How the 2013 Universiade site made Russian offshore company sellers famous across Scotland
Kazan-Inform Internet portal, which is using the domain of the 2013 Universiade became the centre of attention of… the Scottish press. An article that appeared in a British newspaper was titled A tale from Tatarstan: why Russian tax-evaders and money-launderers worry about Brexit and Scottish independence. As it turned out, journalists from Great Britain found frank ads of Scottish offshore companies on the former Kazan site. These ads are a part of the scheme on money laundering and tax evasion used by Russians.
Context ad with a link to offshores
Kazan-Inform, which is using the domain kazan2013.ru of the Universiade, wrote that Scotland prepares to exit the United Kingdom. It is told First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon expressed her opinion on separation of Scotland from Great Britain. Citing her official speech, Kazan-Inform writes the Scottish were against Brexit, 'especially taking into account that their independence referendum was just six months before the EU vote'.
After a brief description of the twists and turns in complicated political relations between the European Union, Great Britain and Scotland, the author tells about offshore companies of the mountain country whose services European and Russian citizens used. Due to the unclear situation of Brexit, it was concluded in the article that possible changes in the legislation of The Foggy Albion repulse potential investors. And the exit from Great Britain would favour Scotland because it seems that it will return these offshore investors who enjoy the privileges the EU's tax-free attempt in Europe.
At first sight, a sudden mention of offshore could surprise… But the article has a link that directs a reader to visit a site that offers to buy an offshore company in Scotland. Advantages of the deal are also mentioned: tax-free regimen, no requirements to submit financial statements in the Register of Enterprises, no requirements to submit tax declaration in the Register of Enterprises, high confidentiality, etc.
An offshore tale from Tatarstan?
The very Scottish reacted to this article on the same day. So a local newspaper Herald Scotland published an article headlined A tale from Tatarstan: why Russian tax-evaders and money-launderers worry about Brexit and Scottish independence.
Clicking on the article, first of all, you pay attention to its subtitle: Scotland as a tax haven. Then the newspaper tells 'there are lots of reasons why Scotland should be in the headlines in Tatarstan' because a four-million Volga population that was 'forced in to a union with Russia half a millennium ago' instantly 'get' our politics of Unionism and nationalism.
The author of Herald Scotland writes that 'people stashing their cash in tax havens through Scottish firms have a natural interest in our constitutional future'. In turn, the Scottish newspaper describes the shadow market as a reaction to Kazan-Inform's words that 'Scottish offshore companies, which enjoyed considerable popularity among European and Russian investors, are being registered increasingly rarely'.
Consequently, Herald Scotland concludes that 'Kazan-Inform – one of hundreds of similar local websites that are frankly promoting murky agencies selling offshore firms – links to an advert for Scottish limited partnerships or SLPs'. All in all, Herald Scotland says the most popular shell companies in Scotland are sold on the open market for £1,500. They form a significant part of a general market in British 'brass-plate' companies.
Back to the Scottish article, we should say 'brass-plate' companies are linked with bank accounts in Latvia 'to syphon billions of pounds from the former Soviet Union'.
Is it the fault of Russian laws only?
It should be said the mass media had informed that 90% of all large Russian properties were registered as shell companies. In 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared war on offshore business. As a result, it was required to submit tax declaration on foreign offshore assets. In April 2016, the mass media assessed President's offshore wealth at $2bn.
The real bomb in the information space exploded in the spring 2016 when the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists made parts of the Panama Papers public. Not so many companies are directly connected with Tatarstan – there are only 11 notes: six addresses in Kazan, two addresses in Naberezhnye Chelny, two – in Almetyevsk and one address was in Nizhnekamsk. Tatneft, the official dealer of KAMAZ in Turkmenistan KAMAZ FTC Corp., the major shareholder of Ak Bars Finance AK BARS Investments Corporation and others are among the biggest representatives of Tatarstan. You can read about it here.
According to data for 2015, offshores of Royal Time Group were located in Cyprus, a part of the capital of Airat Khairullin's Krasny Vostok agricultural holding and a number of other companies, which are famous in Tatarstan, were situated on the Virgin Islands.
An analyst of FINAM Group of Companies Timur Nigmatullin thinks the underdevelopment of the legal system is the reason for such an interest in offshores in Russia.
'Unlike, for example, the English law, the Russian law (as well as the laws of CIS countries, some countries of Asia, Africa and South America) doesn't allow to structure complicated deals well and not always protects investors and business founders' rights. Obviously, a great job is to be done in this field,' says the analyst. However, he also noted that drastic improvements without a great legal reform and reform of Judiciary of Russia are almost impossible.
How the Universiade website-2013 became the Krasnodar portal about Kazan
Interestingly, most Tatarstan citizens don't know this website 'Kazan-inform' but after entering the title of the newspaper in the search engine, you can find that such online resource does exist. However, the headquarters is located in… Krasnodar. In average, the website gains 216 visitors and 306 views a week. The portal has also its account in the social networks. For example, in Vkontakte they have 1 016 followers, on Twitter — 1 051 readers.
The website has a number of standard sections – 'Society', 'Medicine', 'Culture', 'Sports', 'Ecology', 'Industry', 'Agriculture', 'Analytics', 'Incidents', etc., which are being updated, but the information in most cases are from secondary sources and without reference to the source.
The last button in the categories is 'To order news'. By clicking it, it becomes clear that Kazan-Inform offers a new service – the publication of news for 'information support of the event, promotion in search systems, coverage opportunity for mass-media, increasing brand awareness, the attraction of the customers, PR campaigns'. So, anything can be published on this website.
Another funny detail — the resource Kazan-inform is located on the domain name Kazan2013.ru, where previously was the portal of the Kazan Universiade. In the summer of 2014, the Directorate for sports projects, which owned the site, abandoned its extension, and now it belongs to the Marina Lazaruk — the editor-in-chief of news portal. ANO Executive Directorate for sports projects explained the current situation by the fact that in accordance with the requirements of FISU and the international practice, an official website of the competition must work 6 months after they are closed, though Kazan2013.ru after the Universiade existed more than two years. Here is the full text of the response:
The portal of the Universiade was located on the domain addresses kazan2013.ru and kazan2013.com. The Russian and Tatar versions of the portal from 01.05.2010 to 28.04.2014 was located on kazan2013.ru, the English one — on kazan2013.com. The domain in this period belonged to ANO Executive Directorate 'Kazan 2013'.
In connection with the expiration of domain ownership kazan2013.ru, the sharp decline in attendance of users in 2014 and the lack of justification for its extension (the requirements of FISU state that the official website of the competitions must be available within 6 months after competitions' closing), the ownership period of the domain kazan2013.ru was not extended. The national versions of the portal were tranferred to the domain kazan2013.com.
In September 2015, ANO Directorate of sports and social projects launched its own Internet-resource (http://en.dspkazan.com/), on which there were collected all implemented Internet projects: the portal of the 2013 World Summer Universiade (http://universiade2013.dspkazan.com/), the website of the 2014 World Fencing Championship (http://fencing2014.dspkazan.com/), the portal of FINA World Championships in Aquatics 2015 (http://finaworlds2015.dspkazan.com/), the presentation website of the 2016 European Judo Championship (kzn2016.com).
It is important to note that architecture, graphic design and the website content from previous projects are not lost and are presented on a united website of the Directorate.
Realnoe Vremya also asked to comment through the only listed on the website the postal address of the Kazan-inform, but at the time of publication, no response was received.