: Guardian: Offshore in central London: the curious case of 29 Harley Street

19:33 Apr. 19, 2016

Guardian: Offshore in central London: the curious case of 29 Harley Street

An engraved street sign for Harley Street is pictured on August 21, 2015 in London, England (Getty Images)

Why has this prestigious address been used so many times as a centre for elaborate international fraud? 

(...) If it was difficult for a Brit to discover that a registered address at 29 Harley Street was meaningless, it was even harder for a Ukrainian.

In the early years of Viktor Yanukovych's presidency, investigative journalists in Kyiv could see that a piece of state-owned land in a forest outside the capital had been illegally privatised, but they did not know who by.

The lakeside property, which was near the village of Sukholuchya, was transformed in the years after Yanukovych was elected in 2010 into a luxury residence, complete with a shooting range, chapel, yacht harbour, outdoor barbecue area, and more. 

The owner was clearly rich and influential, but any attempt to definitively track down his identity came up against Astute Partners Limited, registered at 29 Harley Street, legal owner of the Ukrainian company that owned the land. Astute Partners was owned by Blythe (Europe), another Harley Street company, which was in turn owned by P&A Corporate Services Trust, registered at the Liechtenstein offices of an Austrian lawyer named Reinhard Proksch. 

Read also Special Report: What's next for ex-president Yanukovych's lavish Ukrainian palace?

Why would a wealthy Ukrainian want to own property via central London? According to Borys Danevych, a Ukrainian lawyer who has himself struggled to identify the owners of shell companies while investigating corporate structures, a key reason 29 Harley Street was chosen as a base was that it looked prestigious, but in reality was just a front. Full story 

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