May 16, 2021

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Is Russian Money a Good Ingredient for Reputation of Scottish Whiskey?

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It looks like the business sphere in Russia is living through hard times as Russians develop centuries-old Scottish traditions. Lindores is a distillery in Scotland, but its shareholders are Russian businessmen Anton Buslov, Sergei Uryadov and Sergei Fokin.

As of March 2021, these men own 85 class B shares of the company. The nominee shareholder in the company is the legal entity Spirex Ltd. These Russian connoisseurs of Scotch whiskey also own a group of Moscow companies that work in systems integration.

The Russians are not the only owners of the Lindores winery. The remaining 15 class A shares belong to founder Andrew James Mackenzie Smith and his family foundation.

Lindores Abbey Distillery: a brief digression into the history

Andrew Smith obtained ownership of the farm located in former Lindores Abbey in Scotland after his older brother’s death in 2013.

Once he and his wife got the farm, they decided to carry out excavations on its territory. They found out that this abbey was a place for alcohol distillation in the 16th century. So, they decided to renew business and restore the distillery. To fulfil the plan, they received a $6,900 grant from Business Gateway Fife.

According to preliminary data, it cost $8.64 million to launch this business, but the official building permit from the municipal institution in Glenrothes, Fife Council, tells it to cost $3.3 million. In any case, the Russians have joined the business renewal process and injected more money.

New participants entered the legal entity of the distillery in April 2015. Dmitry Morgunov became a Business Development Director; Anton Buslov and Sergei Fokin joined the company as investors. Officially, they owned their part of the business through Rubus Investment. A legal entity with the same title was founded in 2004 on the Virgin Islands and closed when the British entity was dissolved. But why would investors need the same companies in different jurisdictions? The point is that the Virgin Islands jurisdiction provides many benefits, such as low taxation, simplified documentation, and anonymity, which suits perfectly for money laundering. After Rubus Investment was dissolved, Spirex Ltd became the owner of shares at Lindores Distillery, with Dmitry Morgunov as its director.

How are Russian Investors Engaged in the Business?

It may seem like Russian investors are just nominal owners of The Lindores Distilling Co. Ltd, but they take active participation in this business. Anton Buslov carried out a chess tournament in May 2019 on the land of former Lindores Abbey. He invited the best world players Magnus Carlsen, Ding Liren, Sergey Karjakin and Vishy Anand. It was pretty smart on his part. In the Middle Ages, monks were engaged in distilling alcohol and playing chess on the site of Lindores Abbey. The quote from a history textbook says: “Two thabills wt thair men” – which means “two chessboards with chess pieces”. By organising this tournament, Buslov emphasised that their whiskey was meant for intelligent people.

Several more events carried out in Moscow also point to a connection with Russia. For example, in September 2020, they held the Lindores Abbey RVO Race in the Moscow sports club Alfa-Bitsa. Investors Fokin and Buslov with his son Yegor took part. Besides, Lindores Abbey Heritage sponsored Uryadov and Buslov’s team in the “Little Life” relay race.

In addition, whiskey production technology implies it has to stay in barrels for three years. Therefore, the first batch sale of the ready drink in bottles should have begun no earlier than 2021. But to have some profits from the start, the company sold aquavit (unripe whiskey) in the Russian capital, most likely through the involvement of Russian investors. Now there are six alcoholic boutiques and 22 restaurants, which sell unripe whiskey in Moscow.

Russian Roots of Investors’ Money

The Russian domain Lindores was registered at OOO S.O.D.A that belonged to the UBF Management company, which belonged to Buslov, Fokin, and Uryadov.

UBF Management

The company and its subsidiaries are a key link between all Russian investors in Lindores Distillery. Fokin and Uryadov founded UBF Management in 2015. The documents of the tax service of the Russian Federation show an imbalance between income and expenses. In 2018, income was $3.92 million, expenses – $90 thousand. In 2019: income – 0, expenses – $5.61 million. It does not look like a decent business at all.

Because of the above situation, UBF partnered with Andrey Korobov. He is actively engaged in the energy sector. He is also the ex-head of the state investment fund of the Republic of Tatarstan (a subsidiary of the State Corporation “Rostech”).

Moscow Companies of Investors

Avilex (50/50)

The company is engaged in the system integration of information and audiovisual technologies. It won government tenders for $514.17 million during seven years (between 2014 and 2021). In 2015-16, the little-known company Avilex turned out the most prominent IT supplier in the Russian capital with only 89 employees. During this period, the company provided services for a total amount of $79 million, which significantly exceeded similar companies’ figures for the same period: $52.72 million and $32.95 million.

In May last year, Avilex received a government order without competition, so they provided 11 thousand personal computers for the Moscow Department of Information Technologies.

Tanto-C (50/50)

Tanto-C provides design and development services for information solutions. The company received five government orders for $2.06 in 2015-2017. Its employees were responsible for technical support for the development of the industrial control system for the Moscow region.

Project Support (50/50)

The company is a system integrator implementing complex projects in the field of information and audiovisual technologies. It received a total of $166.83 million from the government between 2015 and 2021. In February of this year, the company became a defendant in court because of not fulfilling its obligations to the Moscow Information Technology Department for the amount of $1.698 million. The case is pending in the arbitration court now.

All of the companies we mentioned operate in the same area. The question is, why do they create competing firms? In an ordinary world, this would be pointless, but it makes sense in corruption schemes in the Moscow budget. At the same time, it is worth mentioning that Buslov was deputy director-general of the Granit Center between 2001 and 2017. It is a subsidiary of the Moscow City Property Department. That is where Fokin spent the time in the economics deputy post in 2009

This story opens too many weird coincidences that show Buslov’s involvement in Avileks and the Granit Center. These two companies seem to operate solely in Moscow, while numerous tenders won by UBF companies have been for Moscow authorities. As one famous Russian propagandist would say, “Is it a coincidence? Not sure.”

Fairly speaking, there are too many big coincidences in this chain, proving that Russians are actively developing a whiskey business in Scotland using the Moscow city budget. Has Russia run out of business opportunities so that they began to master traditional Scotland craft?

One way or another, this Russian venture affects the development of the Scottish industry positively. Russian investments allow residents to develop the wine business and continue the centuries-old traditions of their ancestors. It doesn’t matter where the money comes from, or does it?

 

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Is Russian Money a Good Ingredient for Reputation of Scottish Whiskey?

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2021-04-28 19:45:26

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