Cyprus freezes €1.2 bln in Russian assets

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Some €1.2 bln in Russian-owned assets managed by Cyprus-registered companies were frozen in compliance with sanctions imposed on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, the Finance Ministry said.

The ministry told The Associated Press that “the vast majority” of those assets were held in European Union credit institutions, and the entire amount came on top of €105 mln frozen by banks in Cyprus.

The ministry provided the information in response to European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders saying last week that Cyprus appeared to be falling behind on freezing Russian-owned assets.

Reynders said that while other EU member nations froze €2-4 bln worth of Russian assets, Cyprus’ reported sum of around €100 mln “seems to be a little low”.

“The Finance Ministry said this was an error owing to the European Commission receiving incomplete information – an error since rectified by updating a relevant database.

Meanwhile, according to the ministry, the Cypriot government is strengthening its supervisory capacity to ensure compliance with international sanctions by setting up a specialised unit modelled after the U.K.’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI).

The Cyprus government is also keen on joining a European Commission program on supporting “the effective and uniform implementation of sanctions.”

A new list of individuals and legal entities in Cyprus that will be put under a sanction regime by the US and Britain is expected to be announced on Friday.

The two countries are expected to announce sanctions involving Cyprus for infringing restrictions implemented on Russia’s access to the international financial system through intermediaries and their businesses.

The US and Britain sanctioned in April 10 Cypriot-born individuals and 20 companies, with President Nikos Christodoulides assuring that Nicosia was taking all necessary actions in cooperation with the supervisory bodies, to safeguard Cyprus’ reputation fully.

Nicosia asked for information from the US about the sanctions they have imposed and received the reasons that led the US to impose sanctions.