Ukrainian laundering suspect to face trial on April 17

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A Ukrainian woman, arrested last week after she tried to stage a theft of €420,000, prompting Cyprus police to uncover a money laundering ring, had been “criss-crossing” Europe, a law enforcement official revealed earlier in the week.

The 31-year-old suspect appeared in court on Thursday and was referred to trial before the Permanent Criminal Court of Larnaca on April 17. She will remain in custody, after the court rejected her lawyers’ request that she be let free on bail, until her trial date.

Officials estimate that during her 20 trips, she had brought in about €8 mln over six months, which she initially claimed had been declared to customs officials and was to be used for the purchase of property. Initially, the amount was estimated at €6 mln.

Police spokesperson Christos Andreou told CyBC radio that the authorities had been aware of the suspect’s movements, prior to her arriving in Cyprus from another EU country, and that “at some stage she would have been arrested” on money laundering charges.

However, the daylight robbery on Friday, March 1, in the Limassol suburb of Yermasoyia, an area with a high concentration of Russian and Ukrainian residents, raised suspicions among police who were investigating her ‘bag grab’ allegation, just hours after she had arrived from overseas.

She claimed that she had a pouch with €420,000 in cash and that two hooded thieves on a motorcycle grabbed her bag and fled.

Police sources suggested that perhaps she staged the theft with other accomplices in order to save face with the person who entrusted her with that money to be transported to Cyprus.

She reportedly told customs officers that the €420,000 was a loan towards a property purchase, while in her police testimony she said it was her and her husband’s joint earnings.

The Nicosia District Court issued a five-day remand on Saturday, March 2, pending further investigation, and the suspect faces a total of 60 charges for offenses involving participation in a criminal organisation, participation in and profiting from crimes, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit a felony.

At first, she was not cooperating with the authorities, but later claimed that she gave the moneys she brought to Cyprus to a friend of hers, without providing further explanation.

Repeated travels

The investigation so far has revealed that from August 2023 to March 2024, she repeatedly traveled by air to Cyprus as a visitor, making a cash declaration to the customs authorities for the transfer of large sums of money, which she had in her possession upon arrival at Larnaca and Paphos airports.

On March 1, after she arrived in Limassol by taxi, she was dropped off at a well-known cafe in Limassol, while she claims she intended to invest the money to buy an apartment in Limassol.

As soon as she got out of the taxi, she was approached by two people riding a large motorcycle. They grabbed her bag and fled.

Further investigations are expected to involve Europol and Interpol. It is expected that a court order will be requested for the disclosure of bank information, as well as about the suspect’s financial activities in Cyprus.

Following public criticism that the laundering and illicit import of funds took place under the noses of the local authorities, the Customs Department said that any amount arriving from the EU or third countries, must be declared and the original source proven if the amount is more than €10,000.

Any suspicious transaction is referred to the anti-money laundering unit MOKAS, while for any amount of over €100,000 is reported directly to the police.