Sunday

2nd Oct 2022

Stolen Russian billions ended up in EU states

  • Treija: “Obviously it was money either stolen or with criminal origin.” (Photo: Kelly)

Illicit money flowing out of Russia via Moldova and Latvia ended up in almost every single EU state, an investigation has found, posing questions on the integrity of Europe’s banking systems.

Beneficiaries in Estonia received $1.6 billion out of a total of some $20 billion uncovered in the money trail by journalists in the OCCRP, a club of investigative reporters in eastern Europe, and Novaya Gazeta, one of the few independent media in Russia.

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

Some $900 million of the funds ended up in Cyprus, $78 million in Lithuania, $68 million in the Netherlands, $64 million in Germany, and $44 million in Denmark, according to bank statements provided by whistleblowers who asked to remain anonymous.

People in the Czech Republic ($38mn), Italy ($32mn), the UK ($29mn), Finland ($26mn), Hungary ($25mn), Slovenia ($15mn), Poland ($10mn), Luxembourg ($6mn), France ($6mn), Austria ($5mn), Belgium ($5mn), Slovakia ($5mn), and Spain ($4mn) also received funds.

Smaller sums ended up in Malta, Sweden, Greece, Bulgaria, Ireland, and Croatia.

“Obviously it was money either stolen or with criminal origin”, Maija Treija, the deputy director of Latvia’s finance ministry, which is investigating the scheme, told the OCCRP.

Most of the funds flowed out of 19 Russian banks, one of which, Russian Land Bank, boasted Russian president Vladimir Putin’s cousin, Igor Putin, as a board member.

It went via Moldova’s Moldindconbank, then into Latvia’s now defunct Trasta Komercbanka, before fanning out into dozens of banks worldwide, 17 of which were based in the UK or had branches there.

The UK banks involved in the scheme, which operated between 2010 and 2014, were some of the country’s largest and most prestigious.

The list involves HSBC, the Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, Barclays, and Coutts. Deutsche Bank in Germany and Danske Bank in Denmark were also named.

The real owners of the funds were hidden behind at least 21 shell firms, most of which were based either in the UK or in Cyprus.

At the other end, the money was spent on furs, jewellery, designer homeware, private school fees, rock concerts, and real estate.

Amid EU concern over secret Russian funding for anti-EU political parties and groups, the OCCRP said some of the funds ended up with The Zmiana, a pro-Russia fringe party in Poland run by Mateusz Piskorski, an activist and academic who was detained on espionage charges last year.

Tuesday’s OCCRP report comes after US and UK authorities fined Germany’s Deutsche Bank in January for laundering more than $10 billion of illicit Russian money between 2011 and 2015.

Bill Browder, a British businessman, also uncovered an illicit Russian money trail in Europe worth some $230 million following the death in prison in Russia of his whistleblower accountant, Sergei Magnitsky, in 2009.

UK debates post-Brexit Russia sanctions

UK could "influence behaviour" of "Putin regime" members by seizing their private assets, but future of Western economic sanctions in doubt.

Tens of thousands challenge Putin's authority

EU and US call on Russia to free those who are detained, after tens of thousands protested against corruption in the biggest challenge to Kremlin authority in five years.

'Mr Putin steps into French elections'

Putin treated France's anti-EU firebrand, Le Pen, as if she had already won the elections. "I have my own viewpoint ... identical to Russia's", she said.

EU wary of additional Russia sanctions

US plans to block investments in Russia’s oil and gas sectors, but these would be difficult for the EU to follow, says the EU’s US envoy.

News in Brief

  1. EU ministers adopt measures to tackle soaring energy bills
  2. EU takes Malta to court over golden passports
  3. EU to ban Russian products worth €7bn a year more
  4. Denmark: CIA did not warn of Nord Stream attack
  5. Drone sightings in the North Sea 'occurred over months'
  6. Gazprom threatens to cut gas deliveries to Europe via Ukraine
  7. New compromise over EU energy emergency measures
  8. 15 states push for EU-wide gas price cap

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. The European Association for Storage of EnergyRegister for the Energy Storage Global Conference, held in Brussels on 11-13 Oct.
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  3. European Committee of the RegionsThe 20th edition of EURegionsWeek is ready to take off. Save your spot in Brussels.
  4. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries

Latest News

  1. Editor's weekly digest: A week of leaks
  2. Putin declares holy war on Western 'satanism'
  3. Two elections and 'Macron's club' in focus Next WEEK
  4. EU agrees windfall energy firm tax — but split on gas-price cap
  5. Ukrainian chess prodigy: 'We are not going to resign ... anywhere'
  6. Going Down Under — EU needs to finish trade deal with Australia
  7. MEPs worry Russian disinfo weakens support for Ukraine
  8. Everything you need to know about the EU gas price cap plan

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us