Category Archives: News

The Dark Side Of International Finance

Shooting of Herman Gorbuntsov

Shooting of Herman Gorbuntsov

London is the world’s leading financial centre, ahead of New York, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore, according to the global financial centres index published last month (May 2019). The Report compiled by think tank Z/Yen, shows London leading the pack of 110 cities analysed for international rankings – writes James Wilson.

The ranking is based on 103 separate factors and draws on data from the World Bank, the United Nations and the OECD, as well as the survey responses of more than 2,300 financiers from around the world.

But a key factor that also needs to be taken into account in making any such a comparative analysis is the regulatory environment and the effectiveness of enforcement against fraud.

Because with global fame for an international financial centre also comes the unfortunate but inevitable corollary of attracting unscrupulous and unwelcome operators from the dark side, and financial centres have a global duty of care to protect their operators against criminal activity.

Take the case of businessman Alexander Mineev from Russia, who originally moved to London in 2015 for his own personal reasons to try and hide his assets from his former wife. Little could he have suspected that his business empire far from being protected by his professional advisers, was about to be kidnapped through a deliberate and ruthlessly planned sting and asset raid.

Mineev came from the “new Russian business” of the 1990s, and was a well-known businessman in Russia. He created the first electronics supermarket chain in Russia before his murder. He owned shopping centres in Moscow, warehouses, car dealerships, as well as real estate in different Russian regions. The estimated value of his assets was US $1 billion. The Hong Kong firm Crazy Dragon International Limited was the main holding company for his operations, and the primary beneficiary was Alexander Mineev.

In London, Mineev met an exiled Russian banker named Herman Gorbuntsov, who introduced him to his personal lawyer and friend Vadim Vedenin who offered to help him. Little could Mineev have suspected that his business empire far from being protected by his professional advisers, was about to be kidnapped through a deliberate and ruthlessly planned sting and asset raid.

It is even alleged by Moldovan politician and businessman Renato Usatii in an interview to the Russian daily Novaya Gazeta that the London based banker Herman Gorbuntsov began to prepare for the redistribution of Mineev’s assets, and the change of beneficiaries of his estate in advance of his untimely death.

“If he didn’t know that in a month and a week Mineev would be killed, why did he start preparing for the liquidation of his assets? Because, while Mineev was alive, there were no legal actions. I have terabytes of information about all the criminal activities of Gorbuntsov. throughout the period from 2013 to 2018. I am sure that the law enforcement agencies of the Russian Federation and other countries of the world where certain crimes were committed should be interested in this. There are a lot of them,” says Renato Usatii.

Alexander Mineev was shot by a Kalashnikov assault rifle in broad daylight in his own car in the city of Korolev in Russia. His murder is still unsolved, although there continue to be several lines of criminal investigation open.

Gorbuntsov used to own several banks in Russia and Moldova but has lived in the UK now for several years. He previously played an important role in  financial affairs in Russia and Eastern Europe, and helped launder money for many high ranking officials.

He is a seasoned international fraudster whose fingerprints are to be found on the dossiers of many financial scandals over the past two decades. He rose to notoriety for the first time following the disappearance of approximately $1 billion from STB Bank in 2008-2009 which belonged to Russian Railways.

In 2011, a criminal fraud case was opened against Gorbuntsov in Russia about issuing fake bank bills. He fled to London to escape prosecution, losing his banking assets in the process. His creditors came after him, and in 2012 he was machine-gunned in a botched gangland style execution in London’s Docklands which left him fighting for his life.

He appeared to gain traction with international secret services as a trusted informer, and was subsequently named as a witness in many high-profile cases of fraud. In 2015, Russian investigators originally intended to interrogate Gorbuntsov in the case of the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.

He was mentioned in the investigation of the case of the attempted assassination of the banker Alexander Antonov, and also the case of Dmitry Zakharchenko who was detained and arrested in Moscow in September 2016 on corruption charges.

“We are dealing with a very experienced and resourceful swindler. He has repeatedly appeared in various cases and has come out dry,” according to Russian political analyst Zurab Todua.

So far, in this complex web of deceit with rivals, investigators and the fraud squad, Gorbuntsov has emerged as a survivor. He has consistently been able to create the impression that he is a valuable witness who knows a lot and can be extremely useful – now and in the future. This ruse has repeatedly saved him from prosecution so far. But he is sailing very close to the wind, and playing a dangerous game.

The jury is out on the value of the contribution his inside information, operational intelligence and hard experience can actually provide to the track record of important financial centres like London.

Speech: Standing United Behind Ukraine’s Sovereignty

Statement by Ambassador Karen Pierce at the General Assembly debate on the situation in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine

General Assembly Seventy-third session: 67th plenary meeting

General Assembly Seventy-third session: 67th plenary meeting

Thank you very much Madam President,

We welcome this debate and the opportunity to discuss the situation in Ukraine. I would like to start by joining those colleagues who reiterated the unwavering support to Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, including within its internationally recognised borders and territorial waters.

Today marks the annual commemorations of the lives sadly lost during the 2014 Euromaidan protests. We offer our deepest condolences to the families of those who lost loved ones.

Today also marks the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the Russian military operation to illegally annex Crimea from Ukraine.

Madam President, last week my Russian colleague stood with Foreign Minister Arreaza and pledged to defend the UN Charter, this included ‘respect for the sovereign equality of members’ and ‘respect for the territorial integrity and political independence of all states’.

However, the forcible Russian seizure of 10,000 square miles from Ukraine broke the first principle of international law: that countries may not acquire territory or change borders by force. It also violated a number of international agreements and commitments, including; Article 2 of the United Nations Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, the Budapest memorandum and the 1997 Russia-Ukraine Treaty of Friendship.

The General Assembly reacted to Russia’s actions by passing resolution 68/262 on 27 March 2014, affirming the territorial integrity of Ukraine – within its internationally recognised borders and the absence of any legal basis to change the status of Crimea.

Madam President,

As my German colleague said earlier, in another context in the Security Council, to listen to the Russian account of what happened in Crimea, one would think it was Ukraine that had invaded Russia. And not the other way round.

Madam President,

We do not only oppose the illegal annexation because it violates international law, we oppose it also because of the serious human rights violations Russia continues to commit in the Crimean peninsula. This includes the widespread persecution of ethnic and religious groups such as the Crimean Tatars and those who express opposition to the illegal annexation of the peninsula. In detention centres, these victims have been mistreated and tortured to punish or to extort “confessions”. It is no coincidence that Russia continues to ignore calls in General Assembly Resolutions for the High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit Crimea.

Madam President,

The United Kingdom is also deeply concerned by the ongoing militarisation of Crimea and the Sea of Azov by the Russian Federation. In December last year the General Assembly adopted a new resolution calling on the Russian Federation to withdraw its military forces from Crimea and Russia has ignored this.

Only three months ago, the Russian Federation used force to seize three Ukrainian naval vessels and took 24 servicemen captive – including three who were severely injured during the incident. Russia’s use of force, including use of firearms against Ukraine’s vessels, constituted clear aggression and escalation. These unacceptable actions are not in conformity with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and they have no basis in international law.

We cannot and will not ignore such a serious challenge to the international rules based order. We call on the international community to continue to stand united and remain focused on Russia’s behavior and attempts to consolidate its illegal annexation of Crimea.

Madam President,

Turning to eastern Ukraine, the conflict there remains volatile, fueled by Russia’s total disregard for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Russia has incited and then supported military activity by armed formations, including through the deployment of Russian troops into Ukrainian territory. Russia’s refusal to allow the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to carry out its mandate within non-government controlled territories gives the impression she has something to hide and it threatens both the security of Ukraine and the wider region.

Russia’s concerted campaign to destabilise Ukraine includes its support, last November, for illegitimate elections that do not represent the will of the people in the non-government controlled territories. Such action unnecessarily fuels tension between parties to the conflict. Moreover, it is a clear breach of the Minsk Agreements.

Madam President,

As with all conflicts, it is sadly the civilians that suffer the most. Since the fighting started, over 10,000 people have lost their lives, almost 25,000 have been injured, 3.4 million are in need of humanitarian assistance and there are around 1.5 million internally displaced persons.

Ukraine’s crisis is not a frozen conflict. Russia created this conflict and, rather than use its considerable influence to ensure Russian-backed armed formations comply with their Minsk commitments, Russia continues to supply weaponry and personnel to these armed formations. Russia needs to withdraw its military personnel and weapons, cease its support for the armed formations and abide by the Minsk Agreement commitments she signed up to. This would be a much more convincing way to demonstrate commitment to ‘the principles of the founding charter that governs the behaviour of the international community’ than by giving a press conference.

Madam President,

The United Kingdom once again calls on the international community to stand united behind Ukraine and oppose Russia’s continued attempts to destabilise another Member State of the UN, undermine her sovereignty and steal her territory.

Thank you.

Speech By British Ambassador To Russia At The RBCC’s RussiaTALK Investment Forum

Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Russia Dr Laurie Bristow gave a speech at the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce’s RussiaTALK Investment Forum on Thursday 1 November

Dr Laurie Bristow

Dr Laurie Bristow

Welcome to Russia Talk.

We need to talk. And the place to start is by being honest about the challenges we all face. The last year has been one of the most difficult in living memory, at the political level. Between the UK and Russia, for sure. But also between Russia and a wide range of Russia’s international partners.

The chemical weapons attack which took place in the UK last March was a turning point. It crossed all possible moral and legal red lines. We are very confident in our judgement that it was carried out by agents of the Russian state. Twenty eight other countries acted with us to reduce Russia’s ability to harm us.

It will not be possible to have a normal political relationship with the government of a country whose agents attack us in this way. Our first duty is to protect the UK.

But we do not seek confrontation with Russia. What we want is a relationship based on mutual respect and which benefits the people of both countries. In business, education, and culture. And in addressing the 21st century opportunities and challenges that are too big for any country to deal with alone. Such as climate change, anti-microbial resistance, artificial intelligence and new technologies. That is clearly in the interests of the UK.

It will take a long time to build the kind of relationship we want with Russia, and it will be difficult. To some extent it will depend on changes in Russia over which the UK has little influence. But we have some important successes to build on.

First, the depth and breadth of the economic relationship. British and Russian firms work together across a broad spectrum, creating jobs and improving living standards in both countries.

UK-Russia bilateral trade in 2017 was worth nearly £12bn. It isn’t just trade: many UK companies invest in Russia for the long term, employing Russians and supporting the Russian economy. Rotork, a UK engineering company, recently opened a new office and manufacturing facility here in Moscow. My Embassy supports a large number of British companies operating in Russia, and Russian companies seeking to invest in the UK. In October we held events promoting education, fashion and marketing communications. We work closely with the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce to support trade, helping you identify opportunities and manage risks – including legal and reputational risks for example from sanctions compliance.

Second, we have over the last 25 years built strong and lasting education links. The successful economies of the 21st century will be the ones that can create knowledge and bring it to market. So we need to work now to create and strengthen links between educational and research institutions. I meet a lot of young Russians as they graduate from joint degree programmes between Russian and UK universities. They are the people who will be doing our jobs a few years from now. Supporting those links remains one of the most important long term investments we make. My Embassy will continue to do so despite the Russian government’s decision to close the British Council in Russia. Earlier this week we held a seminar for 100 Russian teachers to promote UK education to Russian students.

Third, the strength that comes from our cultural and historical links. We will build on these in 2019 with the UK-Russia Year of Music in 2019. Business will have an important part to play, given the importance of the creative industries to the UK economy.

And fourth, the strength that comes from individual contacts. Our visa numbers are rising, and the number of Russian tourists travelling to the UK is rising. Last summer, tens of thousands of British people visited Russia for the World Cup. That is surely something for both sides to build on.

As I said at this conference last year, business and commercial ties are important in their own right. But they are also a stabilising force in the relationships between Russian and its foreign partners. There is a lot to talk about.

Thank you very much.

Do We Need The Nord Stream 2?

Speech of the GAZPROM Chairman A. Miller in Saint Petersburg October 4, 2018

“As you will know, in 2017 the volume of gas supply to the European market reached 194.4 billion cubic meters.These are the GAZPROM volumes. This figure indicates 8.4% growth in comparison to 2016.Today we start from 6% growth but proceeding from a higher absolute base of the record last year. This indicates that GAZPROM results of 2018 will strike a new record of gas supply to the European market.But here we must mark a few points. First, the absolute volume of supply will be higher than 200 billion cubic meters of gas.

What does it mean? This means that we will approach closely or probably reach the point of 205 billion cubic meters of gas supply to Europe.

This will fit the maximum yearly contract volumes for all our contracts of supplies to the European market.

In total we will reach 100% of our obligations which we have before our partners.

GAZPROM Chairman A.Miller

GAZPROM Chairman A.Miller

Without doubt a trend has emerged.

From every side, we see the demand for the Russian gas growing further.

We can see this in the framework of those negotiations that we had with the OMV on the side lines of this forum.

We witness that our traditional partners- not only OMV- state their intention to buy even larger volumes of gas.

With this we need to understand that those figures are very, very substantial.

That’s why we confirm that the new coordinate system proves that today on the gas market as a market of vendor has emerged.

And this is quite a new situation.

This is not the situation that we saw five to ten years ago. This is the first point.

Secondly. It deals with the question of demand for some gas transportation routes. In particular, the Baltic Sea – Nord Stream project.

During the last 12 months the load of Nord Stream became 7% higher than the planned project capacity.

I will remind you all that the project capacity of the pipeline is 55 billion cubic meters, but its technological possibilities allow us to export a little more.

During the last 12 months we supplied to Europe 59 billion cubic meters.

That means that the Nord Stream as an export gas transportation route from Russia was in demand for more than 100%.

This is the answers to this question: “Do we need the Nord Stream 2?”

All the existing capacities are being explored far beyond the projected ones. “


Human Rights Council 39: UK Statement On Russia

The UK welcomes Russia's engagement with the UPR, but remains deeply concerned about attacks against journalists, civil society and LGBT persons in Chechnya

The Universal Periodic Review takes place at the Palais des Nations in Geneva

The Universal Periodic Review takes place at the Palais des Nations in Geneva

Thank you, Mr President,

The United Kingdom welcomes the Russian Federation’s continued engagement in the UPR process. In follow up to our recommendations to Russia, we would like to make the following remarks.

We remain deeply concerned by the response of the Russian delegation to calls from the international community to investigate the persecution of human rights activists and LGBT individuals in Chechnya. The statement that they were “not able to find anyone” representing an LGBT organisation whose rights had been violated, is not credible. We continue to call on the Russian authorities to fully investigate the persecution and hold those responsible to account.

Together with our partners, we continue to call on Russia to grant international human rights monitors access to illegally annexed Crimea. We would also like to take this opportunity to reiterate calls to immediately release all Ukrainian political prisoners, including Oleg Sentsov and Volodymyr Balukh.

Mr President,

We are concerned that impunity for attacks on journalists and civil society activists remains a major problem in Russia. The Russian authorities must protect all activists and journalists, and allow safe space for civil society to operate. Severe restrictions remain on the freedom of assembly and association, and the freedom of expression, with a lack of opportunities for dissenting voices to be heard. Most recently, on 9 September we saw over 1000 Russian citizens detained for exercising their right to peaceful protest.

Thank you.

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