Major law, audit firms fear sanctions smear

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Top lawyers and accounting firms fear being placed on the US and UK sanctions lists as they have clients whom are Russian oligarchs sanctioned following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Quoted by Politis daily, the chair of the Bar Association, Christos Clerides, said that prestigious law firms are increasingly worried over recent developments.

As reported by Politis, Clerides said 35 law firms have admitted offering services to Russian clients who are now deemed ‘undesirables’ by the UK and the US.

He was referring to the findings of a recent survey carried out by the Bar Association.

“The great majority of the legal ‘elite’ in Cyprus had, and some still have, a clientele of Russians and other collaborators of the Putin regime, who are currently under Western sanctions”, said Clerides.

He noted that developments endanger the reputation of lawyers in Cyprus, while firms involved could face serious operational problems.

“It is very important to clarify this issue as soon as possible.

“The sector’s elite cannot function under the fear of sanctions that could be imposed.”

Meanwhile, Nicosia is expecting to see more Cypriots and Cypriot law and service firms to be included in the sanctions lists.

President Nikos Christodoulides believes more Cypriots and companies may be placed on the Russian sanctions list, vowing the government will do whatever possible to protect the country’s credibility.

“We will not allow anyone to think that they can violate sanctions, cause problems and blacken our country’s name to continue with this type of behaviour,” President Christodoulides said.

A total of 10 Cypriots and 13 foreign-born Cypriot nationals, “oligarch enablers,” have been sanctioned by the US and the UK, accused of helping pro-Kremlin Russian-sanctioned oligarchs to hide their assets following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Politis believes the service sector could also be at risk, as some 60 firms have, or have had, ties with Russian oligarchs in the past.

The head of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Cyprus (ICPAC), Pieris Marcou, said all stakeholders have agreed to work together to avoid negative impacts from any new sanctions on Cypriot firms.

Cypriot “financial fixers” were sanctioned by the UK and the USA for allegedly helping Russian oligarchs hide their assets following sanctions imposed on Moscow over Ukraine.

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.

The UK government has accused the two Cypriots of knowingly assisting the billionaire Russian oligarchs Roman Abramovich and Alisher Usmanov in hiding their assets.