By Stelios Orphanides
Justice and Public Order Minister Ionas Nicolaou said that an increase in convictions for cases concerning money laundering proves that Cyprus’ framework for the problem is improving.
“From 2011 to 2015, we had 403 cases and 91 individuals were sentenced on money laundering charges,” Nicolaou said in a statement on his personal website www.ionasnicolaou.eu on Thursday. “In 2016, we had 177 cases, out of which (all) 177 were solved. In 2017, we had so far 162 cases of which 149 were solved”.
“There is also a large number of account freeze orders, of confiscation of illicit revenue orders as well as of recognition and execution of orders issued abroad,” he said.
The justice minister’s statement – which came in response to recent press reports about money laundering in Cyprus – said the government had bolstered the legal framework, rendering it the ‘most-powerful’ compared with other countries, which Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s expert committee on money laundering has acknowledged.
In recent days, press reports have made extensive references to the alleged laundering of illicit funds via Cypriot companies owned and controlled by Paul Manafort, a former advisor of US president Donald Trump.
Hermitage Capital found Bill Browder also accused Cypriot authorities of dragging their feet in investigating complaints about illicit Russian funds laundered through the Cypriot financial system.
“Our country came through to Moneyval’s fourth evaluation round with very positive results with respect to the legislation and administrative measures taken in Cyprus, as set out in the commission’s report,” Nicolaou said. Cyprus took corrective action to address all of the points raised much faster than expected, ahead of the fifth round expected to commence ‘soon’.
“Our country is fully harmonised and compliant with all measures provided by international treaties and the acquis communautaire,” Nicolaou said. “We have bolstered with legislation procedures to confiscate illicit revenue and increased staff levels at Mokas (the anti-money laundering unit) and the Financial Crime Bureau at the Police”.
Cyprus aims to investigate these kinds of offences in the best possible way and take action to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing, he said.