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Companies in Latvia rush to conceal affiliations with Russia

A number of companies registered in Latvia have rushed to get rid of the shadow of Russia over the last two months, replacing the officials and owners associated with it, reports the De Facto broadcast of Latvian Television aired April 24.

Since February 24, when Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, the number of companies with owners from Russia has fallen by 90, while those with representatives or officials from Russia — by about 40, according to data from Lursoft.

Among the most visible companies is fast credit and financial services company 4finance. On the website of 4finance, a statement of changes to the structure appeared a month after the beginning of the war in Ukraine. The most recent true beneficiaries were mentioned in Latvian registers as lawyer Edgars Dupats and Russian citizen Vera Boiko, the mother of Russian billionaire Oleg Boiko. Boiko, in turn, is seen as the actual driving force. 

At first, it was reported that the Boiko family had transferred parts of the company to relatives with Ukrainian nationality. On April 14, however, when reporting the completion of the restructuring, the new owners were identified as: “None is a Russian citizen or associated with the Boiko family”.

The company publicly stresses that the changes have been planned for a long time, but the war in Ukraine has hastened them. On March 17, all Russian citizens left their positions on the board and on the council. At the time, Oleg Boiko was not yet on any sanctions list, but in mid-April Canada included him.

A similar avoidance of visible links with Russia is also seen in several other companies, according to Lursoft data.

The company Ultramar transferred its ownership from the Russian citizen Andrey Bonch-Bruevich to his wife Jeļena, who is a Latvian citizen. Ultramar is engaged in the transportation of fertilizer and is a partner of the sanctioned Dmitry Mazepin-owned Uralkali Trading. In recent years, Ultramar, in cooperation with the now-sanctioned Sberbank, was involved in the construction of a new terminal at Ust-Luga port in Russia.

Passing the ownership to relatives or other persons who are not Russian citizens is not the only way companies try to get rid of associations with Russia. In several companies, owners and officials have changed the owners' citizenship in registers.

For example, the wholesaler TFN Trading has not only removed a Russian citizenship from the board, but its owners, Konstantin Geskin and Andrei Samoilov, who have so far designated Russia as the places of their nationality and residence, changed citizenship to Israeli and Grenadan, and their places of residence to Latvia and Italy respectively.

Representatives of none of the mentioned companies commented on what has happened and the reasons for it.

The Register of Enterprises told LTV that since the beginning of the war, applications for similar changes have indeed occurred more.

The country's deputy chief notary, Sandis Karelis, said: "I suppose it may go in the context of this trend in general, where big companies are leaving Russia. Do not want to damage their reputation in any way with this toxic element – whether they are officials with Russian State affiliation or business partner and so on. Even if they are not sanctioned, the current trend is to avoid it."

The head of the Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Jānis Endziņš said that one situation is if one person is in the sanctions system - then it is a very big problem, but the problems are also in cases where capital of Russian or Belarusian origin is present.

Overall, the number of Russian-related companies in Latvia is still significant – around four thousand. Some have no real activity and turnover.

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