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US sanctions experts working on Cyprus cases

occrp
The Cyprus Confidential reports underlined the island's links with Russia

A team of US experts has arrived in Cyprus to investigate sanctions violations, Government Spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis confirmed on Monday.

They are set to begin work immediately, and cooperate with authorities in investigating cases that police have at hand, Letymbiotis told the state broadcaster.

The team consists of specialists from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). They will assist Cypriot authorities in probing 29 cases.

Cyprus found itself in hot water for aiding Russian oligarchs evade sanctions this year, after both the US and UK sanctioned dozens of Cypriot entities and individuals for being financial enablers.

Last month, an investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), published Cyprus Confidential, a slew of reports revealing that while the West was trying to block funding for Russia’s war against Ukraine, financial fixers in Cyprus — including accounting powerhouse PwC — scrambled to help oligarchs evade the sanctions.

According to Letymbiotis, the support from US experts comes at the request of President Nikos Christodoulides.

This is not the first time US sanctions experts have come to Cyprus this year over the matter. Shortly after the first tranche of sanctions in April, a number of experts were on the island, culminating in a visit by US State Department official Erik Woodhouse in July.

In an interview with the Cyprus Mail, the deputy assistant secretary for the division for counter threat finance and sanctions said Cyprus had to raise its standards in the fight against Russian sanctions.

The developments come as the EU Commission and members of the EU parliament stressed they would be closely monitoring the fate of the investigations, decrying how Cyprus “rushed to help Russia after the sanctions… (and was) complicit.”

Cyprus’ attorney general told deputies last month it may be difficult to convict sanctions evaders but pledged there would be thorough investigation over the allegations which came to light through the Cyprus Confidential reports.

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