Wednesday

16th Jun 2021

Interview

Navalny to EU: Stop Russian criminals using your banks

  • Navalny: 'There is a big difference between business co-operation and giving wide opportunities for money laundering' (Photo: Person Behind the Scenes)

On the eve of a likely jail sentence, Russian activist Alexei Navalny has urged the EU to enforce its own laws in order to help Russian people fight corruption.

Navalny, a 37-year-old lawyer, has in the past three years become a thorn in the side of Russia's elite by publishing evidence of high-level corruption on his website, navalny.ru.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

On Tuesday (16 July), he, and his group of other young jurists, unveiled the secret business empire of Vladimir Yakunin, a government official who runs Russian Railways, the country's state-owned train operator.

According to their information, Russian Railways has channelled millions upon millions of taxpayers' money into businesses owned by Yakunin's wife and two sons.

The businesses include hotel chains, blocks of flats and marine ports.

But the Yakunin connection is hidden behind layers of offshore firms, dozens of which are registered in EU member state Cyprus.

Navalny published the information, obtained by trawling open sources, such as company registries, on Tuesday because he fears he will be jailed on Thursday.

Russian prosecutors have asked for a six-year sentence on charges he embezzled €380,000 worth of timber in a transaction in 2009.

EU diplomats, who are following the proceedings, say privately the trial is a sham.

But the judge who will rule on Navalny's fate at the end of the week has never issued a not-guilty verdict in his career.

Navalny told EUobserver by email from Moscow on Tuesday that the EU's frequent statements on lack of rule of law in Russia "are, of course, a good thing."

But he is "sceptical" they will prompt change.

Instead, he urged EU authorities to help Russian people by enforcing rule of law in EU member states.

Or, in other words, by stopping Russian criminals from using European banks and offshore structures to conceal their ill-gotten gains.

Noting that the EU's joint police body, Europol, the European Commission and six EU countries are now investigating a money laundering trail linked to the death of Russian whistleblower-auditor Sergei Magnitsky, Navalny said: "This work is fundamentally important."

He added: "Stolen money was smuggled outside my country and re-invested in Europe … If the commission and Europol do their job properly, it will create an extremely important precedent."

He said the EU should go further, by creating new legal obligations for sensitive Russian investments.

"The best strategy would be an additional anti-corruption regulation on European-Russian projects, primarily ones to do with energy … Projects implemented by major Russian corporations should be subject to independent anti-corruption checks similar to environmental impact assessments, which are carried out on pipeline projects," he explained.

He said he "fully approves" of EU and Russian companies doing business together.

But he added: "There is a big difference between business co-operation and giving wide opportunities for money laundering and investment of criminal funds in the EU."

If Russia jails him, there is a real risk he could come to harm.

Magnitsky, back in 2008, went into prison a healthy man.

He died in his cell 11 months later - also at the age of 37 - after contracting pancreatitis and after being beaten with rubber batons on the day of his death.

"Detention centres in Russia are places of absolute arbitrariness. Situations similar to the Magnitsky case are widespread, not to say typical," Navalny told this website.

His fellow activists do not believe that EU statements will keep him safe.

"We just want them [EU officials] to click on the website, to read our information and to do something about it. We can give them all the documents, fully certified, with legal translations," a Navalny associate, who asked to not to be named, said.

"This is our only option. We have no options in Russia," the contact added.

Frontex chief: 'about time' MEPs probe his agency

Some 14 MEPs have created a group to probe allegations of rights abuse by the EU's border agency Frontex. Its head, Fabrice Leggeri, welcomed its creation and said it "is about time".

Romania denies forcing migrant-boat back to Turkish waters

Romania's ministry of internal affairs wrote to Frontex claiming it did not engage in any illegal pushbacks of people on rubber boats into Turkish territorial waters. The country says it followed EU engagement rules and Greek orders.

News in Brief

  1. BBC and others boycott Belarus press circus
  2. Report: EU and US to unveil aircraft subsidy truce
  3. Putin refuses to guarantee Navalny will survive jail
  4. Erdoğan agrees to pull out mercenaries from Libya
  5. EU starts sale of first bonds for Covid-19 recovery fund
  6. Germans told not to 'storm pharmacies' for Covid pass
  7. Indonesia warns Covid-19 wave may not peak until July
  8. WTO chief: 'drop trade barriers on Covid-19 treatments'

Feature

Covid-hit homeless find Xmas relief at Brussels food centre

The Kamiano food distribution centre in Brussels is expecting 20 people every half hour on Christmas Day. For many, Kamiano is also more than that - a support system for those made homeless or impoverished.

Top court finds Hungary and Poland broke EU rules

EU tribunal said Hungary's legislation made it "virtually impossible" to make an asylum application. Restricting access to international protection procedure is a violation of EU rules.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. China officially joins Russia as a danger to Nato
  2. German Greens face reality check amid CDU gains
  3. EU Parliament wants Europe to take lead on sea-rescues
  4. MEPs urged to end gas-funding, fix cross-border projects rules
  5. Biden in Brussels - what's in the 'in-tray'?
  6. Yemen foreign minister to EU: to stop the war, talk to Iran
  7. Brexit grumbles overshadow UK summit
  8. Former French PM to work for Russian oil firm

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us