Friday 25 February, noon: Utilitarian hotel room, Heathrow. My one Russian client has flown in from Cyprus. Kirill is no oligarch. I bought him a modest multi-let industrial estate in Lewisham 10 years ago for £6m – at a juicy 11% yield. Credit Suisse vouched for him.
KYC checks at GBH were a little laxer in 2012.
The investment has doubled in value. Kirill wants to sell. We are in the Renaissance hotel to discuss his “little problem”. Credit Swizz (his apt pronunciation) last week suffered a leak of 30,000 suspect accounts, including Kirill’s. Nobody has yet picked up on him, a mere minnow in the shark pond. His Lewisham asset is well sheltered in the shady British Virgin Islands.
But he is terrified the buyer will want his name as the ultimate beneficial owner, then link him to the Swizz list and pull out. “That [redacted] warmonger Putin is making life hard. Everybody hates Russians now. Not safe to walk the streets of Knightsbridge!”
He sighs, gazes out at the runway, as if wishing to escape from his troubles. I’ve come prepared. “Don’t worry Kirill,
I have people gagging to buy sheds this close to central London. Seeing a nice chap from Belarus tomorrow. Well connected to President Lukashenko. GBH will bill you from our Minsk office.”