Local corporate services firm dumps Russian superyacht firm linked with former KGB agent

GVZH Trustees withdrew consent to provide services to Russian superyacht which was headed to Malta


Local legal firm GVZH Advocates, which previously provided corporate services to the company that manages the Russian superyacht ‘Ragnar’ through its subsidiary GVZH Trustees, wrote to the Malta Business Registry (MBR) to inform the authorities that it ceased providing its services on 17 March.

The superyacht, estimated to be worth around €69.5 million and officially registered in Malta, has been seeking a place to berth since 30 March following Norwegian dockworkers’ refusal to refuel the vessel owned by Russian oligarch and former KGB agent Vladimir Strzhalkovsky.

While reports indicated that the Ragnar was on its way to Malta from Norway, the crew’s vessel has since rerouted towards Beirut. It is not yet known what prompted the vessel’s change in course.

The location of the ‘Ragnar’ as of 27/04/22, 11.40am

The Ragnar. Photo: Nils Junge, marinetraffic.com

Following GVZH Trustees’ letter to the Malta Business Registry, Ragnar Management Ltd will no longer use the firm’s address as its own. The firm replied to questions from The Shift: “While we cannot comment on individual cases due to our legal obligations of professional secrecy, we can say that GVZH Trustees Limited is also under a legal obligation of constantly monitoring any risks and of adopting any action that it may consider necessary or appropriate in keeping with our risk appetite as a reputable service provider.”

While Strzhalkovsky has not yet been placed on an EU sanctions list, his affiliation with Vladimir Putin has raised eyebrows, along with his massive wealth which originates mainly from a $100 million golden handshake he received from his former employer, Russian mining giant Norilsk Nickel.

Strzhalkovsky’s affiliations and business profile have drawn particular attention to his affairs as the West zeroes in on Russian money and influence within the EU, the UK and even the US following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.

The former CEO of Norilsk Nickel, Strzhalkovsky was referred to as one of the key figures in a 2011 scandal in which it was alleged that former president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, was set to be on the receiving end of a plane full of cash following his decision to concede mining and nuclear production rights to the company.

So far, the main efforts applied directly by Malta on Russian wealth have largely involved the revocation of one passport linked with a Russian defence technology company and the suspension of further passport sales to Russian and Belarussian citizens.

While Malta has no wiggle room when it comes to EU sanctions on Russian wealth, given that these become enforceable the minute all member states agree to them, it has so far steered clear of discourse on scrapping the scheme altogether or even reassessing all Russian passport buyers’ applications to determine whether any further revocations ought to occur.

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