in the back
Fyshy business in Cyprus
Marcus Fysh MP, Issue 1479
PRICE OF FYSH: Marcus Fysh MP’s investments lead all the way to Cyprus and beyond
A GROWING presence on the front ranks of the hard Brexit parliamentary faction is the Tory who elbowed out Lib Dem David Laws to take Yeovil at the 2015 general election, Marcus Fysh. Among the Anglo-Australian’s more informed contributions to the debate is that “Brits could be free to eat tasty and cheaper halloumi and feta made in America”.

Fysh came to Westminster via Somerset county council and a career in asset management, followed by what he calls “his own business in growth markets in Australia, India and the [Europe, Middle East, Africa] region”. The latest incarnation of this is a company called West Sea Investments Ltd (although Fysh still lists it in his register of interests under its old name of London Wessex Ltd), incorporated in 2013. And while ever since his election he has claimed ownership of the company, Companies House records tell a more interesting story.

Until West Sea Investments was transferred into Fysh’s hands in August 2017, it was owned entirely by a Cyprus company called Makoonor Holdings Ltd. This, in turn, official Cyprus records show, is owned by a further two Cypriot companies: Vaspaco Properties Ltd and Belserve Consultants Ltd, which have been at the heart of some very dubious business indeed.

Laundry bills
Vaspaco and Belserve were, for example, owners of Cypriot property company Prevezon Holdings Ltd between 2005 and 2009, during which time it allegedly laundered proceeds from the $230m so-called “Magnitsky fraud” on the Russian state using companies stolen from fund manager Bill Browder (whose lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, was killed as he investigated the matter). Prevezon settled a money laundering and asset seizure case in the US courts, without admitting guilt, for $6m last year.

The same companies that controlled Fysh’s apparently modest Somerset investment operation – it declares assets of around £150,000, loses about £40,000 a year and has no online or other public presence – were also behind a company called Fayblue Holdings, owner of a number of assets as nominee for interests ultimately controlled by Vladimir Putin’s judo chum and sanctioned business crony Arkady Rotenberg. He and his brother own the Stroygazmontazh construction company that does so well from the state-controlled gas company Gazprom. Another of Vaspaco and Belserve’s involvements stems from the 2014 acquisition by yet another company they own, Insidown Ltd, of a large stake in Moldova’s Victoria Bank.

Paradise find
In all, the two Cypriot companies that controlled Fysh’s company have been linked to scores of shareholdings in Russian industrial and banking companies, and Cyprus registries indicate connections with hundreds of other shell firms. Documents unearthed by the Eye from the Paradise Papers leak from offshore law firm Appleby (shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists) further expose how the companies appear to be used as fronts for oligarchs.

A diagram produced for a private jet purchase on behalf of Rotenberg – helpfully labelled “Russian PEP [politically exposed person]” – shows Vaspaco to be the 100 percent shareholder of a British Virgin Islands company called Hilanser Ltd. This company is controlled, however, entirely by a “declaration of trust” in favour of Rotenberg. (Hilanser then owns separate BVI companies that, in turn, own the aircraft, in a standard VAT ruse orchestrated by accountants EY).

Could this be the kind of arrangement that enabled Fysh to declare ownership of West Sea Investments in the parliamentary register, even while the company was entirely owned by Makoonor and he was not listed as a “person with significant control” at Companies House? But if he wasn’t ultimately behind the company, the question left hanging is: who was?

Sleeping satellite
The Russian connection is not the only awkward matter for the man who styles himself a business champion. Companies House records show that in 2017, with striking-off proceedings under way because West Sea Investments had not filed accounts, he submitted accounts for 2016 and 2017 showing that it was dormant and simply sitting on £1,000 in cash throughout those periods. This wasn’t true.

Accounts for the previous year, 2015, showed six-figure assets – which must have become opening balances for 2016 – and trading activity. With striking-off safely averted, in the past month Fysh has filed presumably accurate “amended” accounts reporting assets and business as before. Knowingly filing false accounts is a criminal offence. Fysh declined to answer the Eye’s questions on the accounts, the Russian connections of his firm or its involvement with money from there.

The same Fysh, who sits on parliament’s European scrutiny committee, was more voluble about chancellor Philip Hammond’s warning last month of post-Brexit economic doldrums: it was “another instalment of dodgy project fear”. When it comes to dodgy figures, both the numerical and human kind, the honourable member knows of what he speaks.

More top stories in the latest issue:

A crowdfunding company for political campaigns has split with ex-Cameron adviser Steve Hilton in order to distance itself from the Fox News man.

British fishing waters will need defending post-Brexit – but the Royal Navy’s slimmed-down fleet doesn’t look equipped to do the job properly.

The UK’s attempts to put an end to its role in enabling the Russian regime to launder illicit wealth look rather less impressive than minsters claim.

The UK National Defence Association claims to be non-partisan, but you wouldn’t know from chief executive Andy Smith’s statements on its behalf.

The University of Leicester’s vice-chancellor is planning an infrastructure programme costing £500m – paid for by large loans and staff job cuts.

Tim Parker, chairman of HM Courts and Tribunals Service, has a penchant for savage job cuts – yet the service’s bill for agency and contract staff is soaring.

Three months after Laki Kaur was pronounced well enough to leave hospital, she remains there because of a shortage of housing for disabled people.

Evidence mounts that the rigging of the Libor inter-bank borrowing rate was a widely understood feature of the system, even at the top of government.

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Next issue on sale: 16th October 2018
Private Eye Issue 1479 In This Issue
Brexit Will Be Car Crash, Says Brexiteer Who Was Driving Car… Press TV Wins Exclusive Rights to Show Labour Party Conference… Church of England Revealed to Be Major Investor in Hell… Revealed: The Two Letters Boris Wrote to His Wife… Obesity Crisis Rocks Nurseryland… Top Public School in ‘Initiation Rite’ Scandal… Second Lady Karen Pence’s Diary, as told to Craig Brown

Same old story
The Times’s editor recycles a discredited Michael Foot “scoop”

Hilton checks out
Crowdpac’s moral muddle over Steve Hilton

Ash flow problem
Northern Ireland’s "Cash for Ash" inquiry is heating up
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16th October 2018
Private Eye Issue 1478