The finance ministry on Friday hit back over reports Cyprus had a low amount of Russian oligarch assets frozen, compared to other EU counterparts.

The ministry’s permanent secretary George Panteli told Politis that contrary to what the European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders said that assets worth €104 million have been frozen in Cyprus, the number is much higher at more than €1.5 billion.

A source from the finance ministry told the Cyprus Mail one reason behind the differing numbers could be that the EU did not have the latest statistics – but could not confirm this was the case.

During his visit, Reynders said Cyprus’ reported sum of €104m sum “seems to be a little low” compared to other EU member states that have frozen between €2-4 billion of Russian assets, of sanctioned individuals.

The commissioner also cited statistics by Cyprus’ Central Bank saying that in 2020 alone, the country received €96 billion in Russian investments.

Panteli however said these are transactions taking place via Cyprus rather than investments.

Reynders also expressed that the EU Commission is concerned over Cyprus’ investor citizenship scheme. Despite its suspension, the fact that the scheme’s legal basis “has not yet been repealed” is concerning for the EU.

Meanwhile, Phileleftheros reported over 400 companies in Cyprus have been inactive since the sanctions by the US and UK hit the island. The sanctions targeted individuals and companies deemed to be ‘financial fixers’ for sanctioned Russian oligarchs – as well as “ individuals or entities that have ownership, either directly or indirectly, 50 per cent or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked.”

As a result, companies who may not have been sanctioned but have connections to the ownership of a sanctioned company or individual, have also been affected.

Banks accounts have also been frozen as a result.

According to the report by Phileleftheros, the department of registrar of companies has been inundated by requests from firms seeking to restructure themselves, in a bid to rid themselves of any connection with sanctioned individuals or entities.

The department has turned to the finance ministry for guidance, which has in turn request the attorney general for his opinion.

Lawyer Christodoulous Vassiliades stood out as the individual who was sanctioned by both countries. The UK has sanctioned Vassiliades along with Demetris Ioannides for “knowingly assisting” sanctioned Russian oligarchs Roman Abramovich and Alisher Usmanov to hide their assets in complex financial networks.

The Cypriots named in the US sanctions list are Kyriakos Attikouris, Marilena Georgiou, Kostas Giannakou, Kyriaki Demetriou Kamperi, Demetrios Serghides, Antonis Kyriakou Vakanas, Anna Maria Vassiliades, Christodoulos Vassiliades, Giorgos Vassiliades.