Media: Russian oligarchs used a loophole in British laws to circumvent sanctions

Anna Kholodnova

BBC Russian journalists and Finance Uncovered learned how Russian oligarchs close to Russian President Vladimir Putin used a loophole in British legislation to circumvent Western sanctions.

According to investigators, oligarchs Arkady and Boris Rotenberg used a type of company that British law does not require to identify its true owners.

These are English Limited Partnerships (ELPs). The British government has previously acknowledged that they are sometimes used for criminal purposes.

In 2016 and 2017, the UK government introduced new rules requiring almost all British companies to disclose their beneficial owners. However, ELPs were not affected by these new laws.

One such company, Sinara Company LP, was established in January 2017. It was allegedly engaged in tourism and ticket sales. The companyʼs legal address was in London.

Between July 2017 and June 2018, the company sent 14 wire transfers totaling $133,000 to an art consultant. A US Senate committee report said the man "facilitated purchases for the Rothenbergs."

Sinara Company LP closed in 2019. According to the legislation of Great Britain, its real owners do not need to be disclosed.

"This is a real scandal, people like the Rotenbergs, who have been under sanctions in America for years, can still use British corporate structures to get their money out of Russia through them and then spend it as they see fit," the Labor MP said. Margaret Hodge of Great Britain, who heads the parliamentary group on taxes and corruption.

Journalists of the Russian service of the BBC tried to contact the Rotenbergs on this issue, but did not receive an answer.

  • In March 2014, the US Treasury imposed sanctions against Russia due to the annexation of Crimea. Arkadiy Rotenberg and his brother Boris were also on the list as representatives of Vladimir Putinʼs entourage. Arkadiy Rotenberg is a childhood friend of the Russian president, they once practiced judo together. In the media, heʼs also called Putinʼs personal "wallet".
  • Rotenberg called himself the owner of "Putinʼs palace" in Gelendzhik, although the Alexei Navalny Anti-Corruption Foundation claimed that the actual owner was Vladimir Putin.
  • On February 22, 2022, Great Britain introduced personal sanctions against oligarchs Arkadiy and Boris Rotenberg. Their assets were frozen and they were denied entry.
  • On August 1, a new property register came into effect in Great Britain, which is designed to stop money laundering. The new list appeared against the background of economic sanctions in response to Russiaʼs full-scale invasion of Ukraine. From now on, any foreign company that wants to buy land or property in the UK will have to disclose the real owners.