While the dangers of doing business in the former Soviet Union are well known, with fraud, corruption and robbery all increasingly prevalent, those for Russian entrepreneurs in Britain are less apparent.
All the same, according to David Northrop, chairman of Alpha International, a DTI-affiliated agency which brokers East-West ventures, many of the 1,000 or so Russian businessmen who visit Britain every week are receiving treatment every bit as rough. A whole industry offering seminars, conferences and exhibitions has grown to satisfy the demand for British know-how - yet, says Northrop, many of the services offered by these companies verge on the fraudulent.
The Soviet-British Chamber of Commerce agrees, claiming that some are merely unscrupulous efforts to part Russians from their roubles. One recent two-day conference in London cost a group of Russian businessmen £9,000 but covered only basic economic theory. In another case, a three-day exhibition set up on behalf of 200 Russian companies was so poorly handled that it attracted only three visitors per stand.
All this, claims the Chamber of Commerce, has enraged many aspiring entrepreneurs and potentially jeopardises Russo-British entente. 'When they realise they're being conned they'll take their business to our European competitors,' it says. No mean loss, when trade between Britain and the former Soviet Union last year amounted to £1.6 billion, 50% up on 1992. Those considering travel to Britain should first seek advice from reputable sources, say experts. The DTI and Russian Embassy, eager to avert a second Cold War, await enquiries.