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Cyprus Isn’t the Problem – Friendly People, but Real Challenge Lies in Cypriot Bank Compliance Departments

Delving into the Depths of Inside Cyprus Confidential

Russian Oligarchs

In the past, landing at the old Larnaca Airport had a special charm, even at 4 am, with people outside chatting and laughing. A warm breeze welcomed you, creating a sense of home. Though Cyprus isn’t our native home, we’ve grown fond of it. Some of our dearest friends, akin to family, reside in Cyprus, and we eagerly anticipate returning. However, it’s widely known that Cyprus has attracted Russian oligarchs and businesses, and this extends beyond Cyprus to countries like the United States, Great Britain, Germany, France, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, and many others.

Beyond Borders

However, complicity extends beyond Cyprus; it encompasses the entire Western world sector, bowing to Putin’s financial influence. Oligarchs, in essence, function as quasi-KGB agents assuming the roles of billionaires. It is currently premature, but a time is imminent where Russian oligarchs will be pursued globally, akin to the pursuit of Nazi war criminals. The process has already commenced with their assets and ill-gotten gains, but their personal accountability is on the horizon. Amidst the second year of a protracted conflict in Ukraine, their vigilant observation persists. The subsequent query pertains to the strategic approach in managing this complex scenario.

Cyprus Confidential

In the recent week, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) initiated the release of investigative findings stemming from a voluminous leak comparable in scale to the Panama Papers. Millions of documents, originating from various Cypriot entities involved in financial and offshore services, became accessible to investigators with clients spanning diverse countries. The leaked information unveiled a narrative involving a renowned German journalist who authored books on Putin, receiving funds from a closely affiliated oligarch.

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Compliance Dilemma

The principle of “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” resonates here. Cyprus, and even its amiable populace, aren’t the root issue. Instead, a compact group within the banks’ compliance department bears responsibility. Despite receiving top-tier education and having esteemed parentage, these individuals have evolved into accomplices of Russian criminals. Their criminal inclination appears inherent, raising the question of whether an entire nation should bear the consequences for their actions, given that their upbringing and education did not lead them down this path. The Cypriot companies mentioned in the Cyprus Confidential Leaks have functioned within the confines of the legal framework.

Industry Realities

While it cannot be entirely ruled out that a small minority may have been involved in criminal activities, it would be an overgeneralization to extend such allegations to all individuals working in this industry. These are ordinary individuals striving for survival, grappling with the common challenges of supporting their families, much like their counterparts worldwide. Furthermore, the investigation brought to light newly discovered financial ties between Putin’s primary oligarch and the Russian president, exposing the complicit role of Cypriot authorities in facilitating Russian entrepreneurs in evading Western sanctions.

Unfair Scapegoat

This prompts reflection on the broader context—Swiss banks holding the wealth of Russian oligarchs, Raiffeisenbank International, which maintains its association with Putin’s regime, and numerous properties in Manhattan acquired by these oligarchs. Is it fair to solely implicate Cyprus while other players escape scrutiny? What has become of those who once welcomed Putin so warmly? What prompts the allegiance of Western turncoats who continue to endorse the highly criminal Putin regime today? What about the misguided individuals who extol Russia and its economy in the most prominent professional newspapers globally? And yet, the blame is solely laid upon Cyprus? The absurdity knows no bounds. How many of those vociferously expressing their opinions have actually visited Cyprus? What familiarity do they possess with the beauty inherent in Cyprus? The response indicates a lack of substantial knowledge; these individuals are merely seeking a scapegoat to divert attention from themselves.



Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Cyprus Confidential investigation led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ)?

The Cyprus Confidential investigation, a collaboration between ICIJ and Paper Trail Media, is a global initiative based on over 3.6 million leaked documents from various Cypriot companies involved in financial and offshore services. It exposes how these firms facilitated Russian oligarchs and billionaires in concealing their wealth, particularly from financial sanctions.

How did ICIJ conduct the analysis for Cyprus Confidential?

ICIJ’s data and research unit meticulously analyzed millions of documents, including company structure charts, bank account applications, tax declarations, and email exchanges. The investigation involved a coalition of 69 international media partners in 54 countries and spanned eight months. The leaked records were obtained from multiple Cypriot firms.

What is the scope of the leaked records in terms of revealing offshore holdings and connections to sanctioned individuals?

The leaked records unveiled nearly 800 companies and trusts registered in secrecy jurisdictions, with over 650 in Cyprus, owned or controlled by Russians sanctioned since 2014. These entities included mother companies of Russian holdings, subsidiaries of Russian conglomerates, and those used to shield investments in properties, yachts, and artwork. The records exposed financial services provided to at least 25 Russians sanctioned after 2014 and 71 Russians sanctioned since the start of the Ukraine war.

How did ICIJ cross-check and verify information about sanctioned individuals?

ICIJ utilized OpenSanctions, a website aggregating global sanctions data, and cross-checked named individuals against databases from various governments. Batch searches through Datashare facilitated the verification process. The data unit also confirmed oligarch status using Forbes’ 2023 billionaires list and collaborated with experienced partners, including exiled Russian journalists.

What outcomes have resulted so far?

Governments have recovered over US$1.36 billion in taxes as a result of the Panama Papers project alone, with ongoing efforts to collect lost tax revenue. The investigation sheds light on the complex financial networks supporting Putin’s inner circle and reveals the holdings of sanctioned Russians, contributing to global efforts to weaken Putin’s regime.

How does ICIJ protect and share the leaked records?

ICIJ provides access to the leaked records through its secure research platform, Datashare, ensuring confidentiality. The organization coordinates projects through ICIJ’s secure communications platform, I-Hub. The leaked records were shared with partner organizations worldwide, which structured, stored, and translated them before collaborating with ICIJ on the investigation.


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