Protagonists For All The Wrong Reasons

By Panayiotis Michaelides*

While Cyprus continues to play a leading role in the international pressfor all the wrong reasons, in the local press news Cyprus’ involvement in money laundering cases are hidden in small newspaper columns and mainly any public discussion on the matter is being avoided.

And all these at the same time the US is putting pressure on Nicosia to restore its image as a trustworthy financial centre through specific moves and actions. It’s not an overstatement that Cyprus seems trapped in the middle of the turbulent bilateral relationship and revival of the cold war climate between Washington and Moscow, especially after information was revealed regarding Russia’s involvement in the American presidential elections of 2016.

New legal documents recently surfaced, reportthat the head of Donald Tump’s election campaign, Paul Manafort, had a close relationship with a Russian oligarch,holder of a Cypriot passport and named Oleg Deripaska, who is linked to Vladimir Putin. As the documents reveal, a company owned by Manafort and his wife, received a 10-million-dollar loan from the Russian oligarch.

According to the same documents, as American news website Politico reported, the Russian was financiallysupporting Manafort since 2015, in exchange of promoting Ukrainian interests. It is worth noting that Oleg Deripaska, Russian aluminium tycoon, has a Cypriot passport. This had been the main subject of articles in the British press, which declared that European citizenship is for sale in Cyprus.

Oleg Deripaska’s name as well as the name of major Bank of Cyprus stakeholder, Viktor Vekselberg, are in the black list of the United States Ministry of Finance, following thescandal concerning Moscow’s involvement in the American elections.

International press continues however, to be preoccupied with other cases of Russian oligarchs who are connected to Cyprus. Their names might not be included yet in the American black list, which is updated from time to time, but their activities certainly don’t promote a good image for the country.Such is the case of Russian oligarch Alexander Shchukin, whose name was featured in successive publications in the Cypriot and International press, regarding the transfer of huge sums of money from Russia to the United Kingdom via intermediary offshore companies in Cyprus. Publications also refer to the case of the coal mines that came under his control through controversial methods. A simple google search, confirms the above.

Even though authorities ensure that they are taking all necessary measures to combat potentially suspicious business transactions and money laundering, Cyprus is stilldescribed as a laundromat abroad, in many publications and reports. Taking this into account, the question that comes to mind is whether we have learned from the painful, very recent past. We should also ask how much Cyprus’ reputation is being damaged since the image of a dirty Russian money laundromat is being preserved.