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It’s boom time in Putin-on-Thames
After Litvinenko , Issue 1411
putin litvinenko.jpg
PUTIN’S PALS: From left, Boris Titov, Viktor Pichugov and Igor Shuvalov, all of whom have extensive property holdings in the UK
WHEN the report into the radioactive poisoning in central London of Alexander Litvinenko concluded last month that the former spy was most likely victim of a state-sponsored murder sanctioned by President Putin, Labour’s Ben Bradshaw told the Commons that “meaningful action” was now needed “against the dirty Russian money and property here in London that sustain the Putin kleptocracy”.

Alas, home secretary Theresa May spoke volumes for the government’s interest in doing anything meaningful… by ignoring the MP’s point entirely.

Should she or David Cameron ever decide to hit Putin supporters where it hurts – in the wallet - the Eye can help with details of the substantial property riches Russian state officials and parliamentarians currently hold in Britain, including those of an associate of one of the accused murderers.

They are revealed in Russian “anti-corruption” asset disclosures in Moscow; and though they only give details of a property’s floorspace, the disclosures suggest vast Russian property wealth in the UK, almost certainly held through secret offshore companies.

  • Boris Titov, appointed by Putin as his “business ombudsman” three years ago to address the scourge of contrived prosecutions of entrepreneurs by corrupt police, declares a 250m2 apartment in the UK – impressive when the average area of a family home is just 100m2.
  • The wife of Dmitry Skrivanov, a former coordinator for the All Russian People’s Front, a movement created by Putin in 2011 to bring non-governmental bodies inside the tent – owns a 142m2 UK flat, almost certainly in London.
  • Even luckier is Mikhail Abyzov, made minister for open government affairs in 2012 after holding senior positions in privatised energy companies. His declaration contains a 341m2 flat and a 278m2 house in the UK, as well as a string of non-UK properties. To get around, the 43 year old has a Mercedes car, two Ducati motorcycles, plus a Harley Davidson and a helicopter. His wife has two Porsches (a Cayenne and a Panamera), two Land Rovers and a Lexus.
  • Former member of the state Duma budget and taxes committee Mikhail Serdyuk of the “A Just Russia” party boasts a 185m2 rented apartment in the UK, and declares a Lexus, a Merc and a Bentley Continental GT.
  • Perhaps the richest declaration is from Viktor Pichugov, a member of the Russian parliament’s upper house and reportedly Russia’s ninth richest man, who has a 265m2 house here, along with two even larger properties in Monaco, and lists a Bentley, a Maybach, a Lexus and a Land Rover among his motors and a Porsche Cayenne for his missus.
  • Not quite so wealthy but apparently doing very nicely, director-general of state-owned mortgage company JSC, Alexander Semenyaka, owns with his wife two 90m2 flats, and a larger one in France.
  • Communist party member Alexander Mastinin declares a 126m2 apartment plus a Rolls Royce and a Porsche Boxster.
  • Last, but not least, the first deputy chairman of the Duma Vladimir Parahin has a 90m2 flat somewhere in the UK. He is a political ally of fellow Duma member Andrei Lugovoi – one of the two men found to have murdered Litvinenko in broad daylight in central London

These are just the property interests that can be gleaned from a search of public records for those recently in public positions, when many of Putin’s cronies operate on the margins of the state and might not be inclined to disclose too much anyway.

The Eye has reported on some of the more extreme examples of oligarch wealth in the UK, as well, such as that of Russian deputy prime minister Igor Shuvalov. In 2014, a Russian company he controls paid £11.4m for a 164-year lease on two flats on the fifth floor of Whitehall Court, a large Victorian Gothic building overlooking the Thames. The leasehold had originally been granted just two years earlier by the freeholder, the Crown Estate, to a British Virgin Islands company also believed to be linked to Shuvalov.

This, of course, is without mentioning the London property wealth of the various oligarchs – some in, some out of favour with Putin – who have tens and sometimes hundreds of millions of pounds of wealth safely invested in a piece of Britain.

More top stories in the latest issue:

FARM FIX
Evidence emerges suggesting police may have helped cover up the “murder” of a man found crushed by a cement mixer on an Essex farm 14 years ago.

INSPECTING REBUS
Rebus Investment Group is the poacher-turned-gamekeeper offering to help those mis-sold dodgy tax schemes, including the infamous film LLPs.

A CRAPITAL IDEA
Scholars hoping to do post-graduate study at Strathclyde University are being encouraged to tailor their research proposals to the business interests of … Crapita!

PAST-IT MASTER?
The failed head passing on his wisdom to attendees at Bett2016, aka the British educational training and technology show.

ABOUT-TURN!
Only 32 people have so far qualified under former education secretary Michael Gove’s much-heralded Troops to Teachers initiative.

EPSOM FAULTS
How a catalogue of blunders contributed to the death of Adam Withers, 20, who fell to his death from a 130ft chimney at Epsom Hospital.

LOST AT SEETEC
Private probation provider Seetec is in trouble for poor performance in the South-east, but its owner-boss is laughing all the way to the bank.

CQC’S EPIC FLAIL
The care watchdog CQC’s ‘rigorous’ inspection regime is still failing vulnerable clients and their families – this time at three homes outside Bath. KING’S RANSOM
Taxpayers could have earned even more from the sale of the government share in King’s Cross Central LP had it not been part of a tax avoidance scheme.

TAPE DISPENSERS
Why health and safety rules for builders are to be relaxed because of the government’s devotion to ‘cutting red tape’.

MAN IN THE EYE
Meet Naguib Sawiris, the London-based Egyptian-American who somehow manages to do business with both North Korea and the US government.

To read all these stories in full, get the latest edition of Private Eye - you can subscribe here and have the magazine delivered to your home every fortnight.

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16th February 2016.
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Private Eye Issue 1410
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