Cyprus behind on Freezing Russian Assets, EU Official Says

NICOSIA — The European Union’s executive branch aims to investigate why Cyprus has frozen only 100 million euros ($110 million) worth of assets belonging to Russians facing sanctions amid the war in Ukraine, according to the bloc’s justice commissioner on Thursday.

Compared to other EU member states, which have each frozen as much as 2 billion to 4 billion euros of Russian assets, the reported sum frozen by Cyprus “seems to be a little low,” said European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders.

The EU plans to review sanctions enforcement in Cyprus due to the substantial amount of Russian investments in the island nation, Reynders said after discussions with Cyprus Justice Minister Anna Koukkides-Procopiou.

Reynders cited a report from the Cyprus Central Bank stating that the country received 96 billion euros in Russian investments in 2020 alone.

“It’s a genuine concern, but for the time being, we are in a phase where we ask to receive more and more information about the reason why it’s so low or about the possibility of increasing the amount of frozen assets,” Reynders told reporters.

He stated that the EU also intends to investigate how Russian assets left Cyprus and other EU member states “sometimes with the support of service providers at the national level” following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The EU official stated that a delegation from the EU’s Financial Services, Financial Stability, and Capital Markets Union Directorate will visit Cyprus at some point to discuss the issues in depth.

Last month, Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides pledged to crack down on any breaches of sanctions after the U.S. and U.K. imposed a new round of sanctions on the financial networks of two Russian oligarchs, including 13 Cypriot nationals and other legal entities.

Given the country’s financial ties with Moscow, Christodoulides stated that Cyprus had “suffered enough” from such allegations, adding that the crackdown gave authorities the chance to avoid further damage to the country’s reputation.

Cypriot authorities have launched their own investigation into whether the 13 individuals and other entities have broken the EU’s sanctions against Russia and have requested assistance from U.S. and U.K. authorities.


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