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22° Nicosia,
22 September, 2019
 
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Rhetoric cranked up over Laundromat story

Palace and Akel at loggerheads following “Troika Laundromat” story implicating president’s law firm

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The Presidential Palace is fighting back against criticism over claims that President Anastasiades’ law firm was involved in a network of shell companies that laundered billions out of Russia.

A story published last week online by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project argued that Anastasiades’ law firm had been involved in the Troika Laundromat, a name OCCRP had given to describe a system designed to channel billions of dollars out of Russia.

OCCRP says leaked bank documents raised questions about dealings between Anastasiades’ former law firm, his associates, and Russian financial networks used for criminal activity. Specifically, the article says experts have determined that two front companies represented by Nicos Chr. Anastasiades and Partners LLC were found to have been involved with a network of shells moving at least $4.6 billion and enabling its users to hide assets, evade taxes, or launder money from 2006 to 2013.

Government Spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said over the weekend that the allegations in the article amounted to blatant defamation and “did not include any incriminating evidence” and that there had been no proof of breaking any laws.

'One would expect that Mr. Anastasiades or his office would answer directly to the allegations to put things right,' Akel said

Prodromou said the President of the Republic expressed his regret, according to Cyprus News Agency, “because once again, both the President and Cyprus are being targeted through libelous articles that do not correspond to reality.”

But left opposition party Akel has been beefing up the rhetoric against the President, calling on the Anastasiades administration to give more convincing answers.

“Money laundering is one of the issues that placed the Republic of Cyprus right in the eye of the storm over the last few years. It is obvious based on the article of the international monitoring site that one of the main reasons that this has happened has to do with activities of the President’s law firm. One would expect that Mr. Anastasiades or his office would answer directly to the allegations to put things right,” Akel said.

The OCCRP article clarified that the documents did “not contain any specific evidence that the firm or its employees broke any laws or committed any crimes.”

But the authors argued that transactions did “raise questions about dealings between Anastasiades’ former law firm, his associates, and Russian financial networks used for criminal activity.”

According to OCCRP, a Laundromat is successful when its operators have a foreign bank that would allow proxies to sign up for accounts without asking too many questions.

“They needed a bank whose compliance department would allow tens of thousands of highly suspicious transactions that made no business sense,” according to another OCCRP article.

OCCRP says documents show Batherm Ventures Ltd and Matias Co Ltd channeled more than $323 million into the system, while claiming that leaked documents also suggest that Russian billionaire Alexander Abramov, who was behind the two companies, made energy deals at a great discount and later received a Cypriot EU passport with the help of Anastasiades’ law firm.

Reports said a statement from Nicos Chr. Anastasiades and Partners LLC said the law firm was never the subject of any investigation and warned it would take legal action against those who try to score political points by defaming the firm through “fake news and libelous statements.”

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