The Panamanian legal documents of the company Mossack Fonseca, in particular, show that to circumvent the sanctions against the people around Putin may be involved in a minority shareholder of Bank “Russia” Sergei Roldugin and the former Cyprus “daughter” VTB RCB Bank. A division of the US Treasury Department responsible for sanctions, OFAC declined to comment on specific findings of the international investigative journalists. But the Treasury representative in response to questions emphasized that “the U.S. government pays special attention to the investigation of possible illegal actions and activities to circumvent sanctions using any sources of information both public and non-public”.
Cellist Sergei Roldugin — one of the few in Putin’s circle who escaped American sanctions in the spring of 2014, when in the black list includes the co-owners of Bank “Russia” Yuri Kovalchuk, Nikolai Shamalov Gennady Timchenko, the Bank, the former head of Russian Railways Vladimir Yakunin, the brothers Arkady and Boris Rotenberg. Bank Rossiya, described by the U.S. Treasury as “the personal Bank” high-ranking Russian officials “clearly were trying to use this loophole” [what Roldugin does not come under the sanctions], writes The Guardian, which participated in the investigation. In 2014, after the imposition of sanctions against the Bank “Russia” and its owners, a Swiss lawyer, Andres Baumgartner helped to open a secret account in the Swiss “daughter” of Gazprombank for offshore International Media Overseas owned Roldugina, writes the edition.
OFAC, as a rule, “very concerned with the problem of circumvention of existing sanctions: if something about a person, it appears that it helps to circumvent existing sanctions, OFAC may make it to the SDN list [of persons whose assets in U.S. jurisdiction are blocked], says the American lawyer Kelly Jacobson Burton PLLC Doug Jacobson, specializing in the sanctions. While OFAC may rely on any information sources, including data journalism, said the lawyer.
At risk of sanctions because of “Panama” leaks fall and two companies — Russia’s largest seller of TV advertising Video international (Vi) and Cyprus RCB Bank, 46% owned by VTB. According to investigative journalists, one of the main sources of financing for offshore companies Roldugin were significant unsecured loans from RCB Bank, beyond commercial logic. The Guardian reports the words of his “high-ranking source in Moscow” that describes RCB as “private wallet” for high-ranking officials. the Bank Itself called such accusations unsubstantiated, “RCB Bank strictly complies with the requirements of the law”, reported on Monday, his press service.
Until September 2014, VTB owned a 60% Bank of Cyprus, while RCB has not carried out an additional issue, which was purchased by a private group of “Discovery”. Through this transaction RCB ceased to be subject to automatic sanctions (restrictions on the financing) against the VTB group. “Thanks to the decline in the share of VTB, the Cyprus “daughter” was able to avoid falling under the geopolitical sanctions the EU and the US and work freely with Western financing,” says partner Paragon Advice Group Alexander Zakharov. According to him, if Western authorities interested in the findings of the journalistic investigation, the RCB appears to the potential risks associated with the possibility of audits by OFAC. Now RCB is not included in VTB group (the Bank only owns 46% of shares) and is not registered in the sanctions lists.
“If we capture the violation of sanctions and we have evidence to build a legal framework, we act in accordance with the interests of national security and foreign policy of the United States,” — said the representative of the U.S. Treasury.
From “Panama archive”, it also follows that Roldugin in 2010-2015 was a secret shareholder of Vi — Med through the Cyprus Media Network, whose beneficiaries were not previously known. Mossack Fonseca documents show that the owner of 100% of Med Media is offshore Roldugin International Media Overseas. Roldugin controlled 20% Vi at least until 2015, when the package was handed over to the offshore company from Belize Robertson Financial, the beneficiaries of which are not installed.
In Vi the source said that the company was never interested in the ultimate beneficiaries of offshore companies, believing that those somehow belong to structures of Bank “Russia”. In 2014, when Yuri Kovalchuk and Bank “Rossiya” got under sanctions, Vi started to get a lot of requests about the structure of shareholders, from the largest advertisers American and European manufacturers of mass consumption products, “Vedomosti” citing a source in the Agency and major advertising agencies. According to the newspaper, foreign advertisers had feared that may violate the terms of the sanctions, working with the company, under control to Bank “Russia”. Difficult situation Vi was also one of the reasons for the development of the idea a single sale. This idea in 2014, actively promoted Mikhail Lesin, then head of the holding “Gazprom-media”. As “Vedomosti” reports, in 2014, and the project is now a single seller is largely due to the desire to withdraw from the Vi under risk of sanctions. This risk will be even higher, when will be published the information that Roldugin partner Kovalchuk and Putin’s friend — also was a co-owner Vi, reports the edition with reference to the Agency.
The U.S. state Department spokesman said the U.S. government “does not comment on leaks”. Jacobson of Jacobson Burton Kelly has no doubt that “documents Mossack Fonseca to the U.S. Treasury interesting and OFAC will carefully study the information”.