More recently, the authorities called the “Panama files”, revealing the names of the owners of thousands of offshore companies – just a provocation against the Russian president, behind which are Western special services.
But everything changes. And now the director of Rosfinmonitoring Yuri Chikhanchin, speaking at the Eurasian anti-corruption forum, says that these files contain the names of many Russians, including high-ranking officials who participated in illegal financial transactions for billions of rubles. And that Rosfinmonitoring passes these data to law enforcement agencies.
Why such rapid evolution? And what does this mean for our officials and entrepreneurs?
“Panama files” and “Files of paradise islands” are internal documents of large legal companies that provided services in registration and maintenance of offshore companies, trusts and funds. These documents with the names of real owners became available to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, as well as to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and the Center for the Study of Corruption and Organized Crime (OCCRP).
More than a hundred journalists from Europe, Asia and the United States studied the materials, discovering in them the hidden financial operations of their politicians, civil servants and businessmen. Novaya Gazeta is a Russian partner in these projects, investigating files that concerned our officials. But right after the questions directed to President Vladimir Putin about the origin of money of his friend-musician Sergei Roldugin (about $ 2 billion went through related firms), in the Kremlin they called the Panama files “provocation.” The president at a press conference talked about friendship with Roldugin and assured that the money was spent on the purchase of musical instruments.
It is clear that the Investigative Committee and the Prosecutor’s Office in Russia will not study the nearest encirclement of the president and his friends in offshore dossiers. But for everyone else it makes sense to think about the possible consequences. In the Russian economy, not so much money, and after a couple of economic and political crises, the funds raised abroad are very much needed to be returned. In addition to the authorities’ attention to offshore leaks, there is still an accession to the automatic exchange of tax information, thanks to which Russian tax authorities receive data on account holders and controlling owners of companies in 73 countries. European funds origin checks, American sanctions against large Russian entrepreneurs and constant discussion of the official disclosure of the world’s most popular offshore jurisdictions contribute to the return of funds.
Of course, Russian businessmen, officials and politicians can continue to live with the conviction that there will be enough offshore for them. Like, there has come a crisis of large providers of offshore services, there are more reliable individual consultants. Some islands and countries will be opened – there will always be others, more hermetic. But some of them still think about what will happen if one day they have to return the acquired back to Russia.
For more than twenty years, the fate of private property has not become more predictable. And if there is no possibility to appeal to a relatively fair London court – where to go to a simple Russian oligarch?
If he has a conflict with such, for example, a legal phenomenon, as the head of Rosneft Igor Sechin, the chances of winning are rather vague. It is not by chance that individual Russian businessmen in a usual conversation do not risk calling the head of the state company by name, preferring a neutral “Semyon Semyonovich”, about how the ancient Slavs tried not to pronounce the word “bear”, fearing to attract the attention of a predator.
Yes, and a corrupt official should think about his right to a fair trial and sentence. This is seriously different from the current situation, when you can suddenly die in jail, without waiting for not only the court, whatever it is, but even the completion of the investigation.
Disclosure of offshore companies, foreign sanctions, exchange of financial information, in theory, should contribute to raising the civic consciousness of those who will be forced to accumulate property in Russia. Theoretically, they should be interested in clear game rules, fair courts, clear laws, competitive politics and, as a consequence, more predictable fate of their assets. But so far, only a greater enslavement of Russian oligarchs is emerging, which are lining up for material support from the state.