Among them, 39 Russians are members of the Forbes list, former managers of state-owned companies, and ex-senators. After this leak, questions from the Cypriot government and banks may arise to its defendants, experts interviewed by Forbes say.
“Dozens of participants in money laundering schemes, convicted fraudsters and politicians accused of corruption hold the“ gold ”passports of Cyprus," says Arab media group Al Jazeera. Its Investigation Department obtained over 1,400 Cyprus investment passport applications approved between 2017 and 2019. These leaks, dubbed the Cyprus Papers, include the names of 2,351 people from 74 countries. On Tuesday, the publication published profiles for 100 applicants.
The Investment Citizenship Program has been operating in Cyprus since 2013. To obtain a "golden passport", the applicant must invest in the Cypriot economy - real estate or securities - at least € 2 million. In 2019, Cyprus has tightened the rules for obtaining citizenship. Most of the holders of "golden passports" from the list published by Al Jazeera do not meet the new requirements, according to the publication.
Among the hundreds of profiles published by Al Jazeera, 39 belong to Russians. Immigrants from Russia are the main recipients of "golden passports", says Al Jazeera. In 2017-2019, out of 2351 people who received Cypriot citizenship in exchange for investment, 922 are Russian citizens. In the database, profiles can be filtered by "high risk group" criteria. Al Jazeera classified the applicants in this group based on how “high risk” is understood in the current Cypriot law. “High risk” is assumed in cases where the applicant is a defendant in a criminal case (even if he has not yet been charged), a defendant in a lawsuit convicted of serious crimes (including bribery or tax evasion) is wanted. In addition, "high risk" is assumed if the person has held or is holding a high position in the structure that fell under the sanctions, or is its shareholder. Finally, the “high risk group” includes politically exposed persons (PEP) - current and former officials and their family members.
The publication classified billionaires Oleg Tinkov and Vadim Moshkovich, former billionaire and ex-shareholder of Promsvyazbank Alexei Ananyev, ex-head of FC Otkritie Bank Ruben Aganbegyan, Deputy General Director of UC Rusal Maxim Poletaev, former head of Vostochny Bank, to the "high risk group" Alexey Kordichev. Among the PEPs, the publication noted 17 persons - in addition to Ananyev and Moshkovich (they are former senators), there were the stepson of the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Tatyana Golikova Vladimir Khristenko, the head of VTB Capital Alexei Yakovitsky, the ex-head of RusHydro Yevgeny Dod and others.
Al Jazeera has symbolized the published profiles. Among them: handcuffs - the applicant is now in prison or was serving a prison term, scales - the analysis shows that the applicant would have been refused in accordance with the current rules, a "Stop" icon - a person is on the sanctions list or occupies a leading position in a sanctioned company, a running person - the submission of the application coincided with the investigations, proceedings or sanctions against the applicant.
Some of the questions Al Jazeera has in connection with the approval of citizenship are related to the events that occurred after the approval. For example, Oleg Tinkov received a Cypriot passport in April 2018, and only in March 2020 was accused by American tax authorities of falsifying declarations. Ruben Aganbegyan received a Cypriot passport in September 2018, but the court arrested his assets in a claim for 289 billion from the Central Bank only in July 2019. Cyprus approved citizenship for Alexei Ananyev in March 2017 - at that time Promsvyazbank had not even been sanitized yet, and arbitration and criminal claims against him and his brother Dmitry appeared much later.
Vadim Moshkovich's card says that in 2018 he was included by the United States in the "Kremlin dossier" - a list of "businessmen close to Vladimir Putin." But then, according to Forbes, all Russian billionaires were simply included in this list. As an indication of the "sub-sanction" of Maxim Poletaev, it is mentioned that he was the deputy chairman of Sberbank until 2018, and in September 2014 the bank came under US sectoral sanctions.
Forbes sent inquiries to Aganbegyan and VTB Capital. “The information was disclosed without my consent, which is an interference with privacy,” Maxim Poletaev commented on the Al Jazeera publication for Forbes. “Obtaining a second passport does not violate Russian laws and any restrictions that apply to me. Within two weeks after receiving, I notified the relevant services in the Russian Federation in strict accordance with the law, "he stressed. According to Poletaev, he needs a second passport for business travel. " Moshkovich's spokesman declined to comment.
Al Jazeera also published the profiles of seven more Russians with hidden names and surnames. These people received the "golden passport" of Cyprus in compliance with all applicable regulations. Al Jazeera explains their appearance in the database with a desire to illustrate the love of the world elite for Cypriot citizenship. The list includes five unnamed billionaires (including a businessman from the railroad and sea transportation industry, "a business partner of several key figures in the inner circle of President Putin"), "the wife of a sanctioned billionaire", and "a developer, associate of Oleg Deripaska."
Not the first complaint
“I would be very careful about this list - you need to look at the moment at which the citizenship was obtained, and when questions from the law enforcement agencies appeared to the person,” says Evgeny Tsikunov, General Director of the Second House company. Perhaps, for some of his defendants, Cyprus can launch the procedure for revoking citizenship.
He recalls that on August 18, 2020, Cypriot parliamentarians voted in favor of amendments to the investment citizenship program. They, for example, contained a ban on issuing passports to people with a criminal record. In addition, Cyprus clarified that people of the PEP category can apply for citizenship a year after leaving office, but has banned former heads of state, governors, mayors of cities and ambassadors from obtaining investment citizenship.
In November last year, the Cyprus Ministry of Internal Affairs announced that it was going to deprive 26 foreigners of the "golden passports". At the same time, Politis published a list of those Russians who could be deprived of their citizenship - it included billionaire Oleg Deripaska with two children, as well as the former heads of Eurofinance Mosnarbank Vladimir Stolyarenko and Alexander Bondarenko with their families. In early July, the director of the Department of International Financial Institutions and Financial Management of the Ministry of Finance of the island, Kyriakos Kakuris, said that the Cyprus Ministry of Internal Affairs was reviewing the decision to issue citizenship to the ex-owners of Promsvyazbank, Alexei and Dmitry Ananyev.
Implications for investors
It is logical to expect that the information published by Al Jazeera will require any reaction from the Cypriot authorities, said Rustam Vakhitov, partner in international taxation at Crowe Expertise. Most likely, the persons who are mentioned in the lists will be rechecked and, based on the results of the check, Cyprus will either apologize for issuing passports for inaccurate data, or declare that it does not see any violations, Vakhitov suggests. Plus, bankers are quite sensitive to any kind of such information and, based on the publication of Al Jazeera, can conduct their checks.
In the Atlantic Ocean, there is the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis, whose citizenship was quite easy to obtain, which is why passports were handed over, among other things, to Chinese corrupt officials and persons from Iran who were under sanctions, recalls Sergei Glandin, special adviser on sanctions law of the Pen & Paper bar. In May 2014, the American Fincen (Financial Crimes Network, a division of the US Treasury) published recommendations for banks, in which he wrote that Saint Cyst and Nevis passports were issued in violation of the law and advised to look under the microscope to see if banks clients with such passports. This led to massive blocking of accounts of citizens of Saint Kitts and Nevis. A similar situation may arise with Cyprus, Glandin believes. “Any such publicity is viewed negatively by banking and other compliance, for example, when opening accounts and making transfers - money loves silence,” agrees Irina Shamraeva, partner of the Swiss multi-family office of FP Wealth Solutions.
Implications for Cyprus
Irina Shamraeva from FP Wealth Solutions believes that Cyprus will discredit itself with such a leak - after it, investors will have much less desire to apply for Cypriot citizenship. “Of course, the Cypriot authorities should conduct a thorough investigation and establish how the scans of documents ended up in the possession of journalists,” Yevgeny Tsikunov believes, but at the same time invites the owners of Cypriot citizenship to prepare for the fact that information about their passports may become public, by analogy with Malta, which annually publishes a general list of those accepted for citizenship.
The European Union can make claims to Cyprus itself and ask to double-check all the dossiers and revoke passports, Glandin admits. Therefore, the worst option for applicants for citizenship of the island may be the loss of a passport and investment - nowhere in the law is it spelled out that, upon revocation, the money must be returned to the applicants. “It's another matter that the recall process can be quite lengthy. Cyprus is a European state, you can appeal the revocation indefinitely, and until the decision is made by the final instance, citizenship will be valid, ”adds Glandin. He admits that Cyprus may now either curtail the investment citizenship program or seriously tighten its conditions.
Who else is in the Cyprus Papers
Received my passport on September 27, 2017.
He held managerial positions in various oil companies, including, according to Al Jazeera, in a subsidiary of Lukoil. His brother, Ralif Safin, was a senator from the Altai Republic in 2002-2014, and was also included in the Russian Forbes list of $ 500 million (data for 2011).
Received my passport on October 4, 2017.
The main owner of LSR Group, one of the largest Russian developers. With a fortune of $ 850 million, Forbes ranked 111th in 2020.
Received a passport on July 3, 2018
Deputy Minister of Economic Development in 2014-2017
Received a passport on October 23, 2018
Member of the State Council of Udmurtia (1999-2017). Co-owner of Komos Group agricultural holding. In 2017, he was ranked 33rd in the Forbes list of the richest officials.
Received my passport on May 25, 2018.
Mityukov is on the board of directors of Severstal. As noted by Al Jazeera, Ukraine imposed sanctions against the company after the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014. Mityukov is the CEO of TT-Holding, the operating company of the TalentTech ecosystem, which includes training sites and Internet sites for finding jobs and employees.
Received a passport on March 31, 2018
Founder and owner of FixPrice stores, owner of the Cypriot football club Pafos FC. In September 2016, he was “put on the wanted list on charges of embezzling a $ 123 million loan,” writes Al Jazeera, but the prosecution was dropped in 2018 due to the lack of corpus delicti.
Received a passport on June 10, 2019