The Anti-Corruption Foundation * of Alexei Navalny has an American clone – the Massachusetts-registered Anti-Corruption Foundation, Inc. (ACF) It is headed by the ex-head of the FBK ** headquarters Leonid Volkov and the FBK executive director Vladimir Ashurkov. The management also includes the former co-owner of Probusinessbank, Alexander Zheleznyak, who is accused in Russia of embezzling 28 billion rubles from the bank. This became known to RT from documents published in the register of legal entities of the state of Massachusetts. According to experts, the new fund is needed by Navalny’s supporters to receive donations through the Stripe payment service and receive grants from American government organizations.
Non-profit organization Anti-Corruption Foundation, Inc. was opened as recently as July 27, 2021, in Massachusetts, according to an extract from the register of legal entities (opencorporates.com) of the state. According to these data, Leonid Volkov, Vladimir Ashurkov and Alexander Zheleznyak are listed as directors of the fund. At the same time, Volkov became president of the ACF, Ashurkov – vice president and treasurer.
It is noteworthy that all three have been declared internationally wanted by Russian law enforcement agencies. Ashurkov has been searched for since 2014 on charges of embezzling 10 million rubles in collecting donations in favor of Navalny. Volkov was put on the wanted list in February this year on charges of involving teenagers in illegal rallies.
Russian investigators have been looking for Zheleznyak, co-founder of Probusinessbank, since 2017 on charges of embezzling 28 billion rubles from Probusinessbank and the associated financial group Life.
- RIA News
- © Valery Levitin
Zheleznyak actually caused damage to the Russian budget, because the losses caused by him were reimbursed by the State Deposit Insurance Agency, according to Ilya Remeslo, a lawyer and author of the Navalny Leaks project. That is, Zheleznyak, according to the expert, is himself an example of those with whom FBK is fighting.
“As for Zheleznyak. This is an absolutely amazing case when anti-corruption fighters make one of the leaders of the FBK a person implicated in a particularly large-scale theft, ” Craft told RT. – Iron ore with tens of billions stolen from the state bought a mansion in which FBK “sheltered”.
To Manhattan – by proxy
Massachusetts ACF is registered as a “foreign corporation” – this is the term used in the United States to describe a company that does business in a state or jurisdiction other than the one in which it was originally incorporated. The Massachusetts foundation received this status because it is a branch of the New York foundation of the same name.
“For activities abroad and the development of foreign donations, as well as for the implementation of activities in another state of the United States, it is necessary to register a foreign corporation, – explained Ilya Remeslo. “Navalny’s employees first registered an internal legal entity in New York, and then its division in Massachusetts, which is already referred to as a foreign corporation.”
The ACF New York was named on May 19, 2021. However, the organization itself appeared back in April 2020 and at that time was called Rikolto, LTD.
The name change came a month after the Russian prosecutor’s office filed a lawsuit to recognize Navalny’s FBK as an extremist organization. According to an extract from the register of legal entities of the state, Leonid Volkov has been the president of the New York ACF since at least July 27.
At the same time, dozens of companies of various profiles are registered at the original address of Rikolto in Brooklyn.
“Most likely, the changes in the documents indicate that in May 2021 the New York legal entity was re-registered as FBK employees. I am sure this happened without traveling to the United States, on the Internet – through an electronic certificate and a power of attorney, ” explained RT a specialist in the search for foreign assets on condition of anonymity. – This is a common practice in the States: a law firm opens a firm for itself, which it then resells. It is more convenient for the buyer than spending money on registration from scratch. “
Based on the above, it can be assumed that the founders of the American version of FBK simply bought the “ready-made” Rikolto from local lawyers and re-registered it to themselves.
At the same time, the organization changed its legal address from Brooklyn to Manhattan. The New York office is now located in the Financial District at 85 Broad Street. On the same street is the New York Stock Exchange and the former headquarters of JP Morgan Bank. From the new office of FBK, ten minutes walk to the 9/11 Memorial at the site of the collapse of the Twin Towers.
The office where FBK is located is a 30-storey 12-sided building. Until 2009, the office of Goldman Sachs was located here. The building is now used as a business center.
Under the wing of a fugitive banker
Two months after the name change, in July 2021, the New York Foundation opened a branch in Massachusetts. The fact of registration is confirmed by a copy of the certificate of a foreign corporation issued by the Massachusetts authorities, which contains the signatures of its registration agent (responsible for the connection of the non-resident company with the state bodies of the jurisdiction of registration) Alexander Zheleznyak and President Leonid Volkov.
The document specifies “participation in anti-corruption and human rights projects in the United States, Russia, Europe and the rest of the world” as the goals of creating the organization.
The address of the corporation is also indicated – 88 Cutler Lane, Chestnut Hill.
According to open databases of ads for the sale of real estate, this is a mansion with an area of 2279 sq. m. As the Russian media wrote, in 2016 the house was bought by the banker’s wife Olga Zheleznyak for $ 4.4 million. The existence of such a deal is confirmed by data from US real estate websites. The Checkpeople online database also attributes this address to Olga and Alexander Zheleznyak.
The purchase happened a year before a criminal case was opened in Russia on embezzlement from Probusinessbank, which belonged to Zheleznyak. According to investigators, the money was stolen through a fictitious lending scheme: Probusinessbank issued deliberately bad loans to shell companies. From there, the money, under the guise of buying illiquid securities, went to offshore companies controlled by top management. The funds withdrawn in this way were used to buy real estate abroad.
Companions of Navalny, one after another, move abroad. Some, like Volkov and Ashurkov, have lived outside of Russia for a long time. In 2021, most of FBK’s key employees settled in the Eurozone and CIS countries.
- RIA News
- © Maria Nakhmanovich
But the opposition chose the United States to open a new “head office”.
“America was chosen for several reasons. One of them is that they need a legal entity to conclude a contract with the American company Stripe, which is the operator of payments received by the foreign FBK, ”Ilya Remeslo said.
Indeed, in early August, Volkov announced a new method of accepting donations through the Stripe service as a safe and anonymous option to help the fund.
“We have completely abandoned the Russian banking system, <…> financial infrastructure, ”Volkov said on YouTube.
- RIA News
- © Evgeny Odinokov
FBK turned to online payment service Stripe after the court recognized the fund and its associated NGOs as extremist organizations in June 2021. For financing an extremist organization, a citizen of the Russian Federation may be subject to criminal liability. Therefore, FBK began to look for ways to protect their ordinary sponsors, whose donations make up 22% of the total fund budget (the remaining 78% were contributed by the fund’s employees themselves and large businessmen from abroad, RT found out).
In fact, Stripe tracks every donor to FBK, information security experts explained to RT, so 100% anonymity is “out of the question.”
The lack of anonymity is also confirmed by the Craft. He managed to find a new legal entity of FBK in the USA precisely through the form of payment for a donation in PayPal – it is indicated as the recipient of the funds.
“This information is displayed in bank statements, therefore, it is available to law enforcement officers,” Craftslo wrote in his Telegram channel. – Then everything is elementary – through Rosfinmonitoring requests will be sent to Russian banks on the data of payments and information about donors will be received.
The second reason for the move overseas Craft called “patronage” of Navalny’s supporters from the United States.
“The United States traditionally patronizes Navalny and his team, they have long-standing ties there – even from the moment when Navalny received grants from NED *** (National Endowment for Democracy. – RT) and studied at Yale University, like Volkov himself, ”the lawyer said.
Finally, according to the expert, the American company is “ideal for receiving grants” from American government funds.
The role of the banker Zheleznyak, according to the expert, may not be limited to one participation in the fund’s management.
“I believe that he also sponsors the FBK at the expense of the stolen money,” says Remeslo. – According to my information, American special services are working with Zheleznyak. It seems that the FBK was handed over to him as a load, in exchange for cover from being extradited to Russia. “
The craft regards this as proof of the FBK’s connection with American government agencies, interference in the internal affairs of Russia. He intends to give a legal assessment of this situation.
“I intend to apply to the State Duma commission, which is investigating foreign interference, as well as to the Foreign Ministry and the Prosecutor General’s Office,” Remeslo said in an interview with RT. “It is necessary to ask our American partners questions: on what basis do they cover up corrupt officials and use them to interfere in the affairs of Russia?”
* The Anti-Corruption Foundation is included in the register of NPOs performing the functions of a foreign agent, by decision of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation dated 09.10.2019. The organization is recognized as extremist, its activities are prohibited on the territory of Russia by the decision of the Moscow City Court of 06/09/2021.
** The public movement “Navalny’s Headquarters” is an organization recognized as extremist, its activities are prohibited on the territory of Russia by the decision of the Moscow City Court of 06/09/2021.
*** The National Endowment for Democracy is an organization whose activities are recognized as undesirable in the Russian Federation by the decision of the General Prosecutor’s Office of 07/28/2015.