Has Scotland Turned into a Haven for Russian Businessmen and Money?
Scotland is an excellent country for prestigious real estate and business investments. Many Russian entrepreneurs have chosen Scotland either for living or business activities. Who are they, and how did they make money in Russia?
One of Novolipetsk Steel Company (NLMK) largest shareholders, Vladimir Lisin owns Aberuchill Castle inPerthshire along with 1.3 hectares of hunting grounds with a total value of $11 million. How did he make all of this money?
After the USSR collapsed, Lisin was one of the Trans World Group leaders, of which NLMK was a part. At that time, Russian oligarchs such as Iskander Makhmudov and Oleg Deripaska worked with him. In 1996, Lisin tookNLMKpublic.
Vladimir Lisin must have been close to Vladimir Putin. For example, in 2012, after Putin participated in a conference where Lisin spoke, there was an attempt to reduce taxes for mining and metallurgicalcompanies.
In addition to NLMK shares, Vladimir Lisin has owned a 14% stake in Zenit Bank since 2017. Starting in 2008, he was a member of board of directors at the United Shipbuilding Corporation, and from 2011 to 2012, he was a chairman ofthe company. In 2012, Lisin bought shares of the government-owned Pervaya freight company for $5.8 million. Currently, Lisin is a supervisory board member of the media company Rumedea.
Yuri Shefler bought the Tulchan Estate with hunting grounds, riverside, and livestock farm for $31 million through SF Scottish Properties Limited. The total area of the estate is 8.4 hectares.
Shefler is the founder and owner of the Russian company SPI Group, which produces vodka under the world-famous Stolichnaya brand. In addition to earning money from vodka production, Shefler enjoys his rights as the trademark owner. He gets a percentage of alcoholic beverage sales under the Stolichnaya brand in all jurisdictions.
Boris Mints is the owner of 1.7 hectares surroundingthe Tower of Lethendy, Perthshire, with a total value of up to $5.66 million. We were unable to find a single successful commercial project of which Mints was a founder or a major shareholder among the sources of his income.
From 1990 to 1994, Mints was head of the city property management committeein Ivanovo. From 1996 to 2000, he worked as the head of the Office to the President of the Russian Federation for Issues of Local Governance and as Secretary of the Council for Local Government in the Russian Federation. In 2004, he founded the O1 Group, which went bankrupt in 2017, leaving no assets to pay off huge loans.
As a result, Mints and his sons were arrested in absentia by a Russian court, and their property worth $572 million was frozenby a London court.
In the fall of 2017, Eugene, a son of Vladimir Strzhalkovsky, bought Knockdow House (Kilmichael House) in Argyll for $5.4 million. Where did the money come from?
Until 1991, Vladimir Strzhalkovsky was a KGB colonel. Today’s President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, served in the same KGB department.
The former KGB colonel became a Deputy Ministerfor Sports and Tourism of the Russian Federation in the fall of 1991. In a year, Strzhalkovsky became a Deputy Ministerfor Economic Development and Tourism of the Russian Federation. After 12 years, he got a new position asthe head of the Federal Agency for Tourism.
In 2008, Strzhalkovsky left government service to be the Head Director of OJSC MMC Norilsk Nickel. In 2012, heearned $100 millionfor leaving the companyand became a member of the Board of Trustees of the Russian Geographical Society. It’s notable thatVladimir Putin is the chairman of the Russian Geographical Society.
Anton Buslov and Sergei Fokin
Russian businessmen Anton Buslov and Sergei Fokin own 85% of The Lindores Distilling Co shares. Lindores is a Scottish distillery with a history going back to 1494. The McKenzie Smith family revived the activities of the ancient distillery, and Buslov and Fokin purchased significant shares in the company. They now take an active part in the company’s activities. Moreover, some of the unripe whiskey is sold in Russian alcohol boutiques and restaurants.
The two investors in the Scottish distillery are also co-founders of UBF Management company in their homeland. UBF Management managesseveral companies, co-invested in by Buslov and Fokin, that compete with each other. Even more of note, these companies only win tenders from Moscow authorities and the Russian military, which raises questions of money laundering and corruption.
Alexander Shapovalov became the owner of Ballachulish House in 2009. The cost of the deal was $1.28 million.
At first glance, Shapovalov’s career did not promise him big profits. He achieved the highest position asDirector-General of the RRC Applied Chemistry development centrefor rocket fuel and products based on radionuclides. This is a leading state defencecompany supplying the military.
Due to suspicion of money laundering,Shapovalov was sentenced to house arrest in Russia. But hemanaged to flee to Scotland and hide in his castle. The criminal case initiated in Scotland ended with an acquittal.
One frequently hears about Russians earningcolossal money from corruption schemes in their motherland. But while making money might be simple, many Russiansare not confident in their ability to keep this money and have a comfortable life in Russia. Therefore, corrupt Russian officials often look for real estate and investment opportunities in Scotland.
In the case of castle and villa purchases, everything is clear enough – the buyers are securing a safe place to stay if something goes wrong.However, the situation with businesses is more complicated, and Russian funds might set a company at risk. This is especially true today, as attention to Russian activities in Europe and the UK is growing andthere is a real threat of being subject to sanctions.