Friday, May 23, 2014

How Russia Inc. Moves Billions Offshore “You can rely on our legal system!”

Italian journalist tells court that city makes it easy for former Slovak Communists to launder money
 through front companies Hong Kong Banks Enable Money Laundering

This is about an excellent Reuters investigation into a Russian state scheme to buy expensive medical equipment – and send money to Swiss bank accounts. It is worth reading in its entirety, but we will hone in on this bit:
“According to the customs data, Petromed paid $195 million to a British company called Greathill Ltd. Greathill acted as an intermediary in buying equipment from Siemens and other suppliers.
The arrangement worked like this: The Russian state paid Petromed to supply medical equipment. Meanwhile, Greathill bought equipment from Siemens and other suppliers, according to Kolesnikov. In turn, Petromed bought the equipment from Greathill at much higher prices, up to double the going rate, according to customs documents. Bank records seen by Reuters support that account.
. . .
A trail of documents reviewed for this article suggests that Greathill was an equipment supplier only on paper. According to Kolesnikov, Greathill’s real function was to act as an intermediary “where profits could be made.” Putins & Laundering Comrades

Two years ago, a Dutch law firm prepared a pitch in Moscow to Russian businesses: come to the Netherlands and we can help you avoid taxes and keep your assets safe. “You can rely on our legal system!” the firm, Buren van Velzen Guelen, said in a slide presentation.

Such appeals have worked on a grand scale. Russia’s biggest oil, gas, mining and retail companies -- including some run by billionaires close to President Vladimir Putin -- have moved tens of billions of corporate assets to the Netherlands and other European countries often used for tax avoidance and capital flight, such as Luxembourg, Cyprus, Switzerland and Ireland. The firms include OAO Rosneft (ROSN), OAO Gazprom, OAO Lukoil and Geneva-headquartered Gunvor Group Ltd., which was co-founded by a Putin associate now under U.S. sanctions.

A Theory of Boardroom Justice. Something tells me Jerry Cohen would not have been surprised.
 There is a real danger that corporate leaders, making decisions that seem correct behind closed doors, end up being tone-deaf in a soundproof room. When the doors open and the decisions are announced, it is clear that board members are often deeply disconnected from the world’s economic and social realities.
Consider executive pay packages. Board remuneration committees can explain them logically with complex formulas to justify them, and yet often they are completely out of line with common sense.

The popularity of pets, nature films, zoos, wildlife tourism show how much we like to look at animals. Why? Evolution has an answer... With love from Russian Zoo Keeper Vlado