By Stelios Orphanides
US authorities have not requested Cyprus’s assistance in investigating allegations concerning financial transactions in Cyprus by advisers of US president Donald Trump, including Paul Manafort, a Cypriot official said.
The US “expressed no concern over what is going on in Cyprus” regarding possible wrongdoings by advisers, including possible money laundering,during a recent visit by Central Bank of Cyprus’s executive director George Syrichas to Washington, the official said. Nor have contacts with the US embassy in Nicosia raised any concerns.
“US authorities including the Financial Crime Enforcement Network (FinCEN) were informed about Cyprus’s concerns (caused by media coverage in the US) and it looks like that FinCEN is not carrying out any investigation,” said the official who was talking to reporters on condition of anonymity. Cypriot authorities were dismayed by the negative publicity Cyprus has attracted in the context of “an internal political dispute” in the US.
“We feel unfairly treated,” he said, in reference to reports in the foreign media presenting Cyprus as a money laundering hub, a reputation the island hotly disputes especially since implementing tough anti-money laundering measures since the 2013 banking crisis.
Euro area members declined Cyprus’s request for a bailout of its banking sector in 2013 citing inter alia reports linking Cyprus to the laundering of Russian funds on the island. Following the crisis, which resulted into losses for depositors of the two major Cypriot banks, Cyprus took additional measures to enforce the implementation of anti-money laundering regulations, as provided by the terms of its bailout.
A recent report by anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International showed that Cyprus disclosed the most complete set of anti-money laundering data among 12 analysed countries, “with information available for 14 out of the 20 indicators”.
“Since 2013, huge steps have been made to an extent that we have been accused of being overly strict,” the source said.
Manafort, who was forced to resign as Trump’s campaign manager last August after it emerged he had not disclosed lobby work he had done for Eastern European oligarchs, did have accounts at the Cyprus Popular Bank, widely known as Laiki, which the lender closed in 2011 after it requested documents which the customer did not provide, the official said.
US and international media investigating Russia’s alleged meddling in the recent US presidential elections, reported in recent weeks that companies linked to Manafort had carried out suspicious transactions in Cyprus. Reports also linked former Bank of Cyprus vice-chairman Wilbur Ross, whom Trump appointed secretary of commerce, to Russian oligarchs with a stake in the Cypriot bank.