Russia used shell cos to spread its influence

Dhaka,  Fri,  28 July 2017
Published : 18 Jun 2017, 13:19:05
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Russia used shell cos to spread its influence

A study last year that examined Russian efforts to influence eastern Europe found that Moscow had used a network of shell companies to mask its financial links to countries including Hungary and Bulgaria, according to a global media report Sunday.

US lawmakers are now launching a fresh effort to outlaw “shell companies” amid fears that Russia is exploiting such opaque corporate vehicles to spread its influence.

Charles Grassley, Senate judiciary committee chairman, and Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democratic colleague, are early next week set to introduce legislation that would require all US states to track the true owners of corporations. Though similar proposals failed last year, growing evidence of Moscow’s use of corporate vehicles that obscure their owners’ identity has revived prospects for action.

While the controversy over companies with veiled ownership is nothing new — they often feature in tax evasion, terror financing and money laundering cases — the furore over Russia’s attempts to interfere in the US presidential election has highlighted potential national security concerns.

Heather Conley, director of the Europe programme at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who wrote the report, said Russian oligarchs used shell companies to skirt EU foreign ownership restrictions in industries such as energy and to accumulate hidden political influence through control of local media outlets.

- SZ
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