US senators sent a letter to a number of the world's largest banks with an urgent request to provide access to the accounts of Russian billionaires and officials suspected by Washington of close ties with the Russian authorities. Senators are aiming not only to increase pressure on the participants of the "Kremlin report", but also to look closely at those financial organizations that conduct business with them, Reuters reported on Wednesday, April 25.
The authors of the letter were Senators from the Democratic Party 71-year-old Jean Shahin (New Hampshire) and 62-year-old Sheldon Whitehouse (Rhode Island). They sent the letter to eight banks, four of which are included in the rating of the world's 25 largest Forbes. These are American JPMorgan Chase (# 3 in the rating), Bank of America (# 6) and Citibank (# 8) and European HSBC (# 16), Barclays, Deutsche Bank, UBS and Credit Suisse.
From these banks, two US senators asked for information on whether they had been audited during the last five years to find out in their databases any accounts controlled by Russian oligarchs and officials caught on the January 29, 2018 US Department of the Sanctions list (210 people were included in the unseen part of the "Kremlin report").
If such checks were conducted, the senators asked them to provide them with information on the conclusions reached. If there were no checks, US lawmakers need to explain what measures were taken to identify possible links between the financial institution and those involved in the "Kremlin report". "Given their wealth and ties to the Russian state, many oligarchs in Russia either have significant political influence, or are susceptible to it," the letter said. In the opinion of American lawmakers, Russian oligarchs could use the acquired billions to protect their state from sanctions.
In case of refusal to provide the information requested by them, senators threaten to resort to more effective mechanisms of influence and initiate a government investigation against these banks.
On January 29, the US Treasury sent a "Kremlin report" to the US Congress - a list of Russian officials and "oligarchs" close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom Washington can impose sanctions on. The submission of the "Kremlin report" to the US Congress was provided for by the Law on Countering America's Agents through Sanctions, which was signed by President Donald Trump on August 2, 2017 and entered into force in February 2018 .
In the unclassified Appendix B to the report, 96 Russian oligarchs whose fortune exceeds $ 1 billion are listed. The undisclosed Appendix A contains a list of high-ranking Russian officials and state company executives, including 41 employees of the presidential administration of Russia Vladimir Putin (the head of state himself on non-secret lists not included), 31 ministers from the Russian government, including Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, and another 40 "other high-level political leaders."
The US Treasury published an explanation that inclusion in the list does not mean that the US government has information about the participation of a person in "malicious acts". But on January 30, US Treasury Secretary Steve Munchin promised that the publication of the "Kremlin report" would inevitably be followed by sanctions against some of them. "In no case should we think that we will not apply sanctions to anyone in this report," Mnuchin said at a hearing in the Senate Banking Committee.
April 6, the US Ministry of Finance published a sanctions list of Russian businessmen, high-ranking officials and companies, against whom restrictive measures are imposed. Sanctions were imposed on seven billionaires from the Forbes list (owner of Rusal, Oleg Deripaska, owner of Renova Viktor Vekselberg, senator Suleiman Kerimov, co-owner of Surgutneftegaz Vladimir Bogdanov, son of Arkady Rotenberg Igor Rotenberg, co-owner of Sibur Kirill Shamalov and co-owner USM Holdings Andrey Skoch), 15 associated with them and with arms export companies and 17 high-ranking officials and heads of the largest Russian state-owned companies.
Washington explained the new sanctions by the fact that the Russian government participates in "malicious acts around the world", including continuing to occupy the Crimea, provoking violence in the east of Ukraine, supporting the regime of Bashar Assad in Syria and trying to undermine Western democracies through malicious cyberactivity.