The change comes as the government seeks to clean up its country’s financial image.
Cyprus has made headway in weaning itself off Russian cash and business as it tries to clean up its image, according to official figures. A team of visiting US officials is helping the government look at cases of alleged sanctions-busting.
Russian deposits held in Cypriot banks reportedly fell 76% from 2014 to 2022, while Ukrainian deposits shrank by 67%. The number of Russian clients using Cypriot banks dropped by 82% in the same period, while Ukrainian clients fell by 54%.
For years, the Mediterranean island was known as an ask-few-questions jurisdiction whose banks welcomed money from wealthy depositors despite supposed shady connections. It was especially popular with Russia’s wealthy oligarchs.
However, that reputation started to shift after the 2013 financial crisis which brought Cyprus to the brink of bankruptcy. Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides, who took office in March last year, is vowing to enforce sanctions related to Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.
He says the country is committed to “being on the right side of history,” condemning Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.
According to the same figures, Cypriot banks severed business ties with nearly 60,000 customers – mostly Russian and Ukrainian nationals – between 2014 and 2022, while some 126,000 accounts have been suspended, amounting to approximately €40 billion.
Local media recently reported that several large Russian-owned companies registered in Cyprus have transferred their headquarters abroad owing to the scrutiny. It’s unclear which and how many of these companies have moved out of the country.
After addressing the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly on Tuesday, Christodoulides said Cyprus has fully implemented all European Union sanctions against Russia and challenged reporters to look through an EU report detailing which bloc members aren’t implementing them.
“I stand boldly before you and admit that mistakes were made,” Christodoulides said, referring to allegations of money laundering that had long dogged the island nation as well as a now-defunct investment-for-citizenship program that unlawfully issued passports to Russians and others.
“All this is now history for Cyprus… Mistakes have been made in the past and the first who paid for these mistakes were the Cyprus Republic and the Cypriot people themselves,” Christodoulides said.
Meanwhile, a team of experts from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice is assisting Cypriot investigators with cases involving so-called “enablers” – lawyers and accountants who allegedly acted to help conceal the assets of sanctioned Russians and Russian-owned companies.
The invitation to the US experts “is further evidence of the enhanced cooperation with our international partners on sanctions compliance to target those who have enabled sanctioned Russia oligarchs to hide their assets,” government spokesman Constantinos Letymbiotis told the AP.
Letymbiotis said that departing Russian bank deposits are being offset by newly arriving international businesses. In 2022, more than 1,600 international companies registered in Cyprus – mostly in tech – including 47 multi-nationals.
He said in all, those companies have helped create 36,854 direct and indirect jobs, up 42% from 2021.
Source: Euro News