Radio Free never takes money from corporate interests, which ensures our publications are in the interest of people, not profits. Radio Free provides free and open-source tools and resources for anyone to use to help better inform their communities. Learn more and get involved at radiofree.org

The World Bank has blacklisted an anonymously owned UK shell firm after exposing “fraudulent practices” in an emergency medical aid programme.

In the latest blow to the reputation of British corporate governance, the lender has banned Edinburgh-registered NovoLine Resources LP from bidding in its procurement processes for three and a half years.

The move came after an investigation into contracts the firm won to supply vital equipment to Uzbekistan’s health ministry.

Officials at the World Bank, which was funding the purchases, found that NovoLine Resources had submitted fake documents, including false financial statements and a false past sales contract to supply similar kit.

“It is shocking but perhaps unsurprising to see yet more reports of Limited Partnerships registered in the UK being used for illicit purposes abroad,” said Glasgow Central MP Alison Thewliss, the SNP’s shadow chancellor, when asked about NovoLine Resources.

“By continuing to turn a blind eye, the UK government is essentially complicit in facilitating this type of activity,” Thewliss added. “It has to get a grip on this problem and fast, if it cares at all about the UK’s reputation as an honest place to do business.”

The ban on NovoLine Resources – formalised at the end of 2020 – came two years after another global agency, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) disbarred four Scottish shell firms for “fraud” or “fraud and collision” in Uzbekistan aid schemes.

Like NovoLine Resources, the four the businesses blacklisted by the UNDP were Scottish limited partnerships or SLPs.

These once-rare partnerships have been dubbed “Britain’s home-grown secrecy vehicles” by anti-corruption campaign group Transparency International.

There has long been concern about the use of SLPs and other British and international shell firms, especially limited liability partnerships, in Uzbekistan.

Experts believe such businesses – which can be bought online for as little as a thousand euros – are used as a way of hiding beneficial ownership that is more likely to lie ultimately in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, than in Edinburgh or London.

Citations

[1] United Nations blacklists Scottish firms after international aid fraud | HeraldScotland ➤ https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/16383510.united-nations-blacklists-scottish-firms-international-aid-fraud/[2] Scottish Limited Partnerships - “UK’s home-grown secrecy vehicle” - more set up last year than preceding century | Transparency International UK ➤ https://www.transparency.org.uk/scottish-limited-partnerships-uk-s-home-grown-secrecy-vehicle-more-set-last-year-preceding-century