Wagner Group's Web of Companies
This week, Insight Intelligence is taking a look at Wagner Group - a Russian private military corporation that functions as a proxy for the Russian state. We’re looking at the group’s corporate structure, and whether Canada should list them as a terrorist entity. Read on for plenty of details, and some policy recommendations.
Updated 21 Mar 2023
Wagner Group is a private military security contractor with business and personal links to both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian government writ large, and is best understood as a proxy for the Russian government. The organization was founded in 2014 by Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch and convicted criminal, and is led by Dmitry Utin. For many years, Prigozhin denied his relationship with Wagner, but in September 2022, he admitted that he founded and financed the organization. The organization is involved in three primary activities: mercenary (private army) and security, disinformation and misinformation operations, and the exploitation of natural resources in Africa.
The organization does not exist, as such, on paper. Instead, the Wagner Group is a web composed of a number of different companies, all of which are hard to trace, in part due to their incorporation in countries that do business with the group, their lack of incorporation (as in the case of Wagner itself), and clients that have a vested interest in hiding the exact nature of their contracts with Wagner. Prigozhin hid his ownership and control of Wagner through a network of shell companies, but US officials say he owns or controls almost all the companies that make up Wagner. Until recently, Wagner itself was not registered in Russia or anywhere else, although some rumours suggest that it might have been incorporated in Argentina.1 In November 2022, Prigozhin opened a Wagner office in St. Petersburg, Russia, officially abandoning the fiction that he has nothing to do with the group.2