Sanction violation complaints hit ‘double-digits’

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The Law Office has received complaints on possible sanctions violations running into double-digits, Attorney-General George Savvides told a parliamentary committee discussing the Cyprus Confidential expose.

It involves millions of leaked files on financial transactions involving Cypriot companies investigated by the International Consortium of Investigative Reporters (ICIJ).

Cyprus Confidential is a new investigation from ICIJ and nearly 70 media partners.

It discloses the sprawling financial networks that have powered the Putin regime as it dominates its neighbours — and undermines the West.

A trove of 3.6 million leaked documents shows how Russian money flowed through Cyprus’ banking system over decades under the watch of the European Union.

Charalambos Charalambous, Director of the Office of the President of the Republic, said Cyprus has requested expert assistance from a foreign country, which will contribute to the work of the Police to investigate these reports.

He said Cyprus intends to proceed with the establishment of a single financial conduct oversight authority.

Justice Minister Anna Koukkides Procopiou said the aim is to complete the investigation to “restore the name of the Republic of Cyprus.”

She said the President has requested expert assistance from a country with vast experience in financial investigations.

“There should be no doubt over the government’s determination to investigate these reports.”

Prokopiou said reports are not new as they concern cases already being investigated by the Police, pointing out that new data emerging from the ICIJ were minimal.

Savvides said that all these press reports should be investigated, given the international interest generated by the publications.

He said that the Law Office has received complaints on possible sanction violations numbering in double digits from Cyprus and abroad, adding that the Police have set up a special team to conduct the investigation.

Criminal offence

He said Cyprus had rendered the violations of sanctions by the UN and the EU a criminal offence since 2016.

However, Savvides argued that criminal convictions over sanction violations are difficult, noting that there are some premises supporting bringing them before the Courts.

Police Chief Stelios Papatheodorou said that Cypriot banking institutions have frozen the accounts of those being investigated.

Constantinos Herodotou, Central Bank of Cyprus governor, said the banking sector had terminated relationships with 42,728 shell companies in the last five years, closing 125,872 bank accounts.

He added that CBC anti-money laundering staff had imposed fines of €10 million in 13 investigated cases.

Herodotou said the CBC awaits information on whether banking institutions are involved with persons said to have violated sanctions by the “Cyprus Confidential” reports.

He also supports the creation of a single financial conduct oversight authority.

Michalis Vorkas, President of the Cyprus Bar Association, said the body has carried 177 checks of law firms since 2022, of which 17 cases concerned the provision of Cypriot citizenship, while 62 checks were carried out in 2023, with fines amounting to €400,000 have been imposed.

Kyriakos Iordanou, Director of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Cyprus (ICPAC), said the institute has revoked the license of three accounting offices and one individual included in the UK sanctions list on Russia.

He said ICPAC has submitted 10 cases to the Police for further investigation.