Probe into US seized Abramovich aircraft linked to Cyprus

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Authorities are looking into whether two Cyprus-registered aircraft belonging to Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, seized by the US, were involved in any illegal activity.

Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos has given instructions for an inquiry to be launched regarding the two recently-detained aircraft belonging to Abramovic as it emerged the purchase transaction is linked to Cyprus.

The two luxury planes, worth a combined $410 mln, a Gulfstream and a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, were registered through a series of shell companies in Cyprus, Jersey and the British Virgin Islands, with the name of the real owner nowhere to be found.

According to reports, Abramovich is behind the purchase, using the shell companies as a front.

The shell companies registered in Cyprus are Finservus (Trustees) Limited and an associated one called International Trust (Trust), “The Europa Settlement Trust”.

According to an FBI agent’s affidavit to support the seizure warrant, three more shell companies registered in Jersey and the British Virgin Islands were also behind the transaction.

“Instructions have been given to competent officials to investigate the history of the aircraft in relation to Cyprus,” said Karousos in comments to Phileleftheros.

He explained that from the moment he took over the portfolio of the Ministry of Transport, he pushed for creating a register recording the ownership status of aircraft related to Cyprus.

“In general, I ask for due diligence to be carried out for aircraft registered in Cyprus, especially when there are owners from third countries, to ensure that these planes are not involved in money laundering or other related offences,” said Karousos.

Earlier in the week, a US judge had approved the seizure of the two private planes, valued at more than $400 million, for violating US export and sanctions laws.

The American-made planes were flown in and out of Russia without obtaining licenses from the US Commerce Department.

Aeroplanes and aircraft parts are subject to export rules because of their potential military use and national security implications.

Sanctioned Russian-Israeli oligarch Roman Abramovich has lost around half of his fortune in the past year, according to an updated list of the UK’s richest people issued by The Times newspaper, as sanctions hit him.

The Times said Abramovich had dropped in net worth from £12 bln in 2021 to £6 bln in 2022.

Abramovich, a billionaire tycoon, has been included in a list of Russian oligarchs sanctioned by the European Union, the UK and the USA following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He was the former owner of Chelsea Football Club and was forced to sell it after being sanctioned for his close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In late March, Abramovich took part in Turkish-hosted peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, which failed to resolve the conflict.