Foot-dragging worsened sanction-busting stigma

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Authorities knew Cypriot firms were facilitating significant asset transfers for sanctioned Russian oligarchs months before the damning ‘Cyprus Confidential’ leaks.

Government agencies were reportedly aware for eight months about the potential sanctions circumvention by Russian oligarch Alexei Mordashov through Cyprus, the daily Phileleftheros stated.

“But the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) beat them to it,” said Phileleftheros.

Earlier completion of investigative work could have mitigated negative perceptions of Cyprus’ involvement in sanction-busting cases.

Finance Ministry senior official George Panteli told CyBC radio Wednesday that in November 2022, Mordashov’s possible circumvention of sanctions was sent to the Legal Service.

He said investigations were conducted by the ministry since May 2022 regarding the case, including teleconferences with the German Finance Ministry.

Leaked documents in the Cyprus Confidential sting outline how PwC Cyprus and Cypcodirect, a firm founded by a former PwC Cyprus partner, aided the sanctioned billionaire in transferring a significant stake in the German travel firm TUI Group to his wife, Marina after EU sanctions were imposed.

The transfer, valued at $1.4 billion, was later provisionally blocked by German authorities.

According to Phileleftheros, from the end of April until early May, the anti-money laundering unit, MOKAS, and by extension, the Legal Service, the Ministry of Finance and Cyprus Police were also informed in writing about a possible circumvention of sanctions.

On February 28, 2022, Mordashov was included in the sanctions list of the European Union, with evidence emerging the TUI transfer was executed afterwards.

MOKAS reports to the Legal Service and the Economic Sanctions Advisory Committee under the Ministry of Finance.

This Committee deals with sanctions issues while representatives of the Foreign, Justice and Trade ministries, the Registrar of Companies, the Central Bank of Cyprus, and the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Committee attend.

Phileleftheros said the case was also brought to the attention of the Cyprus Bar Association in the first ten days of May and was immediately forwarded to the police for investigation.

President Nikos Christodoulides is said to be dissatisfied with the way authorities have handled the Mordashov case,

The ICIJ highlighted his case in their Cyprus Confidential expose.

The Russian oligarch was said to have transferred an investment amount of $1.4 billion to another person on the day he was sanctioned without clarifying whether there was any illegality.

Police spokesperson Christos Andreou told CyBC TV that the force’s investigation into the case will be completed soon.

The file will be forwarded to the Legal Service for instructions in December.