“Financial Activities in Cyprus Amid Russian-Ukrainian Tensions”
As Russian tanks made their way into Ukraine in 2022, financial activities in Cyprus ramped up significantly. Long-known for being an offshore destination for Russian billionaires’ fortunes, Cyprus began to see a surge in demands from such individuals and others seeking services in the midst of potential sanctions. Documents have revealed some of the urgent and sensitive requests handled by financial service firms in Cyprus, including the transfer of millions of dollars between shell companies owned by Russian billionaires Alexander Abramov and Alexander Frolov.
Urgent Requests for Fund Transfers
Revealed documents show that two Russian billionaires, Abramov and Frolov, sought the transfer of $100 million between their shell companies, which were dividends from their holdings in Evraz PLC, a steel and mining conglomerate operating in countries like Canada. The request was made before Evraz and its shareholders were sanctioned, highlighting the rush to move the money offshore to avoid potential sanctions.
PwC Cyprus – a major accounting firm on the island – was involved in handling these urgent financial requests. Emails labelled “URGENT” and “PLEASE APPROVE” detail exchanges between PwC staff, hinting at the urgency and pressure they faced in facilitating these large fund transfers, which included shares in a German travel company owned by another billionaire, Alexei Mordashov. However, these attempts were later declared invalid, and Mordashov’s spouse was placed under EU and U.S. sanctions in June 2022.
Criminal Probe and International Collaboration
The leaked documents, which amount to 3.6 million files related to business activities in Cyprus, have sparked a criminal inquiry by the Cypriot government into the attempted share transfer involving the steelmaking titan, Alexei Mordashov. In addition to this, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has compiled and analyzed these files in collaboration with media outlets around the world, bringing further attention to these controversial financial activities.
Cyprus as an Access Point for Canadian Companies
The leaked documents also shed light on the financial activities of Canadian companies in Cyprus. One notable case includes the Montreal-based company, now known as Aylo, which operates popular adult-video website, Pornhub. The leaked records reveal the substantial revenues of its Cyprus subsidiaries from 2012 to 2019, highlighting the island’s attractiveness for international businesses.
Furthermore, another Canadian company, namely Quebec-based drugmaker Pharmascience, was found to have routed its European sales through a Cyprus subsidiary to legally avoid millions of dollars in Canadian taxes, showcasing the tax and financial benefits of establishing a presence in Cyprus for Canadian companies.
Uncovering Connections and Diversified Operations
Beyond financial transactions, the leaked Cyprus files also exposed the controversial agreements between a well-known German journalist and an oligarch. The journalist reportedly received sizable payments from the oligarch to fund a book he was writing, raising ethical and journalistic integrity concerns.
Even with the geopolitical implications of Russia’s activities and the subsequent financial maneuverings, the leaked Cyprus files demonstrate the far-reaching impact of global business activities and their multi-faceted connections across different jurisdictions.
Implications of the Leaked Records
The leaked records from Cyprus have not only unveiled previously unknown financial transactions and agreements involving international personalities but have also brought to light the complexities and legal grey areas in global business operations. Moreover, the extent of international collaboration necessary to uncover and analyze these records underscores the importance of transparency and accountability, especially in times of political unrest and economic uncertainty. These records urge us to reevaluate the dynamics of financial operations and raise questions about the involved parties, their motives, and the global regulatory framework.