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Russian Railways paid billions to secretive contractors

Published on May 23, 2014 9:13 PM

MOSCOW (REUTERS) - One of Russia's biggest state companies has handed billions of dollars to mysterious private contractors that disguise their ownership or have little or no presence at their registered headquarters, a Reuters investigation has found.

Russian Railways, led by Vladimir Yakunin, an old friend of President Vladimir Putin, awarded about 115 billion roubles (S$4 billion) to 11 such private companies between 2007 and 2013, according to public tender documents and private bank records studied by Reuters.

Two of the 11 firms were the only bidders in 43 tender competitions since 2010 worth up to US$340 million. Though bidding as rivals, the two companies have striking similarities. They were registered on the same day, opened bank accounts on the same day and in two recent years reported exactly the same number of employees.

Of the 11 companies, none of their real owners could be traced and only one had staff at its registered headquarters when a reporter visited. The companies declined to comment or did not respond to inquiries made in writing and by telephone.

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