Don’t Look Now

The UK Companies House has begun releasing its ‘beneficial owners’ registry – technically, ‘People With Significant Control‘ of enterprises registered in Britain. The data are a bit of a bear to work with, and, if you’re a Russianist, hardly worth the trouble.

Out of the nearly 11,000 entries in the registry to date, only four have Russian nationality, of whom two are domiciled in Russia, one in Switzerland and one in Ukraine. And none of them are particularly noteworthy. The same goes for the companies they control, although perhaps the names Huxby Ltd, Direkt Finanz AG Ltd, European Oil Trading Management Ltd and Unimarket International Ltd will have more meaning to others than they do to me.

Why there are so few Russians on the list is a bit of a mystery – to me, at least. The deadline for filing was 30 June 2016, but the fact that there are only some 11,000 people in the registry as a whole suggests that Russians may not be the only ones shirking. (Certainly there are more foreigners than that deeply involved in the British economy?) A bit more data mining may also turn up people who are listing second nationalities. (Cayman Islands, anyone?)

But others may still be trying to figure out the costs and benefits of ‘fessing up. If you’re a Russian who maintains a lot of activity in Russia itself, putting yourself on the UK register is likely to open up a world of liabilities back home, from taxation and political pressure to extortion and harassment (depending on who you are and what you’re up to). Then again, failing to register can bring a fine and/or up to two years in prison. As a result, many people may be waiting to see how enforcement shakes out, both in the UK and Russia.



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