One of the iconic cardrooms in London, Park Lane Club, is currently facing closures after the company that owns and runs it – Silverbond Enterprises – was left without an operating licence.
At the beginning of November, as part of an ongoing probe, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) ruled that the gambling operator’s leadership, and the Latvian entrepreneur Vasilijis Melniks in particular, was not worthy of holding an operating licence. At the time, Mr Melniks had been facing an investigation over some alleged ties to money laundering and embezzlement in Ukraine.
It still remains unclear whether this was the wisest decision the UKGC could make. The problem is that the Latvian entrepreneur is not Silverbond Enterprises’ boss and, to make things worse, it seems that no one outside the gambling operator really knows who the real owner of the company and the casino is.
The truth is that the British law is somehow obscure, so it will probably become subject to an amendment, especially now, when the strange case of the Park Lane Club has occurred. Under Section 790ZG of the UK Companies Act, directors of some public companies are not obliged to reveal their identity in case that, by doing so, they could jeopardise their safety.
So far, the London-based cardroom has used this exact legislative provision in order to keep its leadership a secret. Previously, it was known that Mr Melniks was on top of Silverbond Enterprises. However, as revealed by a representative of the company, the Lithuanian businessman has not been related to the company for more than two years.
Companies Not Obliged to Reveal Directors’ Identity under Obscure UK Law
The Park Lane Club, which has been one of the most popular high-end casinos in Mayfair, has been dogged with controversy over the last few years, which eventually ended up with the licence revocation of the company by the gambling regulatory body over some concerns over the source of funds that the venue’s owners used for purchasing and operating the club over the years.
The licence ban imposed by the UKGC has raised serious questions over whether the auditors of Silverbond Enterprises and bankers from NatWest had issued some warnings regarding the business that has had some collisions with the watchdog over its money-laundering controls over the years.
As mentioned above, two years ago, a Ukrainian court judge ordered Mr Melniks’ assets, after the Lithuanian entrepreneur got accused of money laundering and embezzlement of around $64 million from a state-owned energy company. It was this court action, which fuelled the UK Gambling Commission’s investigation in Silverbond Enterprises’ suitability to hold an operating license in the UK. Apparently, the British gambling regulatory body eventually decided it should not.
Currently, the shares of Silverbond Enterprises are listed by a Geneva service company called SOGIP. However, the identity of the company’s new owner remains unknown. According to some reports, at the time when the takeover of the company quietly took place, a loan worth £18 million was paid back to Mr Melniks and extended by the new owner of the operator.
As revealed by Debbie Dunn, the Compliance Director of the Park Lane Club, for The Evening Standard, Mr. Melniks sold the company back in 2018 and to date, he is neither a director nor a shareholder of the company. Ms Dunn acknowledged that the gambling operator is currently going through a corporate change.