[Marxism] Bombardier and the Putin connection

Ken Hiebert knhiebert at shaw.ca
Sat Dec 17 14:58:43 MST 2016


At first glance, Multiserv Overseas has the hallmarks of the kind of big player you might expect to be involved in major transactions between giants of the Canadian and Russian transportation industries.

The company is registered in Britain, with an office at 5 Fleet Place, a nine-storey building that sits atop a trendy tea-and-salads restaurant in the heart of London’s financial district. The building is a short walk from the grey dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral, though during the business day the ringing of the ancient bells is drowned out by the groaning of construction cranes and the rumbling of double-decker buses.

But the address turns out to be the first of many chimeras.

The receptionist at 5 Fleet Place – who sits at a metallic desk in the middle of a vast lobby that is empty but for a pair of thin, potted trees in the corner – says she has never heard of Multiserv Overseas. The lobby wall isn’t much help: While 484 firms declare 5 Fleet Place as their registered address, only four have their names on it.

The biggest of those is Charles Russell Speechlys, a London law firm whose forerunner, Speechly Bircham, is connected to at least eight offshore entities named in the Panama Papers.

After a search of her computer, the receptionist at 5 Fleet Place confirms that Multiserv Overseas – a company that Bombardier says it has been doing business with since 2011 – is one more company registered inside the offices of Charles Russell Speechlys.

In the seventh-floor offices of Charles Russell Speechlys, questions about Multiserv Overseas initially draw looks of confusion. After a flurry of consultation, a Globe and Mail reporter is escorted into a small anteroom of the law office, which contains only a small black table, four chairs, a box of Twinings tea bags and a black telephone.

The telephone rings immediately. “Do you understand that this is not Multiserv, although they are our client?” inquires a polite female voice with an English accent.

Asked to explain the nature of Multiserv Overseas and its business, the woman replies by asking the reporter to return to the lobby to wait for another phone call.

The response comes less than five minutes later, after the secretary herself takes a phone call. “We are not legally compelled to answer your questions about our client,” she said with a smile after hanging up the call. “Have a nice day.”

It was the first dead end in a round-the-world hunt to understand one of Bombardier’s business partners in Russia. But it would not be the last.

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