‘Capitalism only triumphs when it becomes identified with the state, when it becomes the state.’– Fernand Braudel
Following the election of Donald Trump and claims of Russian meddling during his campaign, a privatisation deal of Russia’s state-owned oil company Rosneft caught the media’s attention: despite sanctions, some €10 billion had been invested in Rosneft via a Singapore-based shell company, representing a 20 per cent stake in the oil giant.
Rosneft argued that the investment was a simple joint venture between the Qatari Investment Authority and Swiss oil trader Glencore, but the numbers simply did not add up. Yet there is no way of knowing who owns the Rosneft stake, because the ownership is hidden in a Cayman Island’s shell company.
Like many large deals, the Rosneft privatisation uses a structure of shell companies owning shell companies’ across offshore jurisdictions. In this case it left a dead-end paper trail from Qatar and Switzerland to