London Shell Companies at the Centre of Ukrainian Influence Operations
A cache of hacked documents which allegedly expose an FSB agent has been released by the Distributed Denial of Secrets, but the truth reveals the importance of UK shell companies.
The year 2013 got off to a bad start for Alexander Markus, who represented the German Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine. His computer was hacked and its contents dumped on the web. His wife was accused of being an FSB agent.
The trans-national oligarchs who establish political projects to manipulate populations in the east are now tackling the United Kingdom.
Markus, a bald bespectacled man with a diffident scholarly air was seemingly the central character in a story that resembled a pulp spy thriller. However, the truth revealed in the hacked documents is far more interesting.
Viktor Yanukovych, who triumphed in Ukraine’s 2010 presidential elections, looted the country and was overthrown in 2014. He was a former gangster who had risen to the top of Ukraine’s mafia capitalism in the 90s. He and his gang’s business rivals were dispatched by the odd car bomb, round of machine gun fire, or otherwise neutralised.
During his presidency, state tenders were won by companies he was linked to and journalists were terrorised. Money was laundered back to Yanukovych, sometimes by brazenly obvious schemes, such as the multi-million dollar advances he received for unwritten books. German businesses in Ukraine faced being plundered by what was in effect a criminal cartel in government.
Markus was one of the recipients of a letter sent on 8 August 2011 by Bernd Bach. Bach represented Arneuba, a German firm exporting agricultural machinery to Ukraine. Arneuba were accusing “Arseniuk and Shtefanik” a Ukrainian vehicle dealer, of assault, theft and fraud. One of the partners in the Ukrainian firm had driven his Mazda at Bach’s partner Peter Fluck.
It was this environment that perhaps drove Markus and his colleagues to form ties with the then Ukrainian opposition.
The cache contains two faxes supposedly from Ukrainian opposition leader Arseniy Yatseniuk. They refer to financial operations in support of Ukrainian political parties and a phone call to Markus’s wife. He notes the need to avoid a “Russian paper-trail” and stresses that “all transactions” should be rendered over to “Mislton in UK.” What does it all mean?
The British Connection
Mislton is a UK registered firm whose directors include Inna Komisarova, a Ukrainian politician with links to the then opposition. Another director is Alice Ilsley, a Latvian national. Her name appears in an investigation into the large scale looting of Moldova via Latvian banks and in part UK shell companies . She is the director of several shell companies in Britain and elsewhere.
Mislton’s business is listed enigmatically as “other service activities not elsewhere classified”. However, another Latvian national, Svetlana Hojtko, describes herself as the hydrocarbons sales and procurement manager for the firm on Linked-in.
There is no evidence Mrs. Markus was an FSB agent and it seems that whoever attached this message to the documents was trying to confuse their readers.
Was Mislton used to funnel payments to the Ukrainian opposition via Latvian banks? Were these disguised as payments for fuel? Were Marcus and his colleagues aiding the opposition in Ukraine?
Russia’s elite has long argued that Ukraine’s revolutions were foreign projects designed to tear away a land that they regard as the cradle of their nation. Yet these documents, if true, suggest a limited attempt to bolster political opposition to a dictator who would ultimately unleash snipers on his own rebellious people.
It is impossible to say exactly what happened in part because of the lax oversight of shell firms by Companies House. If Mislton helped finance Ukraine’s opposition during Yanukovych’s presidency that was possibly a good thing. Why should we care?
what the papers don’t say
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Alise Ilsley and many of her fellow directors sit at the centre of a web of companies funneling money around the globe at the behest of shadowy elites. The trans-national oligarchs who establish political projects to manipulate populations in the east are now tackling the United Kingdom.
Britain, by failing to police its use as a conduit for the opaque financing of political projects, may have signed its own death warrant.