NewsUndercover operations. Decathlon allegedly defies Ukraine sanctions by secretly trading in Russia

Undercover operations. Decathlon allegedly defies Ukraine sanctions by secretly trading in Russia

War in Ukraine. Decathlon plans to bypass sanctions and do business in Russia via intermediaries.
War in Ukraine. Decathlon plans to bypass sanctions and do business in Russia via intermediaries.
Images source: © Adobe Stock | Massimo Todaro

10:52 AM EST, December 20, 2023

The investigative journalism portal disclose.ngo, which is part of a French non-governmental organization, reported on Tuesday that Decathlon remains operational in Russia, despite the sanctions enforced on the country, through the use of intermediaries.

Is Decathlon bypassing sanctions in the war on Ukraine?

The journalists acquired internal company documents suggesting that Decathlon might be employing a shell company in Dubai and a branch in Singapore for its Russian operations. This has supposedly allowed them to establish an opaque supply system, aiding the chain in evading sanctions.

Following the instigation of the invasion, Decathlon lagged in announcing its withdrawal from the Russian market, eventually declaring it at the end of March 2022. However, in a statement, the company suggested that it could not proceed while "adhering to international sanctions". The process of exiting Russia was officially concluded in October 2023, when the chain sold 60 stores to the company, Desport.

Despite this, journalists' discoveries indicate that Decathlon quietly continues to supply the Russian market with products from its leading brands, such as Quechua, Wedze, and Kalenji. The contract agreement for this supply is reportedly worth a minimum of 12 million dollars, according to disclose.ngo.

Decathlon conceals its ongoing operations in Russia

The company's interest in Russia remains elusive. It has even been suggested that the company conceal this fact from most of its staff. A former employee told the non-governmental organization that the code "Sports_R." was used instead of Russia for supplying destination information.

The informant also added that the entire operation of maintaining a presence in the Russian market occurred with the "complete support" of the company's CFO, Jean-Mark Lemiere.

New product shipments from the French chain's brands have reportedly begun arriving in Russia since the start of last month. When Disclose consulted an anonymous expert regarding their legality, it was suggested that this could be considered operating in a "gray market".

Decathlon is part of the Mulliez Family Association Group, which also owns the Auchan and Leroy Merlin chains.

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