LTV's De Facto: Suspicions of sanction evasion by Russian businessmen in Latvia

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European Union sanctions have been applied to several companies in Latvia owned by Russian businessmen, but there are concerns about possible evasion of the sanctions, Latvian Television's investigative broadcast De Facto reported on March 20.

Russian businessman Dmitry Mazepin is indicated as the true real beneficiary of “Riga Fertilizer Terminal” (RFT). Mazepin is included in the sanctions lists. His Latvian partners are members of the family of Ainars Šlesers and Andris Šķēle. On the other hand, the company Ventamonjaks has Aivars Lembergs' son-in-law, Jānis Austriņš, among Mazepin's partners.

The head of the Uralhim group, Dmitry Mazepin, was among the businessmen who appeared in the Kremlin during the first day of the war launched in Ukraine at a meeting with the Russian leader Vladimir Putin. The first sanctions list at the end of February did not yet include Mazepin. He and his son Nikita Mazepin appeared on it March 9.

The Latvian Ministry of Justice (TM) announced last week that Nikita Mazepin owns two properties in Latvia, and information has been sent to the courts to freeze them. De Facto found that one of them was a 100-square-meter apartment in Riga, Elizabetes Street, which he bought for 700 thousand euros at the age of 16.

More properties have been arrested in connection with Dmitry Mazepin. He is the real beneficiary of four Latvian companies. One of them, Uralkali Trading Ltd, owns an impressive car park. All 11 vehicles have been arrested at the moment. This means they cannot be sold, given away or otherwise disposed of.

Two terminals of Uralkali Trading – RFT and Ventamonjaks – have felt the sanctions more. Mazepin's arrival in Riga was prepared more than a decade ago, but in Ventspils, he appeared as an investor in the second half of 2014, already after the annexation of Crimea. 

The board chairman of RFT and Ventamonjaks Artūrs Skadata refused to respond to De Facto's questions for three days, but on Wednesday night distributed two releases, claiming that both companies had sustained changes in the structure of the members. On March 1, a company registered in Switzerland, 'Svizraa SA', had been signed as a co-owner of the terminals. According to the releases, Mazepin ceased to be a true beneficiary in the terminals since that date, now a 'Bhidwal Aamer Atta', whose nationality is not mentioned, would be the true beneficiary instead. 

De Facto found that the Svizraa SA company had a very small website with scarce information, with questionable reviews. One of the contacts had a stock photo and no working contact information. The other person, Ivan Sevryukov, which had been indicated as the ship chartering manager, told LTV:

"It was a relatively new firm, as I understand. I can't comment much because I don't know the details. I worked there from January to February as a paid worker, until the 23rd. [..] I myself am a Ukrainian citizen. After we heard the first explosions in Odessa, family and I were forced to leave the country. I have other concerns now without all these firms. I was the first employee, looks like the last one, too. So I can't tell you anything."

RFT and Ventamonjaks chair Skadata said the company was not bogus and promised to tell more in a face-to-face interview, which never happened due to a 'lack of complete information'.

On the first day of the war, February 24, the Uralkali Trading group submitted changes in the true beneficiaries to the Enterprise Registry (UR). The cases of the two terminals were submitted last week. 

"At the moment, there are three cases, and these are three different cases, so about three different authorized persons. And all cases are being investigated and information is also provided to the law enforcement authorities," said Guna Paidere, representative of the UR.

"The cases are, as to say, relatively fresh, filed during March, are also the end of February. And all are cases where true beneficiaries change, and those justifications vary, but these are details we will not comment on publicly. [..] In any case, I would like to say that UR is also currently assessing the documents in a reinforced mode, and, in the event of doubt, leaning in favor of sanctions."

According to De Facto's information, also Pyotr Aven's and Alexey Mordashov's firms have wanted to change their true beneficiaries. No further comment was provided.


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