Did Roman Abramovich secretly fund the biggest cannabis company in the world?

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Documents leaked late last year show that several companies belonging to Roman Abramovich, a Russian oligarch under international sanctions since the war in Ukraine, has invested in numerous companies in the American cannabis industry, and has also helped finance the two largest shareholders of Curaleaf, the world’s largest cannabis company with a market capitalization of nearly $3 billion.

the leaked The origin of these revelations consists of 30,000 files from the accounting and trust company Meritservus Secretaries, based in Cyprus. They appeared on Distributed Denial of Secretsa non-profit website for whistleblowers.

These files have been scanned by the journalistic consortium Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Projectwhich has allowed media like Forensics News Where Barron’sa publication related to wall street journalreview thousands of records.

Abramovich’s main activities in cannabis

According to information provided by Forensics News then BaronsRoman Abramovich has bet big on Massachusetts-based cannabis producer Curaleaf, whose 146 stores in 21 US states make it the largest licensed cannabis company in the world.

The Russian billionaire’s business records show that he was one of the founding shareholders of Curaleaf, and that he funded Curaleaf with some $186 million in loans. When the war in Ukraine started, he transferred his cannabis investments to family members.

In addition to Abramovich’s direct financing of Curaleaf, Baron’s estimates that he lent around $84 million to Curaleaf’s largest shareholder, Andrey Blokh, and its chairman, Boris Jordan, on the condition that they spend the money on Curaleaf shares. When Jordan launched a cannabis venture capital fund, Abramovich provided two-thirds of the initial capital. Abramovich has also separately backed Blokh with $12 million to pursue cannabis business opportunities in the western United States.

Its US cannabis funding was hidden behind multiple layers of trusts and offshore companies. making Abramovich’s name invisible from public records. On the other hand, appear Millhouse, the family office d‘Abramovich, Cetus, investment vehicle of Abramovich Trustees or Meliastove Investments.

Following the disclosure of the first information, Curaleaf claimed that Abramovich had never had any influence or decision-making role and cut ties.

“Mr. Abramovich is no longer a creditor or investor in Curaleaf,” the company said in a statement, “and the loans he made to its founding shareholders to invest in the company have been repaid for several years. »

“Curaleaf was one of thousands of companies around the world and in the United States that benefited from Mr. Abramovich’s funding,” Curaleaf’s statement continues. “At the time, he was a highly sought-after investor and a globally recognized businessman. It remains unsanctioned in the United States. »

The oligarch, however, remains the main lender in Curaleaf’s debt transactions. Forensics News was able to determine that Abramovich loaned $60 million to Curaleaf in December 2021 through his company Meliastove. Curaleaf claims that she is still in debt to Meliastove, but has been assured that Abramovich no longer owns it.

At the end of 2018, Cetus’ balance sheet showed it had invested $130 million across the sector, cannabis, and another $194 million in loans.

Among his holdings: Californian cannabis delivery service Eaze; Toke.TV webcast producer Greenrush Media; a dispensary software vendor, Flowhub; the CBD brand Green Gorilla; and vape maker Tilt Holdings.

Tilt says the executives who brought Abramovich’s investment no longer work at the company. Eaze says she was unaware that Abramovich possessed Cetus.

Curaleaf is also present in Europe, with the acquisition of the British EMMAC in 2021 or by the acquisition of the German company Four 20 Pharma at the end of 2022.

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