The Russian billionaires who have been placed under US sanctions have been hit by massive audits of their offshore accounts.
Oleg Deripaska and Viktor Vekselberg, who were blacklisted by the US Treasury Department in April, have been cut off from their assets in Cyprus.
The island’s banks have frozen Deripaska’s and Vekselberg’s accounts since April 6, when the US sanctions were announced and came into effect. This was reported by RBC, citing the US Treasury Department’s report on opposing illicit financial flows connected with Russia.
Cyprus “remains a jurisdiction which causes concern with respect to the laundering of Russian money,” alongside Latvia and the UK – work with these jurisdictions, through which “large volumes of Russian finances” flow, has been prioritized, and as a result, “hundreds of millions of dollars” have been blocked, the report states.
As result of the work to use sanctions against “malicious Russian players”, it has become significantly more difficult to “solicit, transfer and conceal the source of illicit monetary funds”, and countries throughout the world “are trying to distance themselves from the entities under sanctions”, the US Treasury Department says.
These efforts have been made since 2017, the department adds: the pressure on Cyprus was intensified in order to deal with the problem of “significant amounts of suspicious Russian funds and investments”. In May, the island’s central bank instructed local banks to eliminate “certain risks of illicit financial flows from dummy-companies”.
Pressure on the Russian billionaires is necessary, because they are part of the “subtle apparatus comprised of government and non-government agents and intermediaries,” the report claims.
The sanction-caused damage to Cyprus citizens Deripaska and Vekselberg, who has concentrated most of his foreign assets in Switzerland, has not been limited to the freezing of bank accounts, the US Treasury Department believes. Vekselberg’s net worth has shrunk by nearly $3 billion, from $16.4 billion on April 5 to $13.5 billion on July 26, 2018.
Due to sanctions, Vekselberg’s Renova Group was forced to reduce its share in the Swiss Sulzer concern and the Italian company Osto Telematics. Furthermore, US-based investment company Columbus Nova, which manages Vekselberg’s assets and called Renova its largest client, has been forced to significantly limit its operations, the report continues.