Russian-born entrepreneur Pavel Durov is liquidating Telegram Messenger LLP, the Britain-based company behind the popular messaging service Telegram. The same entity is registered as the messenger’s operator in the Russian Federation, where Telegram is currently banned.
Application for Voluntary Strike Off Filed in the UK
The application to strike the limited liability partnership off the U.K. register was signed by Pavel Durov on Dec. 19, 2018 and filed about a week ago, Russian media reports. The First Gazette notice for the voluntary strike off is currently being processed and will be issued on Jan. 15, 2019, the Companies House website shows.
Telegram Messenger LLP was established in February 2014 by two companies – Dogged Labs Ltd. (British Virgin Islands) and Telegraph Inc. (Belize). In May 2018, however, Dogged Labs was substituted for Telegram Messenger Inc., which is also registered in the British Virgin Islands.
Durov has previously identified Telegram Messenger LLP as the main entity behind the messaging app, although he has never revealed the exact legal structure of his corporate group. According to RBC, the same company has been added to the Russian register of platforms “disseminating information on the Internet” in July 2017.
By law, these operators – messengers, email providers, and other platforms facilitating the online exchange of messages – are obliged to share information about their activities with the country’s telecom operator, Roskomnadzor, and data allowing the decryption of users’ correspondence with the Federal Security Service (FSB). They are also expected to keep records in Russia of all voice, video and text messages for up to one year. Failure to comply with these requirements may lead to the blocking of their services in the Russian Federation.
The attempts to block Telegram in Russia started when its operator refused to hand over its encryption keys to the FSB. In April last year, the Tagansky District Court in Moscow imposed a ban on the messaging service following a request from Roskomnadzor. In June, the Moscow City Court rejected an appeal against the decision filed by Telegram Messenger LLP.
Possible Reasons for the Company’s Liquidation
Telegram and its various applications are registered by several different companies including Telegram Messenger LLP, Telegram LLC, and Telegram FZ-LLC. Together with his brother Nikolai, Pavel Durov also owns Telegram Group Inc. and TON Issuer Inc. RBC claims Durov did not respond to its questions about the closure of Telegram Messenger LLP. However, the news agency quoted Pavel Chikov, head of the human rights organization Agora representing Telegram in Russian courts, who said the move was not associated with the blockade.
According to other legal experts quoted in the article, the liquidation of the company, which is registered with Roskomnadzor as the operator of Telegram, will not change the status of the messenger in Russia. Alexander Pohomov, partner at Law and Business, said the creation of another company makes no sense as a new entity would be obliged to fulfill the same requirements as the current one. Pohomov believes that the decision is part of а fundamental restructuring of Durov’s business that includes a number projects beside Telegram.
One of these projects is the Telegram Open Network (TON) which is aimed at providing Telegram users with a digital payments system. All of them, around 200 million globally, will get a TON wallet and the platform’s developers hope to make its native coin, the Gram, the “world’s most adopted cryptocurrency.” An ICO to finance the project was canceled last year after Telegram reportedly raised $1.7 billion from private investors. According to the publication, TON developers plan to launch the platform by the end of 2019.
Other reasons for the reorganization may include recently introduced changes in the legislation of the British Virgin Islands, where one of the partners in Telegram Messenger LLP is registered, or the upcoming Brexit. A number of businesses focused on the EU market have been preparing to leave the United Kingdom and according to Yuri Borisov from Legal and Financial Creative Solutions, the voluntary strike off is a “painless” way to terminate a company’s presence in Britain.
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