Cypriot ‘’financial fixers’’ have been sanctioned by the UK and the USA for allegedly helping Russian oligarchs hide their assets following sanctions imposed on Moscow over Ukraine.
Ten Cypriot “oligarch enablers” have been sanctioned by the US and the UK.
The UK government has accused two Cypriots of allegedly knowingly assisting the billionaire Russian oligarchs Roman Abramovich and Alisher Usmanov in hiding their assets.
The latest round of restrictions connected to the Ukraine war includes asset freezes and travel bans on Demetris Ioannides and his company and Christodoulos Vassiliades.
Meanwhile, lawyer Vassiliades has denied having any connection to the Russian oligarch that British authorities have connected him and his law firm.
In an announcement, Vassiliades said he requested the competent authorities in the UK delete his law firm from the sanctions list.
“We (the law firm) have not offered any assistance or provision of services to any person included in the relevant sanctions lists or violated sanctions.
“On the contrary, we have complied, and we continue to comply with them and with what they provide and/or entail,” reads the statement.
Following the UK announcement, the US Treasury published wide-ranging restrictions targeting Usmanov’s associates and “facilitators”, including Vassiliades and another eight Cypriots.
The UK Foreign Office said that in response to an unprecedented package of international sanctions, oligarchs “scrambled to shield their wealth with the help of financial fixers, offshore trusts, shell companies, and even using their family members”.
According to the Guardian, leaked files show that 10 of Abramovich’s secretive offshore trusts were amended to transfer the beneficial ownership to his seven children in the weeks leading up to the invasion, raising questions about whether the changes were made to shield the oligarch’s vast fortune from the threat of asset freezes.
Documents suggest the sweeping reorganisation was executed by Demetris Ioannides and his Cyprus-based company, MeritServus HC Ltd.
The Guardian said Ioannides helped manage Abramovich’s financial interests for over 20 years.
The UK has now imposed sanctions on Ioannides and the offshore service provider he runs.
UK officials accuse Ioannides of “crafting the murky offshore structures which Abramovich used to hide over £760 mln assets ahead of being sanctioned”.
Former Chelsea FC owner Abramovich is seen as a pro-Kremlin oligarch, with the EU imposing sanctions on him for allegedly benefiting from close relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Abramovich has denied financial ties to the Kremlin and filed a legal action to overturn the EU’s measures.
UK officials have also focused on the complex financial holdings of Usmanov, a Russian metals magnate, and imposed sanctions on companies and associates linked to him.
This includes Christodoulos Vassiliades, a Cypriot lawyer, alleged to be “at the centre of a web of trusts and offshore companies” that link Usmanov to Sutton Place, a Tudor manor in Surrey.
The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced it is further curbing Russia’s access to the international financial system through facilitators and their businesses. The list includes Cypriot nationals and Cypriot businesses.
According to Phileleftheros, US sanctions have been imposed against Cypriots; Kyriakos Attikouris, Marilena Georgiou, Costas Yiannakou, Kyriaki Kamperis, Dimitrios Sergidis, Antonis Vakanas, Anna Maria Vassiliades, Christodoulos Vassiliades and George Vassiliades.
Sanctions were also issued against six people of Russian origin who have obtained a Cypriot passport, including; Gulbakhor Ismailova, Vakhtang Kocharov, Gulnoz Kocharova, Varvara Skoch, Natalia Streshinskaya and Vladimir Streshinskiy.
The list includes another 18 Cypriot companies.