Almost 150 businesses with ties to Russia set up in Britain since Vladimir Putin launched invasion of Ukraine
Almost 150 businesses with ties to Russia have been set up in Britain since Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
A sanctioned oligarch and the boss of a firm that builds chatbots appear to be among those who have registered firms at Companies House since February 24.
Campaigners insist it is too easy to register firms in Britain. They claim that no checks are carried out by Companies House and the government agency is now facing calls for immediate reform.
Reform: Campaigners insist it is too easy to register firms in Britain
Mikhail Shelkov registered a London-based business at Companies House on March 3. The name and age of the firm’s owner are the same as that of a Russian billionaire who was sanctioned in Ukraine last year.
Concerns over the man’s identity have now been raised with Government officials.
Conservative MP Kevin Hollinrake, who is co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fair Business Banking, called for a major shake-up of Companies House.
He told The Mail on Sunday: ‘The crisis in Ukraine has laid bare the deficiencies with Companies House. The fact that a company can get set up with no verification of identity has allowed the UK to become the destination of choice for money launderers supporting the worst criminal networks in the world.’ More than four million limited companies are registered in the UK and about 500,000 new businesses are incorporated annually.
This year more than 350 Russians around the world have signed up firms at Companies House – including 200 living in Russia.
Newly registered companies include information technology and software firms which raises concerns in view of the growing threat of cyber attacks from Russia. Many UK addresses are used for the registration of multiple businesses. For example, just one property in Covent Garden, Central London, is listed as the registered address of more than 20 different companies set up by Russian directors last year.
Aleksandr Shikolai, the singer in one of Russia’s most popular death metal bands Slaughter Will Prevail, is among those who recently registered a business at Companies House. The band has issued antiwar messages since the invasion.
The analysis of Companies House filings was conducted in conjunction with the investigative organisation The Dark Money Files.
The organisation’s director Graham Barrow said: ‘Registering a company at Companies House is a bit like having a front door that works in reverse. Absolutely anyone can walk in unwanted and uninvited – and there’s nothing you can do. In order to get them to leave, you have to prove it is your house and do so at your own expense.’
The Government has imposed sanctions on more than 1,000 individuals from Russia and Belarus since the invasion. However, the directors of many firms newly registered at Companies House are listed as living in Moscow, St Petersburg and Sochi.
A Government spokesperson said: ‘Those who break sanctions and associate with hostile regimes should not be able to profit in the UK from dirty money.
‘We have announced plans for a broad package of reforms to give Companies House a strengthened role in tackling economic crime by increasing the transparency of company ownership and management while offering businesses greater protection from fraud.’