Prigozhin’s Unsanctioned Offshore Companies Linked to the UK and the EU

A grand jury indicted him for interfering with the 2016 U.S. election, sanctioned his brutal private military force Wagner Group for atrocities committed in Africa and Ukraine and blacklisted several international companies linked to him.

Putin visits PrigozhinRussian President Vladimir Putin (L) with Yevgeny Prigozhin (R). (Photo: Government of the Russian Federation, Wikimedia, License)But one appears to have slipped through the cracks.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, known also as “Putin’s chef” because of his Kremlin-serving catering business, could be behind an international shipping firm called Flash Asia which transports goods between Russia and China.

The company is tied to Preghozin’s associate, U.S.-sanctioned Igor Lavrenkov, who according to the U.S. government served as the founder, shareholder and director of a number of Preghozin-controlled companies in Hong Kong and Thailand. Those firms maintained Preghozin’s private plane and his activities in Sudan through M Invest - the sole shareholder of Preghozin’s Sudanese entities such as Meroe Gold.

Lavrenkov created Beijing Flash Asia at the same Hong Kong-based office address as the sanctioned companies. According to its website, the company’s main office is in Moscow and it has branches in China, Europe and the U.S.

OCCRP struggled to obtain more information about the company from Beijing, but the connection between Flash Asia and Lavrenkov was more easily confirmed through Flash Asia’s Slovakia office in Bratislava. 

The Slovakian corporate registry lists him and Alexander Ushchev as partners and contributors and confirms the connection between Flash Asia and Beijing Flash Asia.

Both Lavrenkov and Ushchev listed citizenship on corporate documents as St Kitts - a secrecy jurisdiction that offers “citizenship in exchange for a humble investment.”

Flash Asia also operates under alternative names: CargoAir, CargoRailCargoEuro, and CargoAvto.

Ushchev has a Scottish LP - Ledford Experts, registered in the U.K. The company is allegedly involved in a range of corruption acts in Europe. Bellingcat identified the LP partners as having been involved in identity theft.

OCCRP has reached out for comment to Mikhail Potepkin who was recently sanctioned by the EU for his affiliation with Prigozhin and the Wagner Group’s activities in Sudan through Meroe Gold, which OCCRP has revealed in another investigation published end of last year.

Asked whether Preghozin controlled the companies and what they were used for, Potepkin replied after a few days on WhatsApp.

“Excuse me, are you feeling alright?” he asked the reporter. “I answered you last time that I am absolutely not interested in cooperating with you! Why do you think something has changed? Please don't bother me anymore.”