Transparency International Russia, together with Novaya Gazeta. Europe, Meduza, Eesti Päevaleht, Transparency International – UK and Transparency International – Czech Republic, presents an investigation of the Bottle Laundromat.
The scheme uncovered by Transparency International Russia involved about 130 companies from Russia and other countries. It was used by individuals connected with the ruling Russian elite. They were not held accountable in any way.
From 2014 to 2016, Russian companies purchased injection molding machines from foreign companies, many of which actually belonged to citizens of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. However, this was an instance of trade-based money laundering (TBML). In reality, either the injection molding machines only crossed the road on paper, or the goods that were really imported were hundreds of times cheaper than those stated in declarations.
During the years when the scheme was going on, such machines were not being produced in Russia. This is why they could be imported with a zero tax rate and without paying any customs duties. But the deals faced no resistance from the customs. This suggests that even if the customs authorities were not fully participating in money laundering, they were, at the very least, turning a blind eye on the exorbitant sums stated in the declarations.
Russian and foreign banks also had to check transactions for international business activity, transaction certificates and equipment purchasing companies. Eleven of the Russian banks who participated in these operations entered the scheme just before their licenses were revoked. Later checks discovered sophisticated schemes of money laundering and, therefore, huge ‘holes’ in the capitals of these banks. The better part of the amounts siphoned off through injection molding machines is, apparently, directly related to this embezzlement. Several foreign banks in which the seller companies had accounts had already been involved in scandals concerning negligence in the performance of anti-money laundering procedures and laundering money from ex-USSR countries.
Read the investigation in full here.