Written by By Ryan Hunter and CNN
A Canadian man, who claimed to be a “brilliant” accountant and head of a technology company, tried to help secure offshore bank accounts for Vladimir Putin’s close friends by setting up a secret offshore company in the British Virgin Islands.
After being convicted of fraud in 2015 and placed on Canada’s most-wanted list, Alex Ferguson set up the company under a fake name, under a scheme he says was sanctioned by the US government.
Ferguson did not reveal he was on the US list when announcing the company’s formation, but said in a recent interview that US officials had been notified of the plan and approved it.
“I felt what I was doing was completely legal and ethical because … I had been told that this was perfectly legal and ethical and that I would not be found out,” Ferguson told CBC’s investigative journalism program “The Fifth Estate.”
In a broad interview with the program, Ferguson talked about his upbringing in Ontario’s Eastern Townships and said he felt that he had been “exposed” while helping several Putin associates hide assets.
“I felt like I was probably exposing myself to some risk,” he said.
He noted that he was not among a group of Canadians — including member of Putin’s close friend and former Russian security officer Alexander Bastrykin — targeted with sanctions in 2016 by President Donald Trump and the US Treasury Department.
In an email to CNN Business on Wednesday, Ferguson wrote that the US sanctions had not affected his company but said he “felt betrayed” by Trump for not supporting the sanctions against Russian officials.
“… part of the reason why I felt betrayed was because I was trusting Trump and was happy to support his policies,” he wrote.
“… Having said that, I still believe that President Trump is the wrong man for the job. He is erratic and has seemingly lost his belief in democracy, or perhaps he is simply oblivious to the pain and suffering of many of his own citizens. In order to win the US presidency, he had to be completely dependent on the Electoral College.
“After signing a spending bill that included $34 billion in military spending despite a budget deal already being in place, I think President Trump has shown that he is tone deaf. Now, there is no way he could win an election for re-election in 2020 without another illegal attack on our democracy.”
A US government spokesman declined to comment when reached by CNN Business, citing the ongoing investigation into the alleged hack of 2018 midterm election polling places.
Ferguson spoke with the CBC about his experiences with Canadian and international authorities. He also said he hopes authorities will pay attention to the Panama Papers because there are many more US-held offshore accounts hidden in the British Virgin Islands.
“There’s 200 secret American banking accounts there that if they were pointed out there would be riots and in some instances looting,” he said.
Following Ferguson’s arrest, officials from the Russian government’s United Russia party accused the Canadian of “culpable suicide” in a statement to The Canadian Press . He served an 11-month prison sentence but was released on bail in 2016.
Ferguson said he is working to clear his name and has helped many of the named companies as he appeals the charges and deportation process.
He also asserted that he would continue to serve the Kremlin as an accountant and provide advice “in the hopes of making Russia’s financial environment safer for investors.”
He also said that he did not witness the wholesale corruption shown by the first part of the 2016 documentary, titled “Putin’s Money,” in which two leading Putin critics accused the Russian government of rigging votes and stealing state funds.