15 March 2023
PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE USE
KCS GROUP EUROPE SAYS GOVERNMENT AND CORPORATIONS NEED TO SCRUTINISE PROVENANCE OF FUNDS
London-based intelligence firm KCS Group Europe is calling for a stronger sanctions regime against Kremlin-backed financial interests in the UK.
It follows an investigation by the Times/Transparency International which found ownership of financial interests, connected to sanctioned individuals, is being passed to relatives, evading money-laundering rules and breaching legislation.
In a recent paper, KCSGE CEO Stuart Poole-Robb says: “The initial wave of Western sanctions following the war in Ukraine was matched by a seemingly sincere effort to root out the worst domestic excesses of questionable Russian influence.
“But since then, Russia has both modified its existing schemes to avoid greater scrutiny and created new ones.”
Analysis by the Times found that properties worth hundreds of millions of pounds have been transferred to family members of sanctioned individuals with links to the Kremlin.
It included the revelation that an eight-year-old child of a former regional governor, who chaired the Russian Bar Association and is sanctioned in Ukraine, is the owner of a £2.3m flat in Kensington, in London.
Similarly, the wife of a UK-sanctioned oligarch owns property in the Paddington area of the capital, worth nearly £100m which includes an office block and a pub.
The government is under pressure to overhaul the sanctions regime from senior Conservative MPs and the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee.
Poole-Robb says: “A much-heralded UK bill requiring foreign companies owning UK property to disclose their ultimate beneficial owners (UBOs) saw just four sanctioned Russians come forward, with the number of loopholes and sidesteps built into the legislation allowing UBOs to remain secret.
“With over one trillion dollars of Russian black money believed to be circulating around the world, recovering it all is an impossible task – as is, most likely, fully tearing down the Russian networks of financial concealment and political influence.
“However, it remains incumbent on governments and corporations to not only want to understand the provenance of funds and deals that may be presented, but to understand that proxy directors and shell companies are rarely found in isolation but working in concert to support the broader Russian networks that have persisted (and will continue) long after the tanks have left Ukraine.”