Monday, October 26, 2020

Cyprus dismisses allegations of president’s involvement in money laundering

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The Cypriot government dismissed as “libelous and devoid of reality” allegations by an organization that President Nicos Anastasiades and his law firm was connected to the so-called Troika Laundromat, a government statement said on Saturday.

The statement also dismissed what were described as “findings of an investigation” as old accusations which had been investigated by appropriate agencies and were rejected.

The statement was responding to a report by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) released on Wednesday, which linked the president and his law firm with the Troika Laundromat, a network of shell companies that operated from 2006 to 2013 moving at least 4.6 billion U.S. dollars and enabling its users to hide assets, evade taxes or launder money.

But the report said that the involvement of Anastasiades’ law office was only related to just 323 million U.S. dollars.

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In a statement on Friday, main opposition AKEL party said it was concerned by the reports which linked Cyprus with money laundering and implicating the president and his law firm in suspicious dealings and demanded an explanation.

On Saturday, government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou hit back, saying that “the president has expressed his disappointment, because once again he is being targeted along with Cyprus with libelous statements, which do not correspond with reality.”

Related: Bank Records Link President of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades to ‘Troika Laundromat’

Prodromou said that what was presented “findings” by the specific website had already been investigated by authorities from abroad, such as the U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and none of the investigations implicated the president or his law firm.

The OCCRP report cited records from the defunct Lithuanian Ukio Bankas that linked Nicos Chr. Anastasiades and Partners LLC to complex deals that moved Russian money to and from shell companies created by and associated with the firm.

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Two of those shells — Batherm Ventures Ltd. and Matias Co Ltd — had sent more than 323 million U.S. dollars into the system for various reasons, mostly unknown, the report claimed.

It added that the leaked document, which was however not printed in full, also suggested that Alexander Abramov, a Russian billionaire, was behind both companies, and that he used them to buy a major Russian energy concern at an enormous discount.

Abramov later received a Cypriot EU passport with the help of the Anastasiades law firm, OCCRP said in the report.

Related: CYPRUS: Anti-money laundering efforts beginning to be respected abroad

AKEL said while it did not adopt the contents of the report it wanted Anastasiades to provide a convincing response on all issues raised relating to money laundering by various international observatories.

“This serious charge is hanging over our country for years and the president needs to take the lead and rid us of it. Especially from the moment his law firm is implicated in alleged suspicious transactions,” the party said.

The government spokesman turned the tables on AKEL, reminding the party that it was the AKEL government which was in power at the time that had given Abramov his Cypriot citizenship in 2010.

He also referred to an interview with the then interior minister, Neoklis Sylikiotis, in which he said Abramov was given the citizenship for providing high-quality services to Cyprus, including business services.

Sylikiotis added that Abramov’s citizenship was given “as there are matters of public interest, which justify the citizenship”, Prodromou said, quoting from his interview.

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