no one has been prosecuted for non-compliance with requirements.The man behind Parkovy?
As for Fineroad Business – Potters Bar-registered company that owns the Eurovision after-party – is the name of a real person, such as the PSC.
He is a Ukrainian called Sergii Moskovskyi, the address of which is reported is in the eastern part of the country, just outside the war zone where Ukrainian forces fighting Russian rebels.
Moskovskyi, which is actually based in Germany, initially told the BBC he has “never heard” of Fineroad Business.
However, he later confirmed that he is a shareholder of the company. For reasons of “commercial confidentiality” he did not say what the company does, or if he has paid for his actions.
He said that he was assured that the company has not been involved in money laundering, but, later on, our investigation will now investigate further.
A spokesman for the Department for business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said: “The UK has one of the most transparent and accessible company records in the world – seen two billion times last year – the meaning of business information is under constant control.”
File 4: the Great British Money Laundering Service is on BBC Radio 4, Tuesday 6 February at 20:00 GMT and on the iPlayer.
You have something that you want to investigate? We want to hear from you. E-mail it to us.