NICOSIA – Russians are avoiding sanctions and laundering money by sending it to the occupied northern third of Cyprus seized in unlawful 1974 Turkish invasions, the senior British diplomat to the island said.
The allegations came from British High Commissioner to Cyprus Irfan Siddiq, drawing immediate blowback from Turkey, the only country in the world to recognize the self-declared rogue state of Turkish-Cypriots.
Siddiq said that “Cyprus has a consensus to enforce sanctions against Russia to restore its reputation, but the Turkish-occupied north is a money laundering black spot,” reported Kathimerini.
He added that, “While questions on shady financial practices in the Republic of Cyprus have been cleaned up, the problem was present in the Turkish-occupied north.” The UK was the island’s Colonial ruler and keeps military bases there.
Siddiq, during a round-table discussion with foreign ambassadors at the 21st World Conference of Cyprus Diaspora, was replying to a question on money laundering allegations on the occupied side and lack of sanctions against Turkey.
The British newspaper Express said it was also believed to have angered Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan just ahead of the opening of the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Erdogan is also keen on trying to make another attempt at accelerating Turkey’s hopes of joining the European Union, which began in 2005 and have faltered under his hardline regime jailing journalists and harassing rivals.
Erdogan also refuses to recognize the legitimate Greek-Cypriot government that’s a member of the EU and Turkey bars Cypriot ships and planes, another obstacle to his hopes of getting into the bloc.
Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk Turkish-Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar, who will be at the UN on the sidelines as the self-declared republic isn’t recognized, was also upset.
“Where is his proof? It is absolutely outrageous he should make these claims about us. The allegations are completely untrue and it is just another example of (Siddiq’s) extraordinary bias to the Greek-Cypriots,” said Tatar.
“I really do not understand why this man is so prejudiced against us. It is very disappointing,” added Tatar, who rejected reunification and instead demanded the UN and world accept the rogue state where Turkey keeps an army.
“The British are supposed to be a guarantor power on Cyprus and listen to both sides but they seem to only take the Greek’s side at the moment,” he said, with Greece and Turkey also guarantors.
The UK Foreign Office disputed its own envoy in parts and said that Siddiq “raised concerns about the problem of illicit finance … and the lack of cooperation from the authorities.”
It added that “He described this situation as a ‘black hole,’ not a ‘black spot.’
“He did not say that ‘shady financial practices … had been cleaned up.’ He did not say that the UK ‘engaged with the authorities in the north to ensure the consequences of these activities did not negatively impact the Republic.’”