The Delfi story has another British nuance. LPs are often said to exist only on paper, as a means to open a bank account. But sometimes it is not obvious that they have even a paper existence.
Take Mister Drake PC. According to Companies House, the entity was dissolved months before Delfi beached. And then, amid a flurry of filings at the UK corporate registry, Mister Drake seemingly re-animated in the spring of 2019 with a new address in the outskirts of London – rather than an office near Cardiff railway station – and new anonymously owned partners.
How can this be? There is no way of striking off dissolved limited partnerships from Companies House. Instead, these entities can continue to live on, like zombies – stalking, in our case, Ukrainian business.
“Shell companies have introduced a whole new legacy of sleaze to the UK’s international reputation,” says online anti-money-laundering investigator Dylan Kennedy, of Intelpool Limited, who has traced many companies, including zombie LPs. “Here we have yet another disposable, unmanned UK registered corporate entity that is no longer alive but somehow refusing to die.”
So who does own the Delfi? The representative of Mister Drake PC cited in court papers in Ukraine is Yuri Golikov, a local businessman. openDemocracy was unable to reach him for comment.
But Dumskaya, an online Odesa newspaper, which has catalogued the Delfi saga, has named another businessman as the tanker’s owner: Oleg Kovtunov, an associate of Golikov. Kovtunov was once a regional councillor for the political party of Viktor Yanukovych, the Ukrainian president who was ousted in 2014 and is now living in exile in Russia.
A 2020 investigation by Ukrainian TV channel Pryamyi also claimed that Golikov, in conversation with their journalists, had confirmed that Kovtunov was the owner.
Prior to Ukraine’s local elections in October 2020, the country’s current president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said he would name Delfi’s real owner. “We found the beneficiaries. We will not give you the name of the political party [now], as they’ll say that I named it before the elections,” he said in September. Zelenskyy is still yet to name the Delfi’s owners.