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Rich Russians facing EU asset freeze (Updated)

superyacht 1
Andrey Melnichenko superyacht off Cyprus last year (Photo: Melanie Lovatt)

Rich Russians who received Cypriot citizenship through the now defunct investment programme are facing an asset freeze under the EU and US sanctions push, as are many others with businesses ties to the island.

Earlier this month reports stated that at least five people on the EU’s sanctions list have accounts in Cypriot banks, while billionaires with Cypriot citizenship such as Vadim Moshkovitch were placed on the list on March 9.

Others with companies or other business ties to Cyprus are also facing the squeeze, according to local media, which mentioned Andrey Melnichenko whose superyacht – estimated to have cost $600m – was parked off Protaras in October, 2021. Melnichenko was said to be worth $19.8bn as of October.

A spokesperson for Melnichenko, told the Cyprus Mail via email from London late Friday that the Russian was an international self-made businessman, entrepreneur and investor in children’s education.

“He has no relation to the tragic events in Ukraine. He has no political affiliations. There is no justification whatsoever for placing him on the EU sanctions list,” the spokesperson said.

“To draw a parallel between attending a meeting through membership in a business council, just as dozens of businesspeople from both Russia and Europe have done in the past, and undermining or threatening a country is absurd and nonsensical.”

He added, that the companies founded by Mr Melnichenko are 100 per cent privately owned and not affiliated with any government, making significant tax contributions in dozens of countries and investing considerable sums in their communities of presence. Effective 9 March 2022, Andrey Melnichenko resigned as their beneficiary.

Local media identified many others on the list with links to Cyprus, such as Dmitry Pumpyansky and his family, Alexander Vinokurov (married to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s daughter), Mikhail Oseevsky and others, such as Alexander Ponoparenko (with Cypriot citizenship).

The shockwave following the unprecedented scale of the sanctions have been felt in Cyprus, leading both the Pancyprian Bar Association and the Institute of Certified Public Accountants (Selk) to write to the foreign and interior ministries on March 3 and again on Wednesday, seeking clarifications and guidance.

Both the legal and financial services are seemingly spooked over the potential implications of the sanctions, as has Russia’s retaliatory measures against nations which took “unfriendly actions” against it – including Cyprus.

In any case, Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides sought to calm the nerves of investors and others as he said last week that the Cypriot banking system has no exposure to Russia.

“The economic sanctions imposed against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine are not affecting Cyprus to a large extent as the island’s banking system has no exposure to Russia,” he said at the time.

 

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