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19th Nov 2018

MEPs demand Cyprus open up over Russia money laundering

  • "The conduct of Cyprus … will have implications that go far beyond this case," the MEPs said. (Photo: jnocca93)

MEPs have urged Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades to "correct" the mishandling of a Russia corruption case.

The 17 deputies voiced "grave concern" in a letter to Nicosia on Friday (26 October) that Cyprus was "actively assisting" Russia in "politically-motivated proceedings" against Bill Browder, a British human rights campaigner.

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They also called on Cyprus to hold an investigation into alleged Russian money laundering via Cypriot banks.

They said Cyprus was "neglecting its duties under the European directives to combat money laundering".

"The conduct of Cyprus … will have implications that go far beyond this case," they said.

The European Parliament has no power to compel Cyprus to act.

But the MEPs' letter, signed by German green Rebecca Harms, Swedish conservative Gunnar Hokmark, and Lithuanian liberal Petras Austrevicius, among others, shone a spotlight on recent events on the island.

Cyprus has invited Russian interrogators to question Browder's lawyers.

It has also produced no results in a four-year probe into the laundering of a €195-million Russian tax fraud through its banks.

Browder used to run a hedge fund in Russia.

He became a campaigner for EU and US sanctions on Russia after his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, exposed the fraud and was subsequently jailed and killed.

The MEPs noted that "every other European country, Interpol [the international police agency] and the Council of Europe have deemed the Russian proceedings against Mr Browder to be politically motivated".

They said they were "appalled" that Cyprus was helping Russia to frame Browder for the crime.

The letter comes after a British MP urged the UK treasury to recommend that Cyprus' international anti-money laundering rating should be downgraded over the same issues.

The Cypriot justice ministry denied wrongdoing in a statement on Friday.

It said its probe, which began in 2013, into the Russia money laundering case was "open and ongoing".

Cyprus helping Russia to roll back US sanctions

Browder, a British activist who inspired a US law on freezing assets of Russian human rights abusers, said he was "terrified" of going to Cyprus because it would extradite him to Russia.

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The European Commission has said it is in a "dialogue" with Cyprus amid concerns on loopholes in its passport sale scheme.

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US defence chief James Mattis has praised European efforts to jointly deter Russian aggression, amid talks on EU military integration.

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