Mysterious company working with Bombardier has links to Mongolian rail deal, contract reveals

Multiserv Overseas — a controversial shell company with business links to Bombardier at the heart of a corruption investigation — appears to be involved in a new project in Mongolia, according to an investigation by Radio-Canada in collaboration with Swedish, Russian and Bosnian journalists.

Swedish authorities believe shell company was set up to help transfer bribes to officials in Azerbaijan

The Swedish National Anti-Corruption Unit recently detained a senior Bombardier official with the Quebec company's Swedish branch. (Henrik Montgomery/TT News Agency)

A mysterious and controversial intermediary company with business links to Bombardier appears to be involved in a new project in Mongolia, according to an investigation by CBC's French-language service, Radio-Canada, in collaboration with Swedish, Russian and Bosnian journalists.

The company — Multiserv Overseas — is at the heart of a Swedish investigation into alleged bribes related to the awarding of a railway contract in Azerbaijan. 

On March 10, the Swedish National Anti-Corruption Unit announced it had detained a senior Bombardier official with the Quebec company's Swedish branch in connection with a contract for the modernization of Azerbaijan's railway system.

Authorities also suspect two other Swedish Bombardier executives accepted to provide bribes to officials in order to influence the tendering process.

The call for offers to modernize the Azerbaijan railway system was won by a consortium of companies, led by Bombardier. (World Bank)

Some of the bribes are believed to have been transferred by Multiserv, a British shell company.

Now Radio-Canada's investigative program Enquête has revealed that Bombardier appeared to be planning to use the same intermediary for a railway project in Mongolia.

Journalists with Swedish public television, SVT, and the Swedish news agency TT obtained a contract which reveals several similarities to the Azerbaijan case.

The contract is for supplying railway equipment to Mongolia at a cost of about $10 million.

The year-old document, dated February 2016, indicates that the Swedish branch of Bombardier Transportation would sell the equipment to Multiserv.

Swedish prosecutor Thomas Forsberg, left, suspects that Multiserv is a shell company involved in millions of dollars in transactions surrounding the Azerbaijan railway project. (Sören Andersson/ TT News Agency)

Questions about Multiserv Overseas

Multiserv Overseas has been making the news for nearly a year.

The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, a collective of journalists specialized in investigating corruption, drew attention to the company's existence with the publication of the Panama Papers in April 2016.

Documents from the legal firm Mossack Fonseca show that equipment manufactured by Bombardier was involved in a transaction between Multiserv Overseas and Rambo Management, a firm in the British Virgin Islands.

Last December, the Globe and Mail revealed Multiserv's involvement in 100 transactions involving Bombardier Transportation in Russia.

The Quebec transportation giant has defended Multiserv, saying it's a business in good standing and that it supplied the company with equipment delivery logistics.

A visit to Multiserv's listed address in London earlier this month revealed there was no office nor people working for Multiserv at that address.

In the U.K., companies are expected to report any changes, including the company's location, shareholders and directors, and provide statements confirming that all their filings are up to date.

According to the U.K.'s company registry, Multiserv's annual confirmation statement is overdue, as of Feb. 9.

The listing for Multiserv Overseas on this U.K. government website shows the business has an overdue confirmation statement as of Feb. 9, 2017. (United Kingdom Companies House)

The Swedish National Anti-Corruption Unit contends that Multiserv is nothing more than a shell company involved in millions of dollars in transactions surrounding the Azerbaijan project.

"We think they used false invoices to make it possible to hide at least $85 million, to use for whatever purpose they want. For example, giving bribes to people who have influence on this procurement and this contract," said Thomas Forsberg, the prosecutor for the Swedish National Anti-Corruption Unit.

Bombardier conducting internal review

The call for offers to modernize the Azerbaijan railway was won by a consortium of companies, led by Bombardier.

In a statement released after multiple media outlets, including CBC, reported on allegations about that contract, Bombardier said it won the contract "after a fair and open competition."

"Our bid, which was accepted by Azerbaijan Railways ADY in co-ordination with the World Bank, was deemed the most technically sound and priced lower than our global competitors," it said.

Radio-Canada made multiple requests for an interview with Bombardier but was unable to obtain the company's version of the facts.

In a news release, Bombardier said it takes any allegation of unethical behaviour very seriously.

It also said it is assisting Swedish authorities with their investigation into the Azerbaijan project and is conducting its own internal review, as well.

Bombardier said if it discovers any improper activity, it will take whatever steps are necessary to set things right. 

With documents shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ)