MOVING AWAY FROM THE BRITISH CROWN: DERIPASKA MOVES BUSINESS TO KALININGRAD

HomeNewsMOVING AWAY FROM THE BRITISH CROWN: DERIPASKA MOVES BUSINESS TO KALININGRAD

The idea of creating a "Russian offshore zone" is traditionally met by sceptical voices: the dominant opinion in the Russian media is that nothing would ever make Russian businesses abandon the Channel islands with their added value of the British jurisdiction, British legal system and the ownership rights "guaranteed by the British crown". Why move to Russia, which is considered by some to be a country of an extremely cold, one might say, Arctic-cold, investment climate and a strict regulatory system?

Time proved that the supporters of the idea of Russian offshores, such as the President Putin, had their reasons: this new market instrument is slowly starting to work. Tired of the arbitrary treatment by the Western authorities, Russian businessmen started bringing back their companies under the Russian jurisdiction.

Enough well-known high-ranked entrepreneurs have already moved back their capitals to say that the idea has proved to be viable and useful. One of Oleg Deripaska's main business structures, En+ company, announced that as of 9 July 2019 it is listed in the Russian United Public Register of Legal Entities (USRLE) as an international corporation (a public company). The relevant documents were already received from Kaliningrad's Regional Development Corporation.

The decision to proceed with the local registration in Russia was made at the end of last year, but the legal paperwork took over 6 months. "Moving En+, a Jersey-registered offshore, into the Russian jurisdiction seemed highly unlikely, given the deal that Deripaska made with the U.S. Treasury in order to exclude his companies from the sanction list. Earlier media reports falsely claimed that the Russian businessman's structures were allegedly placed under the US and British control. The U.S. media, as well as numerous senators and congressmen from the U.S. Democratic Party who protested against lifting of the sanctions, interpreted the deal in a different way: they saw it as a retreat of the U.S. Treasury, which would place Deripaska's companies under an increased (albeit indirect) influence of the Russian state. Deripaska's En+ moving to Kaliningrad as an offshore company is a clear indicator of the real state of affairs on the market.

The turn of events is quite peculiar: pressure of western sanctions on Russian businesses should have led, according to the Russia-haters, to a sort of a “business mutiny against the Russian authorities”. Instead the effect was rather opposite. It is unlikely that while imposing sanctions against Deripaska the U.S. Treasury assumed that rather than a revolt or a bankruptcy, the follow up would be a crisis on the aluminium market, forcing the Treasury to backtrack its policy, a re-shuffle of owners, and ultimately a re-registration of En+ as a Russian offshore.

As a result, several companies reviewed their registration, returning to Russia, although they were not subject to sanctions.

Last year, Alisher Usmanov's companies moved from Cyprus to Russia. A Cyprus-based USM Holdings Ltd, an indirect holder of the controlling stakes in Metalloinvest, Megafon and other large assets, completed a move to Russia. Structures of the well-known business mogul Alexei Mordashov also moved to Russia.

The list of significant entrepreneurs that came back to Russia keeps growing. The clearest sign of success would be a return under the Russian jurisdiction, either in a form of offshore or onshore, of the companies owned by businessmen from Russia's neighbouring countries, as well as from Eastern Europe, South America, Asia and Africa. It seems to be an established fact, that every serious global player should have its own offshore zone or FEZ, which serve as a control mechanism over domestic businesses as mu h as a safe haven for the ventures of friendly nations. The U.S. possess Nevada and Delaware, the U.K. has a scattering of Caribbean islands, Gibraltar and Jersey, the EU has Luxembourg and Andorra, and even the communist China has its own offshore zones that process billions of dollars every year: Hong Kong and Macau. In this respect, Russia is only catching up with the global leaders.