Los Angeles, CA – Ronald McDonald House Charities is the latest target of Moscow’s campaign of investigations into the Russian operations of global fast food giant McDonald’s.
Russian authorities are reportedly preparing to level tax evasion and money laundering charges against the charity, which operates a sports facility for physically and mentally disabled children in Moscow, and a residential facility near a children’s hospital in Kazan, 450 miles east of Moscow.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Russian Duma legislator Andrei Krutov said, “They use donations from ordinary Russians, so that is why we want to know how this money is spent. I am talking only about financial aspects of their activities, and technical questions about their work. We do not want you to think that we have political reasons for doing this.”
In August, Russia’s consumer protection agency ordered four of the company’s largest restaurants to suspend operations over a host of alleged hygiene violations and shortly afterwards added another five to the list.
Since then, 12 restaurant in Russia have been closed for alleged “sanitary reasons” while more than 200 unscheduled hygiene and safety “inspections” have been carried out.
Last week, nine more McDonald’s outlets – four in Moscow, two in Yekaterinburg, two in Volgograd and one in Sochi – were “temporarily” shut-down.
The latest move subjects more than half the McDonald’s franchises in Russia to government scrutiny.
McDonald’s Russia issued a statement on its website over the weekend saying that, “Right now, more than 200 probes have been initiated,” adding that a Russian court had extended the government’s temporary closure of the initial nine restaurants and added that it would appeal against the decision.
The company, which opened its first restaurant in Russia in 1990, has 450 restaurants across the country, more than 100 of which are in Moscow and the surrounding region. More than 60 are in St Petersburg and the surrounding region, the country’s second big metropolitan area.
Moscow’s investigation campaign is seen in the West as a slap-back at the economic and financial sanctions and executive orders put in place earlier this year by the US in response to Russia’s seizure of the Crimea and continued incursions into neighboring Ukraine.