Call for inquiry into firm’s Russian links
Republican lawmakers in the United States have called for an investigation into a Bermudian-based firm they accuse of using Russian money to disrupt the fracking industry.
However, Wakefield Quin, who represent the company, called the allegations “completely false”, adding that the company has no Russian connection whatsoever.
“Attorneys, law firms, financial institutions and all other companies based in Bermuda operate under a regulatory and anti-money laundering regime which applies standards which are among the highest in the world,” a spokesman said.
“Illicit movement of funds falls well below such standards and any informed party would understand that. Not only is there no substance or truth to such allegations in this case, the allegations appear to be intended to damage the reputation of the Bermuda-based individuals and businesses named.”
According to the Washington Times, House Science, Space and Technology Committee chairman Lamar Smith and energy sub-committee chairman Randy Weber have urged Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to investigate claims that Russia has been funding a “propaganda campaign” against fossil fuels.
In a statement, Mr Smith said Russia had been using Bermudian-based shell companies to support US environmental groups targeting hydraulic fracking. “This scheme may violate federal law and certainly distorts the US energy market,” he said. “The American people deserve to know the truth and I am confident Secretary Mnuchin will investigate the allegations.”
The Republicans noted claims that Russian entities may have used Bermuda-based Klein Ltd to fund the Sea Change Foundation in San Francisco, which in turn provided support for anti-fracking groups such as the Sierra Club.
“Russian government and complicit parties have executed a political agenda with little or no paper trail,” the letter stated. “By incorporating in Bermuda, Klein is not required to disclose its donors' identities or countries of origin.”
Claims that Klein has been using Russian funds to support anti-fracking organisations arose in 2014 when a report by the US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee raised concerns.
The committee's report on Klein — which includes a reference to local law firm Wakefield Quin's — said: “None of this foreign corporation's funding is disclosed in any way.
“This is clearly a deceitful way to hide the source of millions of dollars that are active in our system, attempting to effect political change.”
In a statement, Wakefield Quin fiercely denied the allegations, calling the claims “completely false and irresponsible”.
A spokesman said: “Our firm has represented Klein since its inception, and we can state categorically that at no point did this philanthropic organisation receive or expend funds from Russian sources or Russian-connected sources and Klein has no Russian connection whatsoever.”
The spokesman also noted that Bermuda and the US had an information exchange framework in place that allows the US Government, regulators and law enforcement agencies to have access concerning financial transactions in Bermuda and by Bermuda entities.
“Through this framework, information is available to such proper authorities, enabling them to be satisfied as to the probity of any alleged payments,” he added.
“Making false allegations about such payments is actionable and Wakefield Quin Limited will take such steps as it deems appropriate to prevent the distribution and dissemination of such falsehoods.”
Klein Ltd was incorporated in Bermuda in 2011 “exclusively for philanthropic purposes” and a statement to the Registrar of Companies said that none of the earnings would go to private shareholders or individuals and that it did not propose to carry out business on the island.