The Mayor of the West of England, Dan Norris, has threatened to call a halt to the region’s e-scooter trial unless operator Voi cuts its ties with Russian investors. The firm’s CEO, Fredrik Hjelm, will head to Bristol on Monday for what Norris promises will be “a candid and frank exchange” about the matter.
Hjelm last month posted an open letter on the Voi website about partners and investors with Russian connections.
These include Aleksander Eliseev, who owns about 1.2 per cent of shares in the company through Litten Investments; Ilya Yushaev, who owns about 2.9 per cent of shares through PTC; and Aleksander Nesis of ICT Capital, who is not currently a shareholder but who participated in a convertible loan that Voi issued in 2021 and would become a shareholder if any conversion of that loan took place.
Voi says it has always conducted background checks on investors before agreeing terms and, “at no time were these investors on any sanction list nor are they today.”
Swedish newspaper Di has however alleged that Eliseev has business connections to Alexei Mordashov, who has been sanctioned by the EU over the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He is also a major shareholder and chairman of Globaltruck, a shipping firm that is partly owned by the Russian state.
Speaking to the Bristol Post, Norris said: “Voi has some very tough calls to ponder but it is vital it makes the right decisions on this.
“I asked the chief executive of Voi to see me face-to-face in Bristol and he is kindly coming from Sweden on Monday. This will be a candid and frank exchange. My position on Russian Voi shareholder Mr Eliseev remains resolute and clear."
Norris said he looked forward to meeting Hjelm and hearing how Voi intended to deal with the situation.
“I know the people of the West of England feel strongly about doing business with individuals and companies with links to the murderous Russian regime. Voi must understand this and show by its actions, as well as its words, that it does.”
A Voi spokesperson said: "In order to ensure consistency with our aims and values as a company, Voi conducts background checks on all our investors before agreeing terms with them.
"We are currently revaluating the relationships we have with all partners in light of the recent developments in Ukraine and will take any and all actions deemed necessary to comply with any sanctions. This includes the removal of shareholders should they no longer align with our core values. We will always abide by any laws or sanctions that are in place.
"Alongside many international businesses, we believe Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a gross violation of international law and we stand on the side of democracy and the Ukrainian people at this time.
"We have also stopped reselling refurbished vehicles in Russia and are selling our minority stake in a Russian micromobility company.
"We are donating to the relief effort through UNHCR and supporting our Ukrainian employees, including offering positions where available to people fleeing the country."