Russia-born tycoon behind UK energy project was granted Companies House exemption
05 Aug 2020

A secretive Russian-born tycoon whose company has donated almost £250,000 to the Conservative Party can be identified today by The Times.

Viktor Fedotov, 73, is the ultimate owner of Aquind, which is seeking ministerial approval for plans to build a £1.2 billion undersea electricity interconnector between Britain and France.

The project, which could supply up to 5 per cent of Britain’s electricity, has been deemed a “nationally significant infrastructure project”. But until now the identity of Aquind’s ultimate owner has been hidden through a rare exemption from corporate transparency rules.

Senior Conservatives called last month for Aquind’s owner to be named amid concerns raised by the Commons intelligence and security committee about the influence of a Russian elite on British life. Five cabinet ministers or their constituency parties, including Rishi Sunak, Alok Sharma and Brandon Lewis, have received donations from Aquind or one of its directors.

Mr Fedotov, a British citizen and former senior executive in the Russian oil sector, was given anonymity by Companies House. Regulations usually require the “person with significant control” of a company to be identified. An exemption can be made only if the individual successfully argues that their security is at risk. The process is conducted behind closed doors with no opportunity for challenge. The Times understands that security and law enforcement agencies have no concerns that Mr Fedotov is “at risk”.

His identity was discovered through public records in Luxembourg related to Aquind’s holding company and he is also listed at Companies House as a former director of two other companies. Those records list his name, date of birth and full address in England.

His large redbrick country house is hidden from view half a mile along a private drive in picturesque English woodland. There are CCTV cameras, signs warning of guard dogs — but no dogs — and a new 3m-high fence. The gate, however, is wide open and visitors can approach untroubled. A planning application said the fence was needed because the woods were being used “for unsavoury behaviour”.

Locals rarely see Mr Fedotov, who is 73. Little do they know that their neighbour is an oligarch at the heart of a web of connections that link exiled Russian plutocrats, major Conservative donors, multiple members of the government, and one of the most ambitious international infrastructure projects in a generation.

He is the owner of Aquind, a British company applying to build a £1.2 billion undersea interconnector between the British and French power grids, a scheme that has been declared a “nationally significant infrastructure project” and called for a government minister to make the planning decision. But he has had his name removed from all documents linked to the company, extending his secretive private life into his business dealings as well.

Why Mr Fedotov, a British citizen, wants to keep his identity as owner of Aquind secret in the UK is a question he has declined to answer. A personal assistant said that her boss was “a very private, low-profile person” who did not want to engage with the media.

Viktor Mikhailovich Fedotov was born in August 1947, 700 miles east of Moscow in the city of Ufa, capital of Bashkortostan, one of the Soviet Union’s industrial heartlands. He studied at the Ufa State Aviation Technical University, graduating as an engineer-mechanic. He worked as an engineer and then in a managerial role in a local communist body in Ufa until 1990, with posts in the transport, timber and oil processing sectors. In 1990 he became head of a subsidiary of Lukoil, Russia’s largest independent oil company, later becoming a vice-president under Vagit Alekperov, who remains its president and is worth an estimated £15 billion.

Between June 1998 and November 2000, Mr Fedotov was general director of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC), an ambitious project to build a 1,000-mile connection from the Tengiz oilfield in Kazakhstan to Novorossiysk on Russia’s Black Sea coast. Contemporary reports recorded a meeting about the pipeline in December 1999 attended by Mr Fedotov, Mr Alekperov and Vladimir Putin, then prime minister.

By 2004, he was chairman of Vniist, a pipeline construction company. Three directors of the pipeline business also worked at Yukos, the oil company owned by the tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who in 2005 fell foul of President Putin and was convicted of fraud and jailed for a decade.

By George Greenwood, Tom Parfitt, Emanuele Midolo and Sean O’Neill, The Times, 5 August 2020

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