Regulator probes charity run by Russia's second-richest man

The Charity Commission has opened a statutory inquiry into a grant-maker run by Russia’s second-richest man.

The regulator said it is acting to safeguard the assets of a charity controlled by the oligarch Vladimir Potanin, who was sanctioned by the UK government earlier today over his links to Russian president Vladimir Putin.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said Potanin was Russia’s second-richest man and a “key supporter of the Kremlin”.

The Potanin Foundation controls assets worth £95m, according to its most recent accounts. It was registered in 2006 to support another organisation based in Russia, the Vladimir Potanin Foundation.

Potanin has powers to appoint and remove trustees, according to a statement from the regulator. CAF Global Trustees, the arm of the Charities Aid Foundation that provides governance to grant-makers, acted as a corporate trustee for the foundation for 16 years but resigned in 2021.

The inquiry will consider the best ways to protect the charity’s assets as well as examining Potanin’s role in decision-making. It will also review the foundation’s relationship with its sister charity in Russia.

The charity will need consent from the regulator before trustees can part with its assets, and the commission has placed restrictions on Potanin’s powers to act as the charity’s founder.

A spokesperson for CAF said: “When the Potanin Foundation was established in the UK in 2006, legislation did not exist in Russia for the creation of a tax-effective charitable endowment. When the UK-based foundation was created, CAF provided administrative services.

“That regulatory situation then changed to allow for the creation of effective charitable vehicles in Russia and, given the charities’ ultimate beneficiaries are in Russia, the trustees felt that the foundation could best meet its charitable aim through staged grants of the funds to the Russia-based Vladimir Potanin Foundation for onward granting to beneficiaries in Russia.

“In 2021, as part of this planned transition, CAF Global Trustees resigned from the Potanin Foundation.”

Third Sector was unable to contact anyone from the charity for comment.

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