Swiss bankers accused of failing to manage Putin’s accounts

GENEVA (AP) — Four former bankers at a Swiss affiliate of a major closed Russian bank properly checked an account opened in the name of a Russian cellist with long-standing ties to President Vladimir Putin I was brought to court on the allegation that I did not.

Wednesday’s one-day trial in Zurich District Court stems from information about secret financial flows revealed in the 2016 leak of the Panama Papers against Sergei, a musician and childhood friend of President Putin. Roldugin was involved. It took prosecutors years to untie the net of money and bring the case to court.

The trial is a rare window into allegations from the Panama Papers that members of Putin’s circle of friends may have flowed millions out of the country and that financial officials may have turned a blind eye to such inflows. Open. Putin denied the accusations.

Both before and after Putin ordered the deployment of troops to Ukraine, Western powers have imposed sanctions on those with close ties to his government, including oligarchs and Lordugin. The US Treasury Department describes Roldugin as “part of the system that manages President Putin’s offshore assets.”

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Former Gazprom Bank employees — three Russian-born and one Swiss-born whose names cannot be identified under Swiss law — say that Lordugin, who was a customer of Gazprom Bank from 2014 to 2016, is actually a Gazprom Bank employee. He has been charged with failing to properly ascertain whether he owned property. account.

Documents filed when the account was opened listed an expected trade of 11.5 million Swiss francs ($12.2 million). The indictment does not indicate how much of it reached the bank.

According to the indictment, “Russian President Vladimir Putin officially has an income of over CHF 100,000 and, while not wealthy, actually has vast assets controlled by people close to him. It is publicly known.”

The document states that Gazprom Bank maintains the account despite “abundant” media coverage of Roldugin’s relationship with Putin, including that Roldugin was the godfather of one of Putin’s daughters. there is

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Bank documents list Roldugin’s annual income of CHF 1 million, assets of CHF 10 million, and a career as a musician, making the money flow “never plausible for Roldugin’s own wealth”. There is, and the account is shown to have been such. Structured evidence indicated he was being used as a “strowman,” the indictment shows.

A New York Times article published in 2014 quoted Mr. Lordugin saying he didn’t have millions. He was registered as beneficial owner in his two company accounts, one based in Panama and one based in Cyprus.

In 2016, when reports named Lordugin as the owner of $2 billion in offshore assets, Putin denied ties to the offshore accounts and said the Panama Papers leak was part of a Western effort to undermine Russia. Stated.

Putin said Western media pushed claims that he was involved in offshore operations, even though his name was not listed in any of the leaked documents from the Panamanian law firm. rice field.

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Putin said Lordugin had done nothing wrong and emphasized that he was proud of musicians who used their personal money to promote cultural projects in Russia.

The Kremlin did not comment Wednesday on the trial of four former bankers.

Prosecutors are seeking a seven-month suspended sentence for the defendants.

For years, Switzerland has sought to clean up its reputation as a secret haven for billions of dollars of ill-gotten or laundered funds.

In one high-profile case, Swiss prosecutors helped crack down on billions of dollars linked to former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, dubbed the 1MDB scandal.

Gazprom Bank’s Swiss affiliate announced in October that it would cease operations after consultations with Swiss financial market regulator FINMA.


Associated Press writers David McHugh in Frankfurt, Germany and Vladimir Isachenkov in Tallinn, Estonia contributed to this report.

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