Email This Post - Print This Post Print This Post

1871

By John Helmer, Moscow

In hot pursuit of the $3 billion fortune embezzled from Trust Bank of Moscow, English lawyers, Russian bankers, Swiss policemen, and Cypriot accountants need rest and recreation. Where better to study the evidence than in the south of France, where Benedict Worsley, son of a famous Old Bailey criminal lawyer, has refurbished an old farmhouse into luxury vacation villa. And for a weekly rental of £7,101, it’s a steal.

The tracing of cash flows out of Trust Bank in Moscow though sham loans to hundreds of company names managed in Cyprus by Worsley has led to two properties which he owns in the department of Gard, in the south of France. One, in the crook (er,  bend) of the Rhone River, at [redacted], was a medieval chateau, turned convent, turned ruin, when Worsley bought it in 2011.

Worsley is much more accommodating at another property, 79 kilometres to the northwest.

%d1%81%d0%bd%d0%b8%d0%bc%d0%be%d0%ba6

This Worsley acquired in 2008, quite early in his business association with Trust Bank of Moscow. That was a bad year for the bank. It was heading for insolvency after the third-quarter crisis of that year struck, and the Central Bank of Russia agreed to bail the bank out. It and Worsley went on to bigger and better things. For details, read this  and this.  The Trust Bank dossier, which began in December 2014 with Central Bank action to replace the management and shareholders, and Moscow police arrests of the bank’s chief financial officer, treasurer, auditor, and accountant,  can be followed here.

The UK Government is giving safe-haven to Ilya Yurov, the control shareholder of Trust Bank, and the US Government to others involved in the case. The reason for this is that the intelligence services of those governments believe that Yurov and the others  have valuable information about high-ranking Russian beneficiaries of the bank’s lending programme.

Identification of these beneficiaries is difficult.  Tracing the sham bank loans to the beneficiaries through front-company names involves lists of company names which Worsley knew much better than Yurov (below, left) and his co-shareholders, Nikolai Fetisov (centre) and Sergei Belaev (right).

%d1%81%d0%bd%d0%b8%d0%bc%d0%be%d0%ba7

Yurov has professed his innocence in the London High Court, and in Moscow newspaper interviews.  According to a Cyprus source, Yurov knew where the money started from; he didn’t know, if Worsley didn’t tell him, where it ended up.

Lists of company names through which Worsley directed and managed this cashflow have been shown to lawyers associated with the London litigation. In single-spaced typescripts, 40 names per page, the lists run alphabetically from Banff Investments Limited (Jersey registered) to Yaposha Investments Limited (Cyprus registered). Displayed on computer screens, with arrows showing how the cash moved between them, there are so many company names and movements of money, the computer screens are too small; cinemascope is required.

The names on the paper lists and computer files don’t overlap. Banff Investments, for example, has been identified on one of the Worsley lists, which names him as the trustee of this entity. The Panama Papers database shows Banff to be the centre of a network of 24 entities. Not one of their names can be found on the Worsley list where Banff was found.

%d1%81%d0%bd%d0%b8%d0%bc%d0%be%d0%ba8

Source: https://offshoreleaks.icij.org/nodes/11009161

An English-speaking source, who knows Worsley well, explains that “Worsley personally owns two  newly renovated large properties in the south of France within the same department (Gard) but about an hour and a half drive from each other. They are a private farmstead on 132 hectares of vineyards and woodlands — La Verrerie, chemin Neuf, Durfort-et-St-Martin-de-Sossenac 30170;  and a gated village castle/old convent at [redacted] purchased 2011).”

La Verrerie (lead picture) is an income-earner for Worsley. It is being advertised for rental on at least two different websites; this one, and also this one. The photographs of the property, its rooms and furnishings,   are identical, but the locations advertised are intended to mislead.

According to Trip Advisor,  Worsley’s house “is set in a landscape of long grass and gentle streams that trickle through shaded scatterings of woodland, Manoir de Soie [sic] is an honest and delicately stylish restoration of a grand French stone farmhouse. Built in 1829 [sic], the house is accessed via a long, straight dirt track at the centre of a huge 120 hectare private estate, where buzzards and eagles can be spotted swooping above ancient oak forests.” The same property, according to Oxford Private Travel, was “once a working wine estate, datingback to the medieval [sic] times, today Villa Provençal [sic] is the epitome of Provençal living. With the medieval priory [sic] and vineyards still intact, the property is more a museum of the medieval times than any old property positioned in the surrounding nature reserve.”

TripAdvisor makes clear this is an accommodation for study groups.  “This is a house that is ideal for a big reunion of family and friends in secluded luxury and relaxation, and suitably the house centres around an enormous kitchen, with a 6 metre dining table that can seat up to 30 people, and five cooking stations with two large cooker/ovens. For these events you can also make use of a smaller outhouse that can accommodate a team of catering staff.

1870a

Worsley is not responding to requests for clarification and comment.

Leave a Reply