After not reacting, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades – through a spokesman – said allegations he and his former law firm were connected to a Russian money-laundering scheme known as the Troika Laundromat were false.
A government statement called the highly-detailed claims from the Organized Crime and Corruption Report (OCCRP) “libelous and devoid of reality,” but didn’t offer a point-by-point rebuke and Anastasiades wouldn’t talk to reporters.
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, said the Chinese news agency Xinhua in a report.
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 OCCRP report said.
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.
The report was about a network of shell companies that operated from 2006-13 moving at least $4.6 billion and enabling its users to hide assets, evade taxes or launder money, although noting the involvement of Anastasiades’ law office was over $323 million.
The major opposition AKEL party demanded an explanation but didn’t get one as government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said, “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.”
Prodromou said that what was presented “findings” had already been investigated by authorities from abroad, such as the U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and none of the investigations implicated Anastasiades of his law firm.
AKEL’s statement added: “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.”
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, and a leaked documents also sugges 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 added.
AKEL was in power when the Russian got the visa in 2010. 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 said other EU countries had worse records.
The documents don’t show 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.