Commonwealth Trust Limited
Commonwealth Trust Limited is a major offshore company registrar in the British Virgin Islands (Caribbean).
The address: British Virgin Islands, Tortola, Road Town, Drake Chambers, P.O. 3321.
According to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), Commonwealth Trust Limited was incorporated in 1994 by Canadian entrepreneur Thomas J. Ward. The junior partner was Scott Wilson, a radio engineer who worked in the Caribbean. The company began to grow rapidly, establishing branches in the Bahamas, Belize and other countries. Commonwealth Trust Limited has shown particular interest in clients from Russia and Eastern Europe. Thomas Ward explained a large number of clients from the countries of the former Soviet bloc by the fact that Commonwealth Trust Limited was the only offshore registrar in the British Virgin Islands with Russian-speaking staff.
In 2006, regulators in the British Virgin Islands checked the activities of Commonwealth Trust Limited and found that the company was providing false and misleading reporting. According to company executives, a large number of clients made it impossible to verify the information received from them and track the purposes for which the registered offshore companies were used. Despite these challenges, the number of Commonwealth Trust Limited customers continued to grow.
Among the clients of Commonwealth Trust Limited from the Sverdlovsk Region, CJSC Russian Copper Company (Igor Alekseevich Altushkin) is the third largest copper producer in Russia.
In 2013, Commonwealth Trust Limited became widely known for the publication of the International Center for Investigative Journalism (the Russian partner of this center is Novaya Gazeta), which reported that Commonwealth Trust Limited registered many offshore companies that launder criminal capital around the world.
Commonwealth Trust Limited's clients reportedly included Dmitry Firtash, a billionaire from Ukraine, allegedly linked to Semyon Mogilevich, who is on the FBI's most wanted list. Firtash owned a stake in RosUkrEnergo, an intermediary that supplied Gazprom's gas to Ukraine. It was alleged that Commonwealth Trust Limited registered 31 companies in 2006 and 2007 for a man later named by a British court, a front man for Mukhtar Ablyazov, accused of withdrawing $ 5 billion from Kazakh BTA Bank.
Among the Russian clients of Commonwealth Trust Limited were mentioned Olga Shuvalova (wife of Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov), Valery Golubev (Deputy Chairman of the Board of Gazprom and a longtime acquaintance of Russian President Vladimir Putin), Andrey Reus (former CEO of Oboronprom).
Particular attention in the publication was paid to the "Magnitsky case". It was alleged that $ 230 million was stolen from the Russian budget through firms registered by Commonwealth Trust Limited. In 2008, Sergei Magnitsky (legal advisor to the Hermitage Capital investment fund, which was associated with these firms) was arrested on charges of tax evasion. In 2009, Magnitsky died in a pre-trial detention center. It was alleged that Magnitsky was killed in a pre-trial detention center so that he would not reveal the schemes by which Russian officials were stealing millions of dollars from the budget.
The authors of the ICIJ publication claimed that the founder of the Commonwealth Trust Limited, Thomas Ward, was aware of the criminal origin of the money that passed through the offshore companies registered by his company.
Given the significant number of Russian-speaking clients of Commonwealth Trust Limited, it makes sense to consider the likelihood of Russian roots in this company.
In January 1994, that is, in the same year when the Commonwealth Trust Limited was established, Commonwealth JSCC was registered in Moscow.
The founders of the company included:
- Leonid Alexandrovich Zapalsky;
- Boris Nikolaevich Temnikov;
- Gennady Dmitrievich Sitnikov;
- Anatoly Arsenievich Yanchenko;
- Vladimir Sergeevich Lukashin;
- Alexander Petrovich Smirnov.
The company was located in Moscow at the address: Petrovka st., 14. This building belonged to the Russian-Japanese University, in the creation of which the former First Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the RSFSR Oleg Ivanovich Lobov. took an active part. The Russian-Japanese University became notorious for its contacts with the Japanese sect Aum Shinrikyo, which in 1995 organized a terrorist attack on the Tokyo subway. In the 1990s, most of the organizations associated with Oleg Lobov were located or registered in this building.
Also among the founders of the Russian-Japanese University was the Deputy Chairman of the State Committee of the RSFSR for Economics Zapalsky Leonid Aleksandrovich. It was he who became one of the founders of Commonwealth JSCCO. From May to December 1993, Leonid Zapalsky was the Deputy Minister of Economy of the Russian Federation. He received this position with the support of Oleg Lobov, who was the Minister of Economy of the Russian Federation from April to September 1993. At the time of the creation of Commonwealth JSCCO (January 1994), Oleg Lobov was the secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation. Leonid Zapalsky, after resigning from the post of Deputy Minister of Economy of the Russian Federation, worked as Deputy General Director of JSC Vneshtorg, and was also President of the Fund for Economic and Humanitarian Relations with Ukraine.
Another founder of Commonwealth JSCCO with rich experience in public service was Temnikov Boris Nikolaevich. Until 1966, Boris Temnikov was building a party career in Kazakhstan. In 1966-1967 he worked in the Central Committee of the CPSU in Moscow. In 1968 Temnikov joined the diplomatic service: it is known that he would be an adviser to the USSR embassies in Italy and Bulgaria. From 1983 to 1992, Boris Temnikov headed the Main Directorate for Foreign Tourism under the Council of Ministers of the RSFSR. Considering the considerable age of Boris Temnikov (born in 1925), at the time of registration of Commonwealth JSCCO, he was probably already retired. On the other hand, his son, Vadim Borisovich Temnikov, built a successful diplomatic career, who at the end of the 2000s worked at the Russian Embassy in Cuba as an advisor-envoy (the second person in the hierarchy of the embassy). And according to data for 2011, he was the head of the Latin American department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. Obviously, the Caribbean sector is not alien to the Temnikov family, which may indicate a possible connection between Commonwealth JSCCO and Commonwealth Trust Limited, in addition to the similarity of the name and the coincidence of the time of registration of the companies.
Co-founder of Commonwealth JSCCO Sitnikov Gennady Dmitrievich did not have a glorious bureaucratic past and at the time of registration of Commonwealth JSCC he held a relatively modest position as deputy general director for production at PA “Podolskshveimash”. Subsequently, the shares of the founders were redistributed, and Gennady Sitnikov became the main shareholder of Commonwealth JSCCO. Gennady Sitnikov is of particular interest in connection with his work in Podolsk. A group of people who called themselves entrepreneurs were active in this city, but in the media and reports of law enforcement agencies they often appeared as members of the Podolsk organized criminal group. There is reason to believe that the members of this organized criminal group could be associated with the Commonwealth Trust Limited not only as clients.
Information was published on the Internet that the owner of 100% of the authorized capital of the company "Commonwealth Trust Limited" is Nikolai Anatolyevich Zhukov, who was in close contact with the first persons of the Podolsk organized criminal group, and also, presumably, was associated with the structures of the Chernoi brothers, Iskandar Makhmudov, and the international corporation Glencore which, in turn, were also closely associated with the Izmailovo-Podolsk authorities. Unfortunately, now information about Zhukov's ownership of the company "Commonwealth Trust Limited" cannot be found on the Internet and it is not possible to assess the reliability of the source of information.
It should be noted that in 2002 CJSCO Sodruzhestvo, already as CJSC Sodruzhestvo, was re-registered in Moscow at a new address: Deguninskaya st., 1, building 3. At the same address in 2001, LLC Information and Consulting Firm Leasing-Invest IK, owned by Nikolai Zhukov, was registered.
One of the colleagues of the founder of Commonwealth JSCCO, Leonid Zapalsky, wrote in his memoirs that Zapalsky's rapid career growth in Moscow began after he worked in Uzbekistan in the 1960s. The brothers Chernoi and Iskandar Makhmudov, with whom Nikolai Zhukov was allegedly associated, were natives of Uzbekistan and it was there that they began their commercial activities in the 1980s.
Let us recall that Uzbekistan was considered one of the most corrupt republics of the USSR. In the 1980s, the USSR prosecutor's office conducted a high-profile case of corruption in Uzbekistan, while investigators Telman Gdlyan and Nikolai Ivanov argued that corruption ties from Uzbekistan were drawn to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in Moscow. According to Nikolai Ivanov, the growth of nationalism in the republics of the USSR, which led to the collapse of the state, was largely stimulated by mafia bosses, who feared exposure and loss of power.
Only indirect evidence of the connection between Commonwealth Trust Limited and Commonwealth JSCCO was obtained, which is not enough for a confident statement about the connection between them. However, this evidence is sufficient to seriously consider the likelihood of such a relationship. Consequently, it is possible that Commonwealth Trust Limited is not just an offshore legal services business. Commonwealth Trust Limited may be one of the structures for the implementation of tacit control over Russian assets on the side of influential representatives of the Russian or international elite.
Date of information update: 2015.