[NEWS] In a shocking revelation, an offshore firm based in the Seychelles, Alpha Consulting, has been exposed for its involvement in creating companies used by members of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. The BBC, Finance Uncovered, and the Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation conducted a joint investigation that analyzed internal Alpha documents and thousands of company records to uncover the truth behind this web of secrecy.

Alpha Consulting’s role extended beyond catering to Putin’s associates; it was a prolific creator of partnerships exploiting a significant loophole in UK law. These partnerships were designed to conceal the true owners and have been linked to alleged fraud, illegal essay mills, and even interference in foreign elections.

One prominent case involves the late mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, who used Alpha Consulting’s services to hide his assets, including a yacht. Beratex Group Ltd, a company associated with Prigozhin, was sanctioned by the United States for concealing ownership of his private jet and yacht. Leaked documents from the Pandora Papers investigation in 2021 revealed that Alpha had a hand in setting up Beratex in the Seychelles, with the hidden owner listed as Prigozhin’s elderly mother-in-law.

Another close associate of Putin, Leonid Reiman, benefited from Alpha’s services. Despite being identified as a “politically exposed person,” Alpha failed to declare Reiman’s status, which raised concerns about corruption risks. Anti-money laundering expert Graham Barrow pointed out that this was a significant breach of the rules.

Alpha Consulting’s role extended to creating 927 limited partnerships in the UK, exploiting a legal loophole that allowed them to sidestep transparency regulations. These partnerships were used to acquire assets, including an oil tanker called the Delfi, which caused environmental damage along the coast of Ukraine. Internal documents revealed that nominee partners, like Luther Denis, who appeared to be prolific entrepreneurs on paper, had no real control over the companies they were associated with.

The investigation also uncovered partnerships involved in illegal activities, such as the sale of unproven health pills, illegal essay writing services, and alleged large-scale fraud in Russia. These partnerships, linked to Alpha Consulting, operated under a veil of secrecy.

Despite these revelations, the UK government has failed to close the legal loophole that allowed such practices to flourish. Baroness Kramer, a Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson, criticized the government’s inaction, calling the loophole “so wide, you can drive an oil tanker through it.”

Alpha Consulting, led by Russian businesswoman Victoria Valkovskaya, denied any involvement in illegal activities, stating that they followed the letter of the law and provided advice and assistance in accordance with UK regulations.

The investigation has shed light on the hidden world of offshore firms and their role in facilitating illicit activities and concealing the wealth of powerful individuals. It underscores the urgent need for stronger regulations and enforcement to prevent such practices from continuing.

In the wake of these revelations, the Seychelles was added to the EU’s tax haven blacklist, further highlighting the need for international action to combat offshore secrecy and financial misconduct. The UK government’s economic crime bill aims to address some of these issues, but the extent of its effectiveness remains to be seen.