Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades’ former law firm arranged business deals linked to a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin and a network of companies used in various financial crimes, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) said in a report.
It was linked to the Magnitsky scandal, the largest tax fraud in Russian history, that showed monies from the Russian treasury ended up in a company now owned by the son of Moscow’s former transportation minister.
Anastasiades has worked to strengthen his country’s relationship with Russia while dealing with international criticism of its lax financial and money laundering controls, OCCRP noted, adding that several years before his 2013 election, the law firm he established and co-owned, was doing dubious deals.
Records from the defunct Lithuanian Ukio Bankas, obtained by OCCRP and 15min.lt and analyzed by a joint team from OCCRP, IRPI, and Global Witness, reveal the law firm’s work executing complex deals that moved Russian money to and from shell companies created by and associated with the firm, it was claimed.
Two of those shells — Batherm Ventures Ltd. and Matias Co Ltd. — appear to be deeply entwined with the Troika Laundromat, a network of shell companies that operated from 2006-13 moving at least $4.6 billion and enabling users to hide assets, evade taxes, or launder money.
The leaked documents also suggest that Alexander Abramov, a Russian billionaire, was behind both companies, and used them to buy a major Russian energy concern at an enormous discount.
Abramov later received a Cypriot Golden Visa that comes with a European Union passport -with the help of the Anastasiades law firm, the report also added.
Cyprus has been criticized for lax oversight of the Golden Visas that critics said could be used by criminals and money-launderers with the island having a reputation for hiding dirty money, but Anastasiades defended the practice and said other EU countries had worse records.
The documents don’t show any evidence that a crime was committed but, said OCCRP, raise serious questions about dealings between Anastasiades’ law firm, his associates, and Russian financial networks used for criminal activity, compromising Cyprus’ independence.