Cyprus says it is seeking information from the United States and Britain on whether 13 Cypriot nationals included in a new round of sanctions targeting the financial networks of two Russian oligarchs have breached domestic and European Union laws.

Government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis said Wednesday that President Nikos Christodoulides has instructed senior Cypriot officials to prepare a “roadmap” on what must be done to thoroughly investigate the individuals.

The people named as being allegedly involved in the financial networks of Alisher Usmanov and Roman Abramovich — close allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin — include two dual Uzbek-Cypriot nationals, a man with Russian, Israeli and Cypriot citizenship and three Russian Cypriots.

The naming of the 13 individuals as part of the new sanctions riled the new Cypriot president, who signaled his country’s firm Western orientation amid Russia’s war in Ukraine shortly after taking office Mar. 1.

The spokesman said Christodoulides has “reiterated the clear message that our country’s credibility must be safeguarded ” and that “no deviation from European Union sanctions will be tolerated.” Cypriot officials say the latest U.S.-U.K. sanctions haven’t been adopted yet by the EU.

Cyprus has in recent years striven to shake off a reputation of being in the pocket of Russian oligarchs who conceal their assets through a maze of Cyprus-registered trusts and brass-plate companies. Cyprus-Russian political, cultural and business ties have been traditionally strong. Hundreds of Russians received Cypriot passports under a now-defunct investment-for-citizenship program.

Letymbiotis said Central Bank Governor Constantinos Herodotou informed the president that Cypriot banks have frozen the accounts of the 13 individuals as well as a number of Cyprus-based companies listed in the sanctions.

Herodotou said Cypriot authorities have in recent years toughened measures against potential sanctions busting including shutting down some 43,000 shell companies and 123,000 suspicious bank accounts. Only 2.2% of all bank deposits currently belong to Russians, a far cry from the tens of billions parked in Cypriot bank accounts before a 2013 financial crisis brought the country to the brink of bankruptcy.

Several of the Cypriots named as part of the sanctions are lawyers who allegedly manage Russian oligarchs’ assets. Cyprus Bar Association chairman Christos Clerides told state RIK broadcaster Tuesday that no Bar member has so far been found in breach of any sanctions against Russia.

Clerides said the latest sanctions aiming to prevent Russian oligarchs from accessing their assets through the Cypriot-based management network were “exaggerated” and complained that Cypriot law firms should have been forewarned about them.

Leave a Reply