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President meets with US experts as new sanctions slapped on Cyprus-registered firms

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

President Nikos Christodoulides has already met with the US team of sanctions experts, as they continue to hold meetings with authorities in Cyprus over sanctions evasions and the findings which emerged from the Cyprus Confidential reports.

Speaking to reporters at a press briefing on Wednesday, government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis said the president held the meeting with the six-member US team upon their arrival earlier this week.

“The mission (of the experts) is to assist in the procedures for conducting these investigations, to exchange best practices in line with their experience in investigating financial crimes, and to identify any issues for improvement in the procedures or the way these crimes are investigated,” the spokesman noted.

According to Letymbiotis, the experts are in Cyprus at the request of Christodoulides, as local authorities begin investigating a slew of cases over financial fixers accused of helping Russian oligarchs evade sanctions.

Scores of Cypriot individuals and entities were hit with sanctions by both the US and the UK earlier this year, culminating in US authorities handing over a large tranche of data to Cypriot investigators.

On Wednesday, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Department of the Treasury issued new sanctions orders concerning three Cyprus-based entities.

The new sanctions include three companies registered in Cyprus, reported by the state broadcaster CyBC as concerning Belgian business interests.

According to the US treasury department, the three companies are linked to a Belgian businessman who allegedly coordinated purchases of electronics for military applications aimed at Russian end users through a network of companies in Belgium, Cyprus and the Netherlands.

Though the government has pledged to investigate everything thoroughly, authorities including the government and police have been slammed for a long delay in the sanction’s evasion probe. Recently, the attorney general told deputies it may prove difficult to convict sanctions evaders.

Letymbiotis highlighted that the experts will be in Cyprus “for a few days” but will return. Other experts which can assist them will also come to Cyprus, he added, specifying he could not provide more detail.

A day earlier, the first meeting between the US sanctions experts and Cypriot authorities took place at police HQ where the team of specialists discussed good practices for investigations involving financial crimes, and what tools to utilise.

In total, six US experts attended the meeting, including FBI agents, according to police sources.

Local authorities present included police chief Stelios Papatheodorou, assistant to the chief in charge of the fight against crime Yiannakis Georgiou, investigators from the financial crime unit and representatives from the legal service and finance ministry.

In a heated discussion last month, members of the European Parliament said they would be waiting to see the results of Cyprus’ investigations, as the country was slammed for effectively going against the EU’s efforts to put a hamper Russia’s war on Ukraine.

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