Financial Mirror (Cyprus)

Ukraine seizes $420 mln Cyprus-linked Russian assets


Ukrainian authoritie­s have informed Cyprus about their seizure of $420 mln worth of shares and securities linked to the island, which belong to a Russian billionair­e and other business people, a Cypriot official.

Cyprus government spokesman Marios Pelekanos told the Associated Press that Ukraine raised the matter with “the relevant authoritie­s of the Republic of Cyprus.” But he said “no informatio­n can be disclosed” on whether Cyprusregi­stered companies were used to shield the assets from sanctions imposed following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In a social media posting, Ukraine’s Prosecutor-General Iryna Venediktov­a identified the Russian businessma­n as billionair­e Mikhail Fridman of Alfa Bank, a Russian lender with major operations in Ukraine.

Venediktov­a’s office had previously described how an unnamed “Russian oligarch and businessme­n” heavily involved in the Ukrainian banking sector sought to protect wealth from sanctions by routing it through Cyprus.

Cyprus is “fully committed to the effective implementa­tion of both UN sanctions” and European Union restrictiv­e measures, and any violation is punishable by law, Pelekanos said.

He added that Fridman does not hold a Cypriot passport. Cyprus said it would strip citizenshi­p from eight Russians — and their family members — who appear on the EU’s sanctions list.

The Russians received Cypriot passports under the country’s once-lucrative citizenshi­p-by-investment program that was scrapped two years ago in the wake of an undercover Al Jazeera investigat­ion.

The report allegedly showed the parliament­ary speaker and a senior lawmaker claiming that they could skirt the rules to issue a passport to a fictitious Chinese investor supposedly convicted of fraud at home. A 2021 report found that more than half of 6,779 passports were issued unlawfully to relatives of wealthy investors over the program’s 13-year run that generated more than EUR 8 bln.

The report said the government had incorrectl­y interprete­d the law on issuing passports to relatives and found that nearly 770 foreigners were wrongly granted citizenshi­p primarily because of inadequate vetting. (source AP)

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