During the week, Mother Jones published a story about a leading US Republican, Nick Muzin and his links to the Democratic Party of Albania (see: https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2018/03/how-a-russian-linked-shell-company-hired-an-ex-trump-aide-to-boost-albanias-right-wing-party-in-dc/).
One of the significant elements in this story was the mention of a Scottish Limited Partnership (SLP) something that always makes me sit up and take notice. So I thought I’d do a bit of poking around to see what I could find.
Now let me say at the outset, I don’t know Mr Muzin, nor do I have any axe to grind with him or his party, but I am curious about the way SLPs are used to obfuscate money trails and that was my motivation for this investigation.
So what do we know?
Back in March last year, Mr Muzin posted a Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) notice in the US. In it he registered his role as a lobbyist for the Democratic Party of Albania. In the contract he was to be paid $25,000 a month. He filed an amendment later in 2017 (14/11 – coincidentally, just two weeks after Paul Manafort had been indicted for alleged money laundering involving their work with a Ukrainian Political Party) in which he recorded payments of $500,000 from the Democratic Party of Albania along with a further payment of $150,000 from a private company called Biniatta Trade LP. That was the one that caught my eye!
So what do we know about Biniatta Trade?
First stop – companies house.
It was registered on 28/09/2015 by LAS International, 5 Percy Street, London W1T 1DG – an address I know very well. The general partner was given as Asverro Corporation and the limited partner as Liminez Commerce. They are GP and LP respectively to two other UK entities, Babyonica LLP and KF Global Management LLP. They are registered in Belize.
They were respectively registered on 24/11/2015 and 18/02/2014. KF Global Management LLP originally had Castlefort Limited and Atlantic Ventures Incorporated as its Designated Members but they resigned on 30/01/2017 to be replaced by Asverro and Liminez.
Babyonica has a Person with Significant Control (PSC) named Evgeny Sheremetyev (Russian) and KF Global Management has a PSC called Konstantin Ferulev (Russian). Babyonica’s annual accounts were signed by Gina Sandra Esparon nee Kilindo (also known as Sandra Gina Esparon, Sandra Gina Kilindo and just plain Gina Kilindo) on behalf of Asverro as were KF Global Management’s. She is also listed as a director of a whole bunch of other companies on the CH website and her nationality and country of residence is given as Seychelles rather than Belize.
Because Biniatta Trade is a SLP there is much less information to go on, although it is clear from comparing signatures that Ms Esparon signed the application form on behalf of Asverro. There is no recorded PSC.
On the other hand, it does have a website! See: http://biniatta-trade.com/
It’s not a very good one but there is some useful information to be gleaned from it.
It says on the home page that Biniatta Trade is “world top class of Agro industry” which is a very interesting construction. It provides a phone number in Scotland (+441316080146) or, in the local code 0131 608 0146). What more can we find out?
Let’s start with a whois lookup to see who registered the domain name. The answer is Alexey Nikitin, of Shevchenko Avenue 12, Odessa Ukraine. Mr Nikitin also registered Contoform.com on 18/09/2017 and gives his email address as email@example.com. The whois lookup for globaldeltatrade.com is private but I think we can safely assume it was the self-same Mr Nikitin. It was registered on 20/04/2017.
The Contoform website tells us it is “world top class textile and artificial fur material supplier” whereas Global Delta Trade says it is, oh “world top class textile and artificial fur material supplier”. Hmmm. Contoform says it is based at 145 Kilmarnock Road (but no phone number) whereas Global Delta Trade is in Dubai with a phone number of +971501414953.
Contoform LP is registered as a SLP at 145 Kilmarnock Road. It’s GP and LP are Dexberg Inc and Montbridge Inc respectively. They are also Designated Members to a whole bunch of LLPs including, by way of example, Mitasso Logistics LLP. Whose latest accounts were filed on 31/07/2017 and were signed by… yes you’ve guessed it…Ali Moulaye!!
Have you noticed that there hasn’t been a single Albanian reference yet? But there have been mentions of entities and addresses known to be associated with various laundromats.
Never mind, let’s carry on.
I decided at this point to search on the Scottish phone number (both using the international and national dialling format). That turned up two more references.
Let’s start with West Berton Impex LP. Here’s their website: http://west-berton-impex.com/
Oh look! They’re “world top class artificial fur material supplier”. Their web domain was registered by someone called Andrej Lystov who has also registered Agrotex-ltd.com and brookstar-business.com. Brookstar is no longer onlne but http://agrotex-ltd.com/ is. And it’s “world top class of agro industry and textile material supplier”! Based in UAE.
Going back to West Berton Impex, I couldn’t help noticing that they had a properly designed logo so I thought I’d see if I could find out who designed it. Deep searching google, I discovered a couple of things. One was that am image on the glbaldeltatrae.com website (on the about-us page) had a tag for West Berton Impex. I also discovered that the author of the logo design was Zalevskiy Design who advertise the West Berton Impex as part of their portfolio on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/zalevskiydesign/?hl=fr-ca). Their Instagram page is mainly written in Russian. According to Dribble they are based in Kharkiv, Ukraine (https://dribbble.com/zalevskiydesign).
What else can we find out about Brookstar? There is a site called htmlindex.com which carries statistics from websites even after they have gone offline. It can be viewed here : https://htmlindex.tips/brookstar-business.com.html
It tells us that Brookstar was hosted in Ukraine, and the site had a contact number of +380734414137. It was registered on 08/12/2016 and expired a year later. The Ukraine phone number given is also the number for a firm called Vod Marketing based on Odessa. Brookstar Business LP was registered on 26/10/2015 at 1/2 35 Taits Lane, Dundee, with GP and LP of Vectorex and Geotrans. It was dissolved on 14/02/2018. If you reverse the first name to form Starbrook (a common occurrence with these entities) you discover Starbrook Corporation LP, Starbrook Enterprises LP, Starbrook Property Company LP, Starbrook Exports LLP al registered at addresses known to be associated with laundromat companies.
There is a fourth business using the same phone number – 2love.club. It is a Ukrainian dating website and is owned by an entity called Stelsi Union LP. It has one general partner (Ruslan Molokoiedov) and four limited partners (Ievgenii Shelankov, Ilona Kuz, Svitlana Kachkan, Iuliia Ialova).
And that’s about it.
So what do we have? A lot of information which links to Ukraine (and particularly Odessa). A whole bunch of LPs and LLPs which are associated with Partners, Designated Members and registration addresses linked to laundromat activity and absolutely nothing to link any of this to Albania.
Which brings us back to where we started. Mr MUzin has dutifully declared receiving $150,000 from Biniatta Trade LP but exactly where that money originated and what it was for is much harder to say (and I’m not prepared to speculate).