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Could Northern Ireland become “the new Panama”?


The Northern Irish ghost companies that mask crime worldwide - Exploitation of workers, corruption and money-laundering, all kept in the shadows by lax regulation

  1. There are signs that Northern Ireland’s role in far-flung fraud and corruption is being noticed elsewhere. In January, the Police Service of Northern Ireland raided more than a dozen addresses in connection with international money-laundering schemes worth approximately £215 million.
  2. Claire Hanna, Social Democratic and Labour Party MP for South Belfast said,
    1. without “urgent action” and “meaningful regulation” Northern Ireland “could become, like Panama, a jurisdiction where blind eyes are turned to money from shady places”.

Lobbying and laundromats

  1. Northern Ireland limited partnerships have been used in secretive transactions around the world. One NILP featured in a secret lobbying row in Ukraine where a former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, used it to fund an influence operation in the US.
  2. Ukrainian investigators have also looked into embezzlement, and tax evasion scheme reported to have defrauded local farmers of $200 million worth of produce. The scheme was allegedly run by an executive working for the Ukrainian subsidiary of US grain-trading giant Bunge. Last year a Newry-registered firm called Norinvest Universal was named in connection with the investigation alongside other shell companies, including Scottish limited partnerships.
  3. Another NILP, the now-dissolved Jasterport, was named alongside other Northern Irish, Scottish, English and international entities in a report into a massive theft of government funds in Moldova. Kroll said Jasterport, which was registered in Newry, received suspicious funds out of Moldova.
  4. Kroll found that Spectra Ventures and Vercell Solutions, both registered in Belfast’s leafy Botanics Avenue, had received Moldovan funds. Kroll identified €140 million euros at the latter LLP.
  5. Another Northern Irish LLP, Drayscott Overseas, also turned up in the Kroll’s Moldova report. This firm, also registered on Botanic Avenue, has since dissolved. But not before being named in yet another major investigation, this time by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). Drayscott received at least £145 million in money through what the OCCRP dubbed the Russian Laundromat, one of the biggest schemes to clean dirty money ever identified.
  6. OCCRP stresses that receiving money is not evidence of criminality. Drayscott, as an LLP rather than a NILP, should have filed accounts. But it did not last long enough to do so.



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