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Questions over why Cyprus-Russia sanctions’ probe has taken so long

occrp

Authorities on Wednesday appeared to be playing a game of hot potato over who was responsible for the apparent delay in investigating reports over PwC’s alleged role in potentially helping Russian oligarch Alexey Mordashov evade EU sanctions.

Permanent secretary at the finance ministry George Panteli told the state broadcaster the ministry had forwarded details over the case to the legal service in November 2022 for an investigation.

By the time a slew of reports dubbed ‘Cyprus Confidential’ were published last week, Cyprus had been quoted as saying it was investigating the case, raising questions over why it had taken so long.

Panteli was responding to a damning report in Phileleftheros which charged Cypriot authorities had known about the potential sanctions’ evasion allegations for months, with no action taken. “Everyone knew and kept quiet,” it said.

It added the country’s money laundering unit Mokas had been informed of the allegations in writing as had the legal service, finance ministry and police. Though the report said this had taken place in April 2023, Panteli specified that the finance ministry began investigating in May 2022.

Part of the department’s efforts involved calls with the German finance ministry. Once the data had been collected, it was sent to the legal service, he specified.

Based on his statements that the case was sent on in November 2022, this suggests a year-long investigation that has yet to yield any results.

Pantelis also added the ministry has dozens of cases which it is examining.

The developments are linked to the ‘Cyprus Confidential’ reports which explored Cyprus’ ties to Russian wealth.

One report specifically said that leaked documents showed staff at PwC Cyprus hurried to restructure companies belonging to Russian oligarchs as the prospect of sanctions loomed after Russia invaded Ukraine.

It alleged PwC helped Mordashov arrange to transfer his stake in TUI Group to his life partner just as the EU sanctioned him in February 2022.

The findings were compiled following a major data leak and published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), where more than 270 journalists from 68 news organisations worked on the investigation over eight months, cooperating from 55 countries and regions.

President Nikos Christodoulides has since announced a team from abroad will be arriving in Cyprus to help investigate the claims. He did not specify the country.

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