Luxembourg businessman covered up Russian leadership’s money laundering channel

 Before November, Luxembourg-born Patrick Hansen was best known as the CEO of a private aircraft manufacturing company that flew luminaries such as King Charles III and members of the Belgian royal family. Source: OCCRP

Key Findings

  • Hansen has been the owner or director of over 110 companies registered in countries around the world, including well-known secrecy havens like Belize, the British Virgin Islands, and Luxembourg.
  • Many of the companies he directed had Russian owners. One belonged to the family of a legislator from the ruling United Russia party and was used to manage staff for a yacht.
  • Another, whose owner is hidden, had a large Russian real-estate portfolio and $99 million in cash on hand.
  • The firms also tie Hansen to a former Gazprom executive, an Iraqi businessman implicated in a corruption scandal, a former KGB agent, and the father-and-son owners of one of Russia’s largest underwater pipeline builders.
  • The aircraft company Hansen runs, Luxaviation, got nearly 100 million euros in loans from the pipeline tycoons, fueling its expansion from a small European firm to a business with global reach.
  • Experts say someone who appears as a director for hundreds of companies is likely a proxy.

Then the lawsuit he filed against the Luxembourg registry of companies brought him to the public’s attention for very different reasons. Hansen opposed new EU anti-money laundering rules requiring all companies to publicly disclose their owners, arguing that his security could be compromised if the public knew what companies he owned. The Court of Justice of the European Union agreed, ruling in his favor.

Transparency advocates condemned the ruling, which made it much harder to trace dirty or questionable money. OCCRP and other investigative agencies have published dozens of stories about corruption that would not have been possible without access to information about company ownership.

Journalists also wondered why Hansen was so concerned about covering his tracks. After all, his role at Luxaviation was well-publicized. Why did he refuse to declare him the owner? OCCRP and its partners in several European countries decided to investigate.

Hansen is or was a director or owner of at least 117 companies in Luxembourg, the British Virgin Islands, Belize, the Bahamas, and elsewhere in the world.

Valery Kolikov is a wealthy Russian businessman who owns one of Russia’s biggest subsea pipeline companies and has done business with Hansen in different ways. In 2016, after receiving a state award, he posed with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Valeriy Kolikov, a wealthy Russian businessman who owns one of Russia’s biggest underwater pipeline companies and has partnered with Hansen in various businesses, poses with Russian President Vladimir Putin after receiving a state decoration in 2016.

His leadership ties him to two wealthy Russian businessmen in the gas business, including one who played

A key role in the construction of the strategically important Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. One of these businessmen and his son also gave Luxaviation a loan of almost 100 million euros, which helped the company quickly grow from a small European company into a global private jet company.

Much of that money went into Luxaviation’s accounts through companies based in the British Virgin Islands and Cyprus, jurisdictions where ownership information is hidden under the same veil of corporate secrecy Hansen fought for in the European Union.

In another case, companies run by Hansen and owned by the former head of a subsidiary of Gazprom, a Russian state energy concern, helped transfer millions between the British Virgin Islands, Luxembourg, and the United Kingdom through opaque loan agreements for reasons that remain unclear. Other companies Hansen runs are linked to the family of a former Russian governor and an Iraqi businessman involved in a major corruption scandal.

The large number of companies in which Hansen is involved, especially those in offshore jurisdictions, suggests that he may be acting as a proxy, covering up companies on behalf of someone else rather than doing real business, and helping to hide the flow of funds. Graham Barrow is a money laundering expert.

“When someone’s name appears as a director of multiple companies, and even more so when that number is approaching a hundred, it’s just impossible to act as an executive for all of them,” he said after reviewing the OCCRP findings. “In my experience, this number of directors is closely tied to the fact that some are “proxies,” while others are actually acting behind the scenes.”

Conrad Duffy, an expert on financial crime at the German nonprofit Finanzwende, offered a similar assessment. “It’s hardly possible to run a hundred companies at once,” he said, calling Hansen’s large number of directors “suspicious.”

Hansen and his business partners seem to have taken advantage of places like the British Virgin Islands that promise to keep business information secret. Before Luxembourg set up its beneficial owner registry in 2019 to follow new EU rules, it was a safe haven in its own right.

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