Russian entrepreneur Pavel Durov is now liquidating Telegram Messenger LLP, the company behind well-known messaging platform Telegram. The very same company is registered as the operator of the messenger in the Russian Federation, where Telegram is presently banned.
Local media reports that Pavel Durov has signed on December 19 and has recently filed the application to strike the limited liability partnership off the U.K. register. According to the Companies House website, the First Gazette notice for the voluntary strike off is now being processed and is slated to be issued on January 15.
In February 2014, British Virgin Islands’ Dogged Labs Ltd. and Belize’s Telegraph Inc. launched Telegram Messenger LLP. However, Dogged Labs was substituted in May last year for Telegram Messenger Inc., registered in the British Virgin Islands as well.
Earlier, Durov has identified Telegram Messenger LLP as the primary entity backing the messaging application, even if the Russian entrepreneur has not disclosed his corporate group’s exact legal structure. RBC indicates that the same company has been listed to the Russian register of platforms in July of 2017, “disseminating information on the Internet.”
The law dictates that these operators (messengers, email providers, and other platforms which facilitate online messaging) are required to share information about their activities with Roskomnadzor, Russia’s telecommunications operator. This allows the decryption of users’ messages with the Federal Security Service (FSB). The operators are also mandated to store records in Russia of all voice, video, as well as, text messages for one year. Operators’ failure to adhere to these requirements can result in the blocking of their services in the Russian Federation.
Efforts to block Telegram in Russia have begun when its operator declined to surrender encryption keys to the FSB. Following a request filed by Roskomnadzor, Moscow’s Tagansky District Court has imposed a ban in April 2018 against the messaging service. Meanwhile, the Moscow City Court has rejected in June an appeal submitted by Telegram Messenger LLP.
Telegram and its other applications are registered by other companies such as Telegram Messenger LLP, Telegram LLC, and Telegram FZ-LLC. Pavel Durov, alongside his brother Nikolai, is also the owner of Telegram Group Inc. and TON Issuer Inc. according to RBC, Durov has not responded to its inquiries regarding Telegram Messenger LLP’s closure. On the other hand, the news outlet quotes the head of human rights organization Agora (which represents Telegram in Russian courts) Pavel Chikov as saying that the move is not related with the blockade.
The article also quotes other legal experts as saying that the company’s liquidation will not change the messenger’s status in Russia. The company is registered with Roskomnadzor as Telegram’s operator. Law and Business partner Alexander Pohomov says that the establishment of another company does not make sense since the new entity will also be mandated to follow the same requirements like the current one. Pohomov is convinced that the move is part of a “fundamental restructuring” of Durov’s business which includes several other projects aside from Telegram.
Telegram Open Network (TON) is one such project, which aims to provide Telegram customers with a digital payments system. Users, roughly 200 million all over the world, are to receive a TON wallet. The platform’s developers plan to make its native coin, the Gram, the “world’s most adopted cryptocurrency.” In 2018, an initial coin offering (ICO), meant to fund the project, has been canceled after Telegram purportedly raised $1.7 billion from private investors. The news outlet also reports that TON developers want to roll out the platform by the end of this year.
The reorganization may also be a result of changes introduced recently in the legislation of the British Virgin Islands, where one of the partner entities is registered. Another possible reason is the forthcoming Brexit. Many businesses, which are focused on the EU market, have been gearing up to leave the United Kingdom. In addition, Legal and Financial Creative Solutions’ Yuri Borisov states that the voluntary strike off is a “painless” way to terminate a company’s existence in Britain.