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Swiss bankers accused of lax management of Putin pal’s accounts

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GENEVA — 4 former bankers with the now-shuttered Swiss affiliate of a significant Russian financial institution have gone on trial over allegations that they did not correctly verify accounts opened within the identify of a Russian cellist with longtime ties to President Vladimir Putin.

The one-day trial in Zurich district court docket Wednesday stems from details about secretive monetary flows revealed within the Panama Papers leaks in 2016 that implicated musician and Putin’s childhood good friend Sergei Roldugin. It took years for prosecutors to unravel the online of cash and convey the case to court docket.

The trial opens a uncommon window into allegations from the Panama Papers {that a} member of Putin’s circle of buddies helped funnel tens of millions overseas and that monetary staff could have turned a blind eye to such inflows. Putin has denied the accusations.

Each earlier than and since Putin ordered forces into Ukraine, Western nations have imposed sanctions towards oligarchs and others with shut ties to his authorities, together with Roldugin. The U.S. Treasury Division describes Roldugin as “a part of a system that manages President Putin’s offshore wealth.”

The previous Gazprombank staff — three Russian-born and one Swiss-born who can’t be named below Swiss regulation — are charged with failing to adequately verify whether or not Roldugin, who was a shopper of the financial institution from 2014 to 2016, really owned the property within the accounts.

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All 4 deny the fees, which embrace allegations of violating Swiss anti-money-laundering regulation. A verdict is anticipated March 30, in line with Gazprombank Switzerland, which is within the means of winding down its operations and isn’t itself going through fees.

Paperwork filed when the accounts had been opened listed anticipated transactions of 11.5 million Swiss francs ($12.2 million). The indictment does not point out how a lot of which will have arrived on the financial institution.

It’s “publicly identified that Russian President Putin formally has an earnings of simply over 100,000 Swiss francs and isn’t rich, however in truth has monumental property managed by folks near him,” in line with the indictment.

The doc says Gazprombank maintained the accounts regardless of “considerable” media experiences about Roldugin’s relationship to Putin, together with that he was godfather to considered one of Putin’s daughters.

The financial institution’s paperwork listed Roldugin’s earnings as 1 million Swiss francs a 12 months, his property at 10 million francs and his occupation as a musician, indicating that the cash flows had been “under no circumstances believable as Roldugin’s personal wealth” and that the way in which the accounts had been structured indicated he was getting used as “a straw man,” the indictment reveals.

It cited a New York Occasions article revealed in 2014 that quotes Roldugin as saying he didn’t have tens of millions. He was registered as useful proprietor on the accounts of two firms, one based mostly in Panama and one in Cyprus.

In 2016, when experiences named Roldugin because the proprietor of $2 billion in offshore property, Putin denied having any hyperlinks to offshore accounts and described the Panama Papers leaks as a part of Western efforts to weaken Russia.

Putin famous that despite the fact that his identify didn’t determine in any of the paperwork leaked from a Panamanian regulation agency, Western media pushed the claims of his involvement in offshore companies.

Putin mentioned Roldugin had carried out nothing unsuitable and emphasised that he was pleased with the musician who spent his private cash to advance cultural initiatives in Russia.

The Kremlin made no remark Wednesday on the trial of the 4 former bankers.

The general public prosecutor’s workplace is looking for the defendants to obtain a seven-month suspended jail sentence.

For years, Switzerland has sought to wash up its fame as a secret haven of billions in ill-gotten or laundered cash, together with by way of laws that requires bankers to scrutinize the origin of funds related to “politically uncovered individuals.”

In a single high-profile case, Swiss prosecutors helped crack down on billions linked to former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, in what was known as the 1MDB scandal.

The Swiss affiliate of Gazprombank introduced in October that it was ceasing operations after consultations with Swiss monetary market regulator FINMA.


Related Press writers David McHugh in Frankfurt, Germany, and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.

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