The sale of a large Finnish island to a Russian oligarch has raised concerns on the now disbanded Cypriot citizenship-by-investment scheme.
A report published on Wednesday by Euractiv, a pan-European media network specialised in EU affairs, says that in 2020 Igor Kesaev ranked number 727 in the Forbes’ 2021 billionaire list purchased a large island in Eastern Finland.
By using a Cypriot passport, the tycoon allegedly circumvented the authorisation procedure required for such a transaction by the Finnish defence ministry, the report said.
Believed to control some 70 per cent of Russia’s tobacco markets, Kesaev has been reportedly linked to arms dealing.
These connections have alarmed the Finnish defence ministry. Moreover, after the purchase, extensive accommodation facilities were built in the area, including a helicopter landing space, which was not in the original plan.
According to Euractiv, a similar case took place in 2018, when Finnish authorities raided a group of islands on the country’s western archipelago. It emerged that Russian oligarch Pavel Melnikov had acquired them and built accommodation and other infrastructure. Accused of money laundering, Melnikov then sold the islands.
This time, the defence ministry is said to be keeping a close eye on the developments on the island in eastern Finland. The law allows for expropriation if the country’s security is compromised.
Cyprus dropped its citizenship-by-investment scheme in November 2020, after Al Jazeera aired a documentary showing reporters posing as fixers for a Chinese businessman seeking a Cypriot passport despite having a criminal record.
Last month, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen issued a similar warning to Malta urging authorities to stop it as soon as possible.
“We should not forget that the golden passports potentially enable the person to have access to 27 member states in the European Union,” von der Leyen said.