Dubai Papers: 28 million euros recently arrived in Belgium on the account of a large international bank

Dubai Papers: 28 million euros recently arrived in Belgium on the account of a large international bank
Dubai Papers: 28 million euros recently arrived in Belgium on the account of a large international bank

All it took was a click of a mouse and a single movement of digital funds to connect the northern and southern hemispheres of the financial world. On January 16, an account opened in Belgium with the subsidiary of a well-known international bank was credited with 28 million euros. The transfer of this tidy sum was made the same day from the emirate of Abu Dhabi, by ADS Securities (ADSS), a private financial services company specializing in trading and wealth management. The beneficiary of this transfer is Union Offshore Ltd, a company registered since 2014 in the Marshall Islands, a small archipelago in the waters of the Pacific.

Behind the credited account, we find a certain Anastasiya Abramova, the official manager of Union Offshore. This 40-year-old Ukrainian is the wife of Iranian national Hedayatollah Bakhtari Musa (45). The rest of the story may seem straight out of a spy novel in the saga SAS. However, we were able to cross-reference it with several sources. Anastasiya Abramova’s husband is the brother and associate of Rahmatollah Bakhtari Musa (61 years old). Both secretly administer a labyrinthine network of companies spread across the four corners of the world and involved in large-scale illicit financial activities, which has put them under investigation, particularly in the United States.

And this is not new, since already in 2011, the American authorities had prosecuted them for illegal trading in Iranian oil in violation of the embargo. It was Royal Oyster Group, one of the main satellites of their business nebula, which then found itself pinned down by OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control), the body for controlling foreign financial assets, dependent on the Department of the US Treasury.

Straw Woman

From now on, to limit their exposure and obscure their sprawling business, the Bakhtari brothers are not content with juggling passports and increasing the number of places of residence on several continents, they are also sheltering behind Anastasiya Abramova, their “straw woman” . As for Union Offshore, it is part of their array of shell companies.

But that’s not all. The Bakhtaris have been in business since 2015 with quite a pair: the Korotaevs, father and son. The first, in his sixties, is a former general of the SVR, the Russian foreign intelligence service. Known to be close to the Kremlin and certain oligarchs, well-established in the French-speaking world, he has notably moved into the sulphurous arms trade in Africa. The second, named Aleksei, 38 years old, is a Russian-Swiss financier. Both entered the radar of several international investigative services. Since July 2022 and the issuance of an Interpol red notice, Aleksei Korotaev has also been the subject of an international arrest warrant issued by the Swiss judicial authorities, for “aggravated fraud, money laundering and breach of trust “. This in the context of a huge affair in which the father and son Korotaev are cited, which brings us back to Belgium: the “Dubai Papers”.

Anastasiya Abramova, the holder of the Belgian bank account into which the 28 million euros were credited. ©DR

61 Belgians caught by the tax authorities

The “Dubai Papers” is the story of a gigantic leak of internal documents at Helin International FZE, an asset management company co-founded by the Belgian prince Henri de Croÿ and installed in one of the black holes of the global finance: the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. The documents in the file, revealed in Belgium by Paris Match in 2019, as well as the investigative elements which abound, reveal the operation of a vast network of tax evasion, fraud and money laundering, thanks to which the fortunes of Hundreds of customers have escaped the tax authorities. Among these, in addition to oligarchs, Russian criminals and a few celebrities, we mainly come across business leaders, rich heirs and holders of large assets, including sixty-one Belgians.

The latter have since been caught up by the tax administration, according to which 41 million euros evaded have been recovered to date. This is thanks to the judicial investigation opened in September 2019 by the federal prosecutor’s office, which put the case under investigation a year and a half later before judge Laurence Heusghem. Outside of Belgium, separate investigations are also being carried out in France and Switzerland. However, until today, the Prince of Croÿ quietly enjoys his golden exile on the Colombian Caribbean coast where he has invested in luxury hotels. He was certainly interviewed in Brussels in the spring of 2023, in the presence of French investigators from Paris, but the man everyone points to as the mastermind of the fraud walked away free. However, is he under indictment? Have any proceedings been initiated against his alleged accomplices (associates, de facto managers of Helin, business providers, tax intermediaries, etc.)? The federal prosecutor’s office did not wish to answer our questions. As for the main person concerned, he has always declared that he only practiced legal tax optimization.

Smoke curtains

So what are the Korotaevs and others doing in the “Dubai Papers”? To understand, we have to go back to 2014, when Aleksei Korotaev left his position at the Russia desk of the “Private Banking” department of Emirates NBD. Some time later, at the beginning of 2015, he created the company Private Kapital Partners Asset Management Ltd (PKP) in Mauritius, as well as a subsidiary in the Dubai free zone where he is based, PKP Consulting.

At that time, the Russian-Swiss businessman had among his acquaintances a certain Bernard Ouazan. French, old traveling companion of Henri de Croÿ, the man then managed the business of Helin International in the Emirates. In search of opaque financial circuits, Ouazan concludes an agreement with Korotaev at the end of which Helin and PKP join forces, with the aim of creating a mutual investment fund which materializes in 2016. Helin will transfer part of the assets of his customers for an amount of 65 to 80 million euros depending on the sources. Technically, these assets were managed by ADS Securities (ADSS) and held at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank. A way of adding up the smoke curtains.

As an exchange of good practices and according to documents extracted from the “Dubai Papers” which we have, dated March and June 2015, Helin International offers to make available to Father Korotaev, within the framework of large military equipment contracts that he would have negotiated on that date with Egypt and Algeria, eight Emirati offshore accounts intended to break down hidden commissions paid to intermediaries. In addition to discreet financial structures reserved for the own use of the former high-ranking officer of the SVR.

A nonagenarian and her son convicted in the “Dubai Papers”

80 million euros gone

Afterwards, things will quickly deteriorate. From 2016, Aleksei Korotaev began embezzling sums taken from the capital entrusted to him by Helin. For an amount of 18 million euros in just a few months, which he will partly re-inject into the Dutch football club Roda of which he is then co-owner, and where he will hire the former French international as a consultant. Nicolas Anelka. The plaintiffs discovered this and took legal action in Dubai after the failure of conciliation attempts and, above all, the issuance of a bogus check which was to reimburse the stolen sum. In February 2017, Aleksei Korotaev was arrested at Dubai airport. Sentenced to three years in prison for his bad check, he was finally released after seven months.

Alexsei Korotaev in 2017 when he was co-owner of the Dutch football club Roda. (Photo by Marcel van Hoorn / ANP / AFP) ©(Photo by Marcel van Hoorn / ANP / AFP)

The fact remains that Helin’s clients holding the 18 million assets never saw them again. We do not know if any Belgians are affected. But the Swiss are. Switzerland where Korotaev has a passport valid until February 2025, which is why the federal authorities have issued an arrest warrant against him. Apprehended in Moscow in April last year, he was released three days later. Having a figure in the intelligence services as a father could undoubtedly have been useful.

In any case, certain sources now report not only the disappearance of the 18 million embezzled, but also all of Helin’s funds (80 million) blocked for a time by the Emirati justice system. ADSS, which managed it in Abu Dhabi, did not respond to our requests. Furthermore, based on information from the online investigative media Africa Intelligence and elements allegedly gathered by the Swiss prosecutor in charge of the investigation, Maria Vinogradova, it appears that Aleksei Korataev and Anastasiya Abramova (in relationship since 2016) would have actually secretly agreed to get their hands on Helin’s jackpot.

Did they finally succeed? Do the 28 million euros transferred at the start of the year by ADS Securities to Anastasiya Abramova’s Belgian Union Offshore Ltd account come from money stolen from the Prince de Croÿ’s clients? And in this case, why land them in Belgium? These questions remain unanswered for the moment and the protagonists of this financial intrigue have not wished to react.

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