Operate a system that allows you to obtain a British residence permit and subsequently citizenship, immigrants from Russia. British officials turn a blind eye to fictitious companies – conveyors of work and business visas. Among the clients were the nephews of the singer Zemfira * (included in the register of foreign agents by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation) and the grandson of the crime boss Ded Khasan.
After the start of the special operation, it became even more difficult for Russians to obtain any UK visa – this was recorded by the Russian Foreign Ministry, which stated that such a dismissive attitude towards Russians was “absolutely unacceptable.” According to official British statistics, long-term work visas are the main way for migrants to stay in the country. After 10 years, they can apply for citizenship. The most difficult thing for those who want to emigrate to England this way is to find their profession in the list of those required by this country and find an employer who is ready to become a “sponsor” of the visa.
But there are loopholes: you can arrange visa sponsorship with local lawyers or open a company yourself with their help and issue an invitation in your name (self-sponsorship), especially since the process of “self-sponsorship” has been simplified since 2020.
Ivanna Shevlyakova is a London-based immigration lawyer based in Moscow who works through her own firm, Law Firm Limited. Shevlyakova has been helping visitors settle in the UK since the early 2000s, according to her reputation and LinkedIn profile. The name of the lawyer surfaced in the press in connection with an investigation into the influence of the American National Endowment for Democracy (the organization’s activities were declared undesirable in Russia by decision of the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation) in Kazakhstan: in London, Shevlyakova helps pro-American journalist Irina Petrushova deal with cases. Shevlyakova’s partner is another London lawyer from Russia, Oleg Degtyarev.
As the Octagon found out, Shevlyakova and Degtyarev have set up a whole conveyor of companies for the employment of migrants. Their scheme is eloquently illustrated by the leapfrog of directors in one of Shevlyakova’s own companies. In her beauty salon Vinokurov Studio London Limited, managers often change: top managers at different times have become Chinese, a citizen of Macau, a Kazakh, a Russian – just the target audience of the Law Firm Limited website.
The peculiarity of Vinokurov Studio London (VSL) is that the project has some signs of real activity, a physical address and a website. But this business is more dead than alive. Posts in social networks, even until 2021, were published with long breaks, and after that they stopped appearing at all. The legal entity depicts activity: in the spring of 2022, the address of the company changed in the register, but it remained the same on its website. Six months ago, the clients of the salon wrote that they could not get through to him, and two years earlier, one of the clients complained that no one answered her phone. Now the answer to this question is clear: the “barbershop” is needed to “cut” other customers.
In the photographs of the “clients” Shevlyakova herself often flashed. From year to year, her Vinokurov Studio London Limited submits modest balance sheets that differ little from each other, officials periodically threaten to close the company for non-delivery of accounts, as follows from entries in the corporate register. It seems that the new site works specifically for officials (the old site and address are indicated in social media accounts).
Hundreds of firms: migrants, like passengers, are transferred from one to another
Law Firm Limited is listed as a secretary in over 300 companies. They are mostly registered at the mass registration address where the law firm itself is located (3rd floor of building number 180, Tottenham Court Road), and have signs of immigration incubators. The life of these legal entities is two to four years (on average, work visas are issued just for four years). If the organization exists longer, then often notices of a “sleeping company” are sent to the regulator or meager losses or incomes are declared.
The directors-owners of such companies do not have British citizenship, they are mainly immigrants from the countries of the former USSR, mainly Russians, Kazakhs, Ukrainians, Moldovans. Separately, you can highlight the Italians and the Chinese.
In the documents, the same people are mentioned several times: as part of the “carousel”, they are transferred from one company to another.
Entrepreneurial Russian lawyers in London are not limited to the activities of Law Firm Limited: they have a legal entity Law Firm Ltd, which also acts as a secretary in two dozen companies. Officially, the group of companies of Shevlyakova and Degtyarev (Law Firm, Law Firm Ltd, Law Firm Financial Services Ltd, LF Realty Ltd, LF Legal Ltd) earns relatively little – about 1 million pounds a year, but the business is consistently profitable. On their website, Shevlyakova and Degtyarev note that since 2000 they have helped thousands of clients.
Legalization in London “under the phonogram”
Well-known and wealthy Russians apparently disdain such a “rubber apartment” for Shevlyakova. However, clients with known relatives do meet. For example, in the created incubators, you can find Omar Faroyan, the grandson of crime boss Aslan Usoyan, nicknamed Ded Khasan. Two of his business projects also look like fictitious ones.
The nephews of the singer Zemfira * – the twins Arthur and Artyom Ramazanov – left Russia in 2016. In the UK corporate register over the past six years they have appeared as founders and directors of five companies ((1), (2), (3), (4)).
Nedotrogi LLP, owned by the brothers, existed from 2017 to 2019. The register does not even contain notes about what the organization was doing, the only financial report was submitted with zeros in all columns. The company was also represented by Law Firm Limited in state bodies.
Their company Ostram Limited was listed in the register only in 2017-2018, with a specialization in the construction of residential buildings. Then, in 2017-2021, the Ramazanovs’ company Ain’t No Messing Around Ltd was listed as operating (the secretary in it was Shevlyakova’s Law Firm Limited again), specializing in show business – and again zero declarations and voluntary liquidation, except perhaps in some at that moment, 200 thousand pounds sterling was immovably put into the company’s account. It was this amount that appeared in the requirements for an entrepreneurial visa.
The current legalization of the 33-year-old Ramazanovs is concluded in the legal entity Epsilon VSL Limited. This company belongs to the aforementioned salon Vinokurov Studio London Limited, the secretary of the firm is Law Firm Limited, and the Ramazanovs work as directors. Prior to Epsilon VSL Limited, there was a corporate entity owned by the brothers, Gamma VSL Limited, with the same secretary.
These companies “stick” to the “hairdressing” business, and in their statements there are 200 thousand pounds sterling in the account, which, apparently, flowed from one organization to another.
Previously, Shevlyakova organized the company Alpha VSL Limited, where Vali Khusnutdinov, a Kazakh businessman of Tatar origin, and Irina Fedyanina associated with him were acquired. Now they are listed as directors of the main company – a beauty salon. Beta VSL Limited worked for Asian clients. There is also Delta VSL Limited – for Vyacheslav Menshutin, a businessman from the Russian insurance industry.
For investment, business and work visas, citizenship is usually obtained after 5-10 years of legal stay in the country – the legislation contains many options, the so-called visa routes, which often change. There are also faster ways: according to the Global Talent visa program, the British can be accepted to the British in a year, this is how Boris Akunin received citizenship. But not everyone is so talented.