Alexei Navalny, the leader of Russia’s off-parliament opposition and the head of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, a Russian nonprofit organization based in Moscow, has announced its liquidation. It also means that he is losing the possibility of money laundering.
The Anti-Corruption Foundation is a non-profit organization with a somewhat ambiguous reputation. Its members and top executives position the foundation as a group of people who are interested in honest investigative and anti-corruption activities. However, a different opinion can be found in the media as well. For example, Vitaliy Serukanov, the former deputy head of Alexei Navalny’s Moscow headquarters and the lawyer of the foundation, said that Navalny had not produced any honest investigations. According to him, all of them were ordered. Notably, Navalny gets paid with Bitcoins for the files. The use of crypto currency makes the transactions non-transparent. One can see the volume of funds received and impersonalized wallets, but no one can know the remitter or establish whether the source from which the funds were transferred is legal. This has raised suspicions among reporters that the scheme of receiving funds of this kind might be used for money laundering.
It has been impossible to establish a connection between the bitcoins received and money laundering so far. However, in August 2019, the Investigative Committee initiated a criminal case against the foundation and Alexei Navalny under Clause 4 of Article 174 of the Criminal Code. The press service of the Investigative Committee said in a report that people associated with the Anti-Corruption Foundation, as well as its employees are suspected of transferring large amounts of money from unidentified individuals in rubles and foreign currencies through the accounts of the foundation. The transactions were disguised as donations coming to the organization as part of a permanent fundraising campaign. It is also important that in the course of the investigation the evidence of a certain flash memory card giving access to crypto currency equal to 75 mln rubles ($1,049,250) surfaced. The foundation was not able to explain how exactly it had been established and who was its sponsor. This peculiarity was highlighted by Ilya Remeslo, a member of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, in his investigation. In view of these facts, the suggestions that the liquidation of the NGO might be connected with an attempt to cover up traces of previous dubious operations sounds very probable.
Currently, Remeslo is not disavowing his earlier statements, considering the foundation to be a legal entity involved in money laundering. At the Telegram channel, he commented on its liquidation.
“Navalny has announced the liquidation of the Anti-Corruption Foundation,” writes Remeslo. “More precisely, the transition to another legal entity in order to get rid of unpleasant moments of money laundering. The checks on other non-profit organizations are underway, and Navalny is perfectly aware of the results.”
According to Remeslo, the Anti-Corruption Foundation might be replaced by the Fund for the Protection of People’s Rights, a new legal entity registered in St. Petersburg. It is headed by Olga Guseva. Remeslo described her as a rather invaluable protégé of Leonid Volkov. On Monday July 20, Navalny published a video on his YouTube channel where he announced the liquidation of the Anti-Corruption Foundation after nine years of work.
According to Navalny, the liquidation became inevitable due to the inability of the employees of Lyubov Sobol, a Russian political and public figure and the lawyer of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, Navalny himself and the foundation to pay 88 mln rubles ($1,231,120) under a lawsuit filed by the Moskovsky Shkolnik food factory.
Navalny associated the organization with Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian businessman with ties to Vladimir Putin through his catering business. Navalny made it clear that Prigozhin himself was also related to the liquidation of the fund. In addition, Navalny said that the registration of a new legal entity is underway. He urged his audience to continue providing financial support and gave an email address for the donations.