The Scottish Government has become so alarmed about such shell firms – usually limited partnerships or SLPs advertised as “zero-tax offshore companies” across eastern Europe – that the Sunday Herald can reveal that last week Finance Secretary Derek Mackay wrote to his UK counterparts urging a crackdown., said: “For some reason the interests of arms dealers from Ukraine, Russia and the Middle East – and their customers – are concentrated in Scotland.” Lavryk stressed how hard it is to get infallible information on Scottish arms links but confirmed that corrupt officials and businessmen from across the former Soviet Union – not just the so-called “arms Mafia” – use SLPs and other British “offshore structures”.
Last month one Scottish company was accused by Ukraine’s elite anti-corruption bureau of skimming profits from state arms exports to the Middle East.
Another, despite being officially dissolved, won a bid to hire armed men in the war zone of eastern Ukraine.
He cites a source as saying: “All the arms dealers gather in Scotland.
Arms billionaires live there.” Some law enforcement and political sources in Scotland have long been concerned that SLPs – which often exist only on paper – were putting this country on the radar of very serious international criminals.
But he added that there was a “specific” arms element to organised criminals who had shown an interest in Scotland.
INTERNATIONAL gun-runners are using Scotland to launder their profits, Mafia watchers in the former Soviet Union have said.Organised criminals are increasingly exploiting secretive and obscure Scottish shell firms as fronts for everything from cyber-scams to the wholesale looting of banks.SLPs are businesses that often start of their lives advertised online in eastern Europe as “Scottish offshore companies”, firms registered in Scotland but with parent companies in the world’s shadiest fiscal paradises such as Belize or Panama.The Sunday Herald last month revealed there are now more than 25,000 such firms registered, none of which has filed accounts and almost all of which have ownership in secretive offshore jurisdictions.Tax Haven Scotland We first exposed SLPs as money-laundering vehicles last year when it emerged such firms had been used to help funnel bn (£773m) allegedly stolen from Moldovan banks.The Herald and Sunday Herald have since revealed SLPs have been allegedly implicated in a Latvian scandal involving the now-jailed nephew of the president of Uzbekistan, and as fronts for websites peddling diet pills dubbed a scam, as well as sites offering to write essays for students.