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UK imposes sanctions on Cypriot ‘financial fixers’ for Russian oligarchs (Updated)

file photo: russian billionaire and owner of chelsea football club roman abramovich arrives at a division of the high court in central london
Roman Abramovich

The UK government on Wednesday imposed sanctions on two Cypriot “financial fixers” for “knowingly assisting” sanctioned Russian oligarchs to hide their assets in complex financial networks.

A damning statement named Demetris Ioannides and Christodoulos Vassiliades, for supporting Russian oligarchs Roman Abramovich and Alisher Usmanov. They have both been hit with an asset freeze, travel ban and trust services sanctions by the UK government.

“Vassiliades, a Cypriot lawyer, is at the centre of a web of trusts and offshore companies that link Usmanov and Sutton Place Estate,” the statement said.

Ioannides is seen as responsible for crafting the “murky offshore structures” which Abramovich used to hide over £760 million assets ahead of being sanctioned following Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.

“We are closing the net on the Russian elite and those who try to help them hide their money for war. There’s no place to hide. We will keep cutting them off from assets they thought were successfully hidden,” Foreign Secretary James Cleverly stressed.

A detailed document released by the commonwealth office outlined that Vassiliades is believed to receive a benefit from the professional services he provides to Usmanov.

Vassiliades is also director of Sberbank Investments Limited, a Cyprus-based subsidiary owned 100 per cent by PJSC Sberbank, which is a Russian bank owned by Russia’s finance ministry. “Sberbank Investments Limited is therefore a company carrying on business as a government of Russia-affiliated entity. Therefore, Vassiliades is involved in obtaining a benefit from or supporting the government of Russia.”

A number of Sberbank’s board members have also been sanctioned.

Ioannides is managing director of Cyprus-based corporate services provider Meritservus HC Limited – which has also been sanctioned.

He is accused of “acting on behalf of or at the direction of a person who is or has been involved in obtaining a benefit from or supporting the government of Russia, namely Roman Arkadyevich Abramovich.”

Vassiliades and Ioannides were not immediately available to respond to Cyprus Mail’s request for comment.

Also named on the sanctions list are individuals with Russian and Cypriot nationalities, namely Mikail Safarbekovich Gutseriev, Pavel Ezoubov, Alexey Ivanovich Isaykin, Sanjar Zunnurovich Ismailov, Sarvar Ismailov (who also holds a nationality from Uzbekistan), Ilya Borisovich Brodskiy and Mikhail Vasilyevich Klyukin.

The UK government’s statement highlighted UK experts uncovered financial networks behind the Russian oligarchs, tracing those responsible for facilitating the activities.

It is now moving to “sanction them directly with asset freezes, travel bans, transport sanctions, and trust services sanctions.”

The government has been working in partnership across Whitehall, the FCDO, HMRC, NCA, OFSI and others such as DfT, “enforcing sanctions and pursuing those who try to undermine them.”

Britain froze the assets of Abramovich and Usmanov within weeks of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February last year.

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