Latvia-Russia connections emerge from 'Panama Papers'

As world headlines continue to be dominated by the fallout from the leak of the 'Panama papers' - documents from Panamanian offshoring specialists Mossack Fonseca - some Latvian connections to the shadowy world of offshore entities have started to emerge.

As previously reported by LSM, Mossack Fonseca until recently operated a Riga office.

However, now some decidedly Latvian-sounding names are also starting to get a mention in the global investigation.

A profile by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) of Russian Duma deputy Alexander Babakov mentions his connection to individuals named Vilis Dambins and Valts Vigants via offshore entities.

"The database shows that Vilis Dambins and Valts Vigants, two of the company’s employees, manage the firm on behalf of Babakov and the Ukrainian registry of legal entities shows the Latvians among the four owners of VS Energy as of November 2015. Most likely they are proxies hiding the real beneficiaries," OCCRP reports.

Despite cultivating an image as "one of the poorest deputies of the state Duma" OCCRP links the United Russia deputy to massive overseas assets.

UK company documents show a Vilis Dambins listed as director of a short-lived company called 'V.D. Management Limited' which was founded in April 2008 and dissolved in May 2009.

Meanwhile Valts Vigants is listed as director of six dissolved UK companies, all of them suggesting offshore structures. For example one of the companies of which Vigants is a director, 'Pletherow Enterprises' describes its business as "Management activities of holding companies' and is in turn owned by various companies such as 'Alkahn Power Company' and 'Dronsdale Investments' which have exactly the same London address.

Even those with a different address, such as 'Zafiro Enterprises' in fact have the same address as Pletherow Enterprises' previous address.

It is not the first time the names of Vigants and Dambis have been linked. In 1999 two individuals with the same names were at the center of the controversial failure of a Latvian bank, Lainbanka. They were President and Vice-President of the bank.

A second, more recent, Panama Papers connection between Latvia and Russia centers on Russian deputy minister of internal affairs Alexander Makhonov.

"In May 2012... Makhonov and his business partner Dmitry Karyakin founded Nortwest Management, a parent company to a complex offshore network that stretches from London to Riga and Moscow," OCCRP reports.

Via offshore holding companies in the British Virgin Islands, the pair control digital content company Nemo TV, as reported by LSM's Russian-language service Tuesday.

"Nemo TV’s website says its services are provided by a Latvian subsidiary," OCCRP says.

The Latvian business registry confirms that, listing two Russian citizens, Matvey Otroshenko and Pavel Kalmaev as the officers of Nemo Telecom's Latvian subsidiary.

Another company named 'Kids Multimedia Limited' uses exactly the same UK office/Latvia subsidiary model and has the same addresses and officers.

Under Russian law, Makhonov is not supposed to engage in business activities, particularly overseas. However, Nemo TV, Kids Multimedia and their linked livestreaming service Amediateka appear to be providing considerable private supplements to his public sector wage.

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