Cyprus: Searching for the money of Russian oligarchs – 60 Minutes – CBS News

finances Money

Watch CBS Information
By Sharyn Alfonsi
January 15, 2023 / 6:58 PM / CBS Information
After Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. and its allies responded with sanctions concentrating on firms, oligarchs and officers with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Headlines trumpeted the trophies of Russian oligarchs seized all through Europe – yachts in Italy, villas within the south of France and priceless artwork in Germany – however these mounted property are comparatively simple to find. Discovering the billions of {dollars} oligarchs have stashed all over the world is proving to be harder. 
How do you cover that a lot cash from a world group that claims it is decided to seek out it? The query led us to Cyprus – a tiny Mediterranean island on the crossroads of Europe, Asia and the Center East. Immediately, the as soon as bustling trip spot is in the course of a world recreation of cover and search.
A poet as soon as described Cyprus as a “golden inexperienced leaf thrown into the ocean.” The island, simply 140 miles lengthy, is wrapped in sandy seashores, and a wealthy historical past.
These turquoise waters, in accordance with legend, had been the birthplace of Aphrodite. However at the moment, the “playground of the gods” has grow to be a playland for rich Russians.
We headed down the southern coast of the island to Limassol. Earlier than the warfare, it was a favourite spot for Russians to thaw. A 3-hour flight from Moscow, Limassol’s mixture of designer outlets, fur shops, cyrillic indicators and shops serving caviar earned it the nickname, “Moscow on the Med.”
However Alexandra Attalides, a member of the Cyprus Parliament, says after the autumn of the Soviet Union, the oligarchs who descended on the island weren’t right here for the seashores.
Alexandra Attalides: There are lovely seashores in Spain, in Portugal, in Greece. There are quite a lot of lovely seashores. I believe that they discovered a fertile floor right here that helped them.
Sharyn Alfonsi: How did the Russian oligarchs use Cyprus?
Alexandra Attalides: After 1989 once they stole the property of the Russian individuals and so they began to construct their empires. After which perhaps they had been afraid that sometime one thing will occur, so that they needed their property to be protected exterior Russia. So that they had been searching for tax havens, and we had a really low tax charge on the time.
Sharyn Alfonsi: They acquired a spot to cover their property.
Alexandra Attalides: Yeah.
Maira Martini: Cyprus traditionally constructed a monetary system to draw abroad wealth.
Maira Martini is an analyst for Transparency Worldwide, a nonprofit that tracks cash laundering all over the world. She says for many years, if you happen to had been an oligarch or only a shady character seeking to cover your rubles, Cyprus, was arduous to beat. 
Maira Martini: It presents the secrecy and nonetheless safety and that is what criminals and corrupt people are normally searching for.
Sharyn Alfonsi: What do you imply it presents secrecy?
Maira Martini: So in Cyprus, for a few years you possibly can open a checking account with out having quite a lot of questions requested. You’ll be able to open an organization with out having quite a lot of questions requested, which means you possibly can put the cash there with no need to inform who you’re, the place the cash comes from.
Cyprus turned as well-known for it is opaque banking as its clear water. Quickly, like sun-starved vacationers, international cash began pouring into the island.
By 2012, the nation of about one million residents had amassed financial institution deposits of almost 72 billion euros. About 30% of these financial institution deposits got here from Russian nationals.
However in 2013, the tide turned. The debt disaster in neighboring Greece, threatened to sink the Cyprus economic system.
Lawmakers, fearing the nation would lose all that Russian capital, pushed a scheme different nations had used to draw wealth – a “citizenship by funding” program.
Alexandra Attalides: From the start, for me, this was unacceptable.
This is the way it labored.  Any foreigner who invested greater than 2 million euros within the nation, usually shopping for actual property, may get a Cypriot passport, a coveted possession as a result of Cyprus is a part of the European Union.
Alexandra Attalides: So the people who find themselves shopping for the passport of Cyprus, they had been shopping for the European passport. They had been shopping for an open door to 27 nations.
From 2013 to 2020, Cyprus issued virtually 7,000 of these “golden passports” – almost half to Russians.  
Immediately, the skyline of Limassol was injected with high-rise luxurious residences, its port with mega yachts and its shops with uber-wealthy Russians.
Alexandra Attalides: You may see them strolling round like princesses, transferring in the costliest outlets. They’ve their enterprise, they’ve their homes, they’ve luxurious homes.
However in 2020, an undercover investigation by Al Jazeera revealed corruption within the passport program.
Cyprus had illegally issued lots of of “golden passports,” some to criminals and fugitives.     
After protests and beneath stress from the EU, the Cyprus authorities shuttered this system weeks later. However the passports had been nonetheless on the market. 
Alexandra Attalides: If you give passports to those who later we understand that they’re criminals, then you definitely open the door of Europe to criminals.
The golden passports additionally opened the door of Europe to Russian elites. 60 Minutes has discovered that at the very least a dozen of those now-sanctioned Russian oligarchs – had been issued – “golden passports.” 
Amongst them: Igor Kesaev who owned a Russian arms manufacturing unit. 
Billionaire Alexander Ponomarenko, who was the chairman of the board of Russia’s largest airport and who the U.S. authorities calls one in all Putin’s “enablers.”
And aluminum tycoon Oleg Deripaska, a part of Putin’s inside circle. In line with the U.S. Treasury, he is been investigated internationally for,  amongst different issues, cash laundering, unlawful wiretapping and extortion, accusations he denies. 
Maira Martini instructed us a Cypriot passport may make it simpler for these sanctioned oligarchs to purchase property and transfer property and that the comfy relationship between rich Russians and Cyprus is elevating concern internationally.
Maira Martini: Should you’re a small nation that could be very depending on international cash coming from one single nation, this additionally even may create a battle, proper?
Sharyn Alfonsi: Actually sanctions are solely as sturdy because the weakest hyperlink. Is Cyprus the weakest hyperlink right here?
Maira Martini: I believe Cyprus is among the weakest hyperlinks.
Cyprus Minister of Finance Constantinos Petrides disagrees. We first spoke to him in September. His workplace oversees efforts to freeze the Cyprus property of anybody sanctioned by the EU.
Sharyn Alfonsi: Who has been sanctioned, particularly, people inside Cyprus?
Constantinos Petrides: Relating to the citizenship, I take into consideration ten individuals had been discovered beneath restrictive measures. And the Council of Ministers has initiated a course of to revoke their passports.
Sharyn Alfonsi: The ten individuals which were sanctioned, who’re they?
Constantinos Petrides: I haven’t got any, any names now.
Sharyn Alfonsi: However would you have the ability to present us with that listing of names if we requested for it?
Constantinos Petrides: I am undecided. I must, I must see.
We despatched Minister Petrides a request for these names and the listing of any property of sanctioned Russians that Cyprus has seized or frozen. 
In a collection of e-mails during the last three months, Petrides’ workplace responded that because of European information safety guidelines, “no detailed listing may be made public.”  However different EU nations have publicized detailed lists of their actions.
Sharyn Alfonsi: So is the expectation that everybody ought to simply belief the Cyprus authorities that they are implementing the sanctions that they are purported to on Russians?
Constantinos Petrides: I am not saying that everyone ought to belief the Cyprus authorities. The Cyprus authorities doesn’t want any person to belief it. We have now the studies of the mutual evaluation for Cyprus 2019 that reveals all of the progress made up to now years. I believe that now we have proved as Cyprus that we’re a dependable member of the, of the EU. We do admit that previously there have been errors. However Cyprus has additionally been unfairly stigmatized.
Petrides instructed us the passports of sanctioned oligarchs are within the “course of” of being revoked and stated Cyprus has seized 105 million euros of Russian deposits. A giant quantity, however only a fraction of the estimated 5.6 billion euros of Russian deposits made in Cyprus final yr. We additionally requested Minister Petrides about this, the handfuls of Cyprus properties and energetic shell firms we had been capable of hint again to sanctioned Russians.
He instructed us any Cypriot firm with an EU-sanctioned oligarch listed because the proprietor has been positioned beneath “elevated scrutiny.”     
However usually, Russian oligarchs do not listing their names anyplace close to their property. 
Take the case of Roman Abramovich and his planes. In line with U.S. investigators, they had been hidden beneath 5 shell firms, stacked like Russian nesting dolls, with addresses within the BVI and British island of Jersey, all resulting in an nameless belief in Cyprus.  
Nevertheless it wasn’t Cyprus authorities who finally moved to grab the planes. It was prosecutors from the U.S. Division of Justice.
Lisa Monaco: There’s all the time been darkish corners of the worldwide monetary system. And sort of like water discovering a crack, that is the place the felony networks will go.
U.S. Deputy Legal professional Normal Lisa Monaco is answerable for the Division of Justice’s “Kleptocapture Unit,” tasked with discovering the property of sanctioned oligarchs hidden all over the world. 
Sharyn Alfonsi: It was, you recognize, the man fleeing with suitcases of cash. That is not the case anymore.
Lisa Monaco: It’s not.
Sharyn Alfonsi: It’s crypto. It’s planes. It’s yachts. It’s layered. And so how do you retain up with it?
Lisa Monaco: Even essentially the most infamous actors, whether or not it is the mafia, whether or not it is rogue regimes, one of the best software now we have is following the cash.
The cash has led DOJ investigators all over the world and nearer to residence.    
It seems, just like the vacationers who go to Cyprus, soiled cash does not keep on the island eternally. Sometimes, it is “washed” and invested in different, western economies.  
Investigators say that is a method Oleg Deripaska has been capable of skirt sanctions. 
Lisa Monaco: What the duty pressure uncovered was the community of enablers, and cash launderers, and facilitators who helped him cover his wealth in actual property right here in Washington D.C. and in Manhattan.
Sharyn Alfonsi: In america?
Lisa Monaco: In america, in art work, in self-importance companies, together with a music studio in Beverly Hills.
Of their case, the DOJ alleges that in 2020, Oleg Deripaska organized for one in all his youngsters to be born in america, despite the fact that he was beneath U.S. sanctions. 
Sharyn Alfonsi: He has a baby that is a U.S. citizen now?
Lisa Monaco: He was ready to try this in a single occasion. After which within the second occasion, that was not achieved.
As a result of U.S. Customs stopped it. The federal government case particulars how, because the warfare in Ukraine intensified, Deripaska used a “Cyprus” firm to rearrange “journey on a non-public jet from Russia to Los Angeles” for his pregnant girlfriend, transferring cash to lease a house for her in Beverly Hills. However when she landed in Los Angeles this summer season, she was stopped by customs officers. 
Deripaska, his girlfriend and the U.S. resident who helped him at the moment are charged with sanctions evasion. They aren’t in custody, however the DOJ has introduced plans to grab his U.S. properties value an estimated $70 million.
For the reason that begin of the warfare, the U.S. has moved to grab greater than a billion {dollars} of sanctioned property all over the world.
Sharyn Alfonsi: So what ought to occur to these property?
Lisa Monaco: We’re in search of the authority from Congress to permit us to make use of the proceeds for the good thing about the Ukrainian individuals.
Oleg Deripaska has publicly criticized the financial affect the warfare in Ukraine may have on Russia. However U.S. investigators preserve he’s a “Putin cronie” who’s “propping up Russia’s warfare machine.” 
Again in Cyprus, 60 Minutes discovered a villa on this seaside advanced, workplaces on this constructing and greater than a dozen “energetic” shell firms linked to Oleg Deripaska. The Cyprus authorities won’t say whether or not it has frozen any of these property.
Produced by Oriana Zill de Granados. Affiliate producer, Emily Gordon. Broadcast affiliate, Elizabeth Germino. Edited by Michael Mongulla.
First printed on January 15, 2023 / 6:58 PM
© 2023 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Copyright ©2023 CBS Interactive Inc. All rights reserved.

YOU MUST READ ALSO!!!  35 Years Of Operations: A Transient Historical past Of Air Transat - Easy Flying


Rate article