Russian oligarchs and “mafiosi” who have parked their illegal earnings inside the country stand to benefit most from an EU bail-out of Cyprus, according to a report by Germany’s intelligence agency.
9:06PM GMT 04 Nov 2012
Cyprus’s request for a bailout has created a political headache for German Chancellor Angela Merkel on concerns wealthy Russians could be the chief beneficiaries, the weekly magazine Der Spiegel said on Sunday, citing a report prepared by Germany’s intelligence agency (BND)
Cyprus is in talks with international lenders on the terms of a bailout expected to total €10bn (£8bn) after its two largest banks incurred huge losses due to the Greek debt writedown earlier this year.
The scale of the aid is tiny compared to Greece and other struggling eurozone countries.
The BND report on money laundering in Cyprus has laid bare the political risks involved, Spiegel said.
“The report of the BND shows who will profit most of all from the billions in European taxpayer funds – Russian oligarchs, businesspeople and mafiosi who have parked their illegal earnings in Cyprus,” the magazine said.
Cyprus is a popular offshore tax haven for Russian businesses seeking protection from their country’s unpredictable investment climate.
But Cyprus, which joined the European Union in 2004, says it has strengthened its regulations over the past decade against money laundering and is in full conformity with international rules.
Spiegel, citing the “secret” BND report and European officials, said significant doubts persisted over Cypriot implementation of these regulations.
The BND report found that Russian nationals held some $26bn (£16.2bn) in Cypriot bank accounts, Spiegel said, dwarfing both the emergency aid the eurozone is likely to provide and the country’s total national output of about €17bn.
Cypriot authorities do not provide a breakdown of bank deposits based on nationality, but Russians are believed to make up a large proportion of non-domiciled accounts.
Germany, the euro zone’s largest economy, would provide more than €2bn towards the expected Cypriot bailout. But Germans are angry about having to stump up billions of euros to rescue Greece and other heavily indebted economies.
Carsten Schneider of Germany’s main opposition Social Democrats, which hopes to oust Merkel’s conservatives in an election due next year, said his party would only vote in parliament in favour of aid for Cyprus on certain conditions.
He said Cyprus must be ready to adjust its low corporate tax rate and crack down further on money laundering.
Germany’s lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, has to approve the payment of financial aid for eurozone countries.