Cyprus Mail

Money laundering reports ‘defame president and country’ (Updated)

President Nicos Anastasiades

The government on Saturday branded media reports implying a link between President Nicos Anastasiades and his law firm to the so-called Troika laundromat as libellous and devoid of reality.

His law firm later said it was ready to take legal action against the organisation which first published the allegations.

The report by the Organised Crime and Corruption Project (OCCRP) released on Wednesday had implied a link between the president and his law firm with the Troika Laundromat, a network of shell companies that operated from 2006 to 2013 moving at least $4.6 billion and enabling its users to hide assets, evade taxes or launder money.

But the report made clear that the documents seen, “do not contain any specific evidence that the firm or its employees broke any law or committed any crime”.

In a statement on Friday, however, main opposition Akel said it was concerned by the reports.

“The Republic of Cyprus is being derided since it is implicated in suspicious money dealings, as well as Mr Anastasiades himself,” the party said.

On Saturday, government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou hit back.

“The president has expressed his disappointment, because once again he is being targeted along with Cyprus with libellous statements, which do not correspond with reality,” Prodromou said.

He said that what was presented as ‘findings’ by the specific website had already been investigated by authorities from abroad, such as the US’ Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and none of the investigations implicated the president or his law firm.

His statement was later supported by the law firm’s CEO, Stathis Lemis, who said that the firm was never under investigation and that it would take legal action for spreading false news and libel.

The firm added that there were clearly politics at play, seeking to harm the image of the firm.

“It is well known that what is reported as evidence that our law firm companies are involved in money laundering cases have been investigated by investigators from agencies in various countries including the United States,” the firm said, adding that it was ‘unacceptable’ for the island’s media to re-report libellous claims.

Prodromou said the president was disappointed that a Cypriot media outlet had printed the libellous report, and compounded the defamation of the country and the president.

The OCCRP report cited records from the defunct Lithuanian Ukio Bankas that linked Nicos Chr. Anastasiades and Partners LLC to complex deals that moved Russian money to and from shell companies created by and associated with the firm.

Two of those shells – Batherm Ventures Ltd. and Matias Co Ltd – had sent more than $323m into the system for various reasons, mostly unknown, the report claimed.

“The leaked documents also suggest that Alexander Abramov, a Russian billionaire, was behind both companies, and that he used them to buy a major Russian energy concern at an enormous discount. Abramov later received a Cypriot EU passport with the help of the Anastasiades law firm.”

On Friday, Akel said while it did not adopt the contents of the report it wanted Anastasiades to provide a convincing response on all issues raised relating to money laundering by various international observatories.

“This serious charge is hanging over our country for years and the president needs to take the lead and rid us of it. Especially from the moment his law firm is implicated in alleged suspicious transactions,” the party said.

But on Saturday Prodromou turned the tables on Akel, reminding the party that it was the Akel government that had given Abramov his Cypriot citizenship in 2010.

He referred to an interview with the then interior minister, Neoklis Sylikiotis, where he said Abramov was given the citizenship for providing high-quality services to Cyprus, including business services.

Sylikiotis added that Abramov’s citizenship was given “as there are matters of public interest, which justify the citizenship”, Prodromou said.




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