Mafiosi and Kremlin assistants: the secret route of Russian money in Andorra | International
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Entrepreneurs with murky fortunes, millionaires connected to the mafia and even an assistant to the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, with nine million in his pocket. A heterogeneous group of citizens of the Eurasian country informed the Banca Privada d’Andorra (BPA) of their intention to hide 100 million euros between 2003 and 2015, according to the documents to which EL PAÍS has had access.
The money landed in the financial institution until March 2015, when the bank was intervened for allegedly laundering funds from criminal networks. “The Russians have been Andorra’s best clients for years,” explains an authority from the Pyrenean country. A territory of 77,000 inhabitants surrounded by ski resorts and luxury shops that until 2017 remained shielded by banking secrecy.
This newspaper has analyzed the confidential minutes of the BPA money laundering prevention committee. Some documents that reveal the identity of some of these clients, question the origin of their fortunes and warn of the need to report their nebulous transactions to the Andorran authorities. Encrypted accounts, instrumental companies, transfers to opaque financial rackets and discretion… This is the inside story of part of the Russian money that sought accommodation in Andorra.
The Nine Million Advisor
Igor Sirosh, assistant to the President of the Russian Federation, used an encrypted account to hide his funds in Andorra in June 2013. Under the code 10101284, the money of this high-ranking Kremlin official was hidden, which assured the bank “to have earned” 9.12 million euros, according to an unpublished report from the police of the Pyrenean country.
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Trained as a military man, the hierarch has been an assistant to the head of the presidential administration since 2006. And he has held important positions in the institutional organization chart of power. Among them, he was deputy chairman of the Commission of the Russian Federation to counter “the falsification of history.”
Despite the fact that the BPA described Sirosh as a PEP (Politically Exposed Person, in English), a label to identify public officials or former leaders likely to receive funds tainted by corruption, the entity authorized the opening of his account.
Dark commission of 50 planes
The former CEO of a Russian aviation company turned to the BPA in 2013, where he had had an account since 2002, to collect a commission of 860,871 euros for mediating the sale of 50 Boeing aircraft. The former executive intended to enter the money through an operation that included an “interest-free” loan and a shell company domiciled in the tax haven of the British Virgin Islands. The BPA doubted the operation. The client was hiding behind an encrypted account and was also a PEP.
The booty of oil
The holding company Selene Design LLC was the Trojan horse used in November 2014 by the financial director of a refinery in the Russian city of Krasnodar to hide funds in BPA. The executive —according to the entity— managed a financial racket with tentacles in the tax haven of Nevis and Cyprus. Initially, he placed one million in the Principality.
The millions of gas
The four Russian executives of Actual Geology, a company created in the tax haven of the British Virgin Islands, settled in Andorra in 2014 to shelter the benefits of their gas reserve exploration company. The businessmen planned to enter up to two million euros in the BPA and use the Principality of the Pyrenees as a node of operations. His fortune came—supposedly—from the emporium erected by the late founder of his firm, V. Chestatyakov.
The businesswoman Ekaterina Limonova hoarded 12 million in Andorra in 2012 and announced her intention to place another 20 that year. According to what she told the bank, the money came from the benefits of her drug laboratory in Moscow. Her funds were distributed in two numbered deposits. And her husband, Victor Limonov, also tried to deposit his fortune in the BPA, but his behavior — unexpected emptying of accounts and refusal to provide proof of his capital — aroused the entity’s suspicions. “We believe that we have to be very careful and not leave any operation unjustified. Out of prudence, we make a statement of suspicion,” a member of the BPA’s compliance department said in December 2012. The bank worker alluded to the need to report Limonov’s alleged irregularities to the Andorran Financial Intelligence Unit (Uifand), an organization dedicated to the prevention of money laundering.
With the police on your heels
In April 2013, the Kazakh Police foiled the plans of a mysterious Russian client of the BPA who wanted to transfer more than five million euros from Switzerland to the Pyrenean bank. The intentions of the investor, who was considering buying a house in Greece with the repatriated funds from the Swiss country, were blown up after investigators warned that the man they were chasing resorted to a convoluted financial web in Andorra to move the money from the crime. The identity of the client is a mystery. He shielded his name through an instrumental firm, Artneveau Group SA
The piggy bank of the trucks
Vladimir Novik was general director in Russia of the Iveco truck company when he transferred 2.3 million euros to BPA. It was 2014 and the executive expected to also collect 3.5 million dividends from this automotive company. A firm with an annual turnover of 180 million and of which Novik had 33% of the shares, according to a bank document. The account managers warned that the amount to be deposited could be much higher. “In Russia there is a lot of underground economy, therefore, his salary would be double if we take into account the payments in b”, objected a BPA employee.
The king of pipes
Former Russian general Viktor Kanaykyn was managing a net worth of 50 million euros when he opened an account at the BPA in February 2003. His fortune came, he told the bank, from his gas pipeline cleaning firm Spetsneftegaz. A collaborating company of Gazprom born in Moscow after the disintegration of the USSR.
Kanaykyn took advantage of the Principality to deposit the benefits of his companies and Fondex, his trust (an opaque financial instrument). The bank received him with congratulations. And, even, he visited him three times in Russia to check the real activity of his conglomerate and his declining health after suffering a stroke that changed his signature. “This is a person with great prestige in Russia. He has participated as a speaker in numerous international forums and is a member of the International Gas Union (IGU)”, indicated an employee of the entity.
The king of the pipes had a representative in Spain to whom he gave powers of attorney, Andrei Petrov. A former bricklayer, driver and nightclub bouncer, Petrov managed two accounts at BPA. And in 2013, he was arrested in the framework of Operation Clotilde, which dismantled a money laundering network based in Lloret de Mar (Girona). The right-hand man of the owner of the pipe cleaning emporium accepted in 2018 a sentence of one and a half years in prison for these events.
This newspaper has tried unsuccessfully to collect the versions of the clients of the Andorran bank that appear in this information.
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