Home Bank Swiss Bankers Charged With Overlooking Thousands and thousands Tied to Putin’s Pal

Swiss Bankers Charged With Overlooking Thousands and thousands Tied to Putin’s Pal

Swiss Bankers Charged With Overlooking Thousands and thousands Tied to Putin’s Pal

4 bankers went on trial in Zurich on Wednesday charged with serving to to cowl up the motion of tens of thousands and thousands of Swiss francs by way of accounts opened within the title of a Russian musician with shut hyperlinks to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

The case focuses on two financial institution accounts within the title of Sergei P. Roldugin, a live performance cellist and director of a Moscow musical academy who is named an previous buddy of Mr. Putin’s and as a godfather to the president’s eldest daughter. The accounts have been opened within the Swiss unit of Gazprombank, a distinguished lender in Russia.

The trial raises wider questions concerning the function of Swiss banks because the vacation spot of alternative for billions of {dollars} of deposits linked to Russian officers, oligarchs and finally to Mr. Putin, particularly within the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine final yr.

Swiss prosecutors say the defendants — Gazprombank’s chief government and three different workers on the financial institution — have been criminally negligent in failing to carry out strong due diligence to find out the actual beneficiary of the belongings flowing by way of the accounts. The bankers, three Russians and a Swiss, deny the cost.

The prosecutors contend the bankers ought to have suspected Mr. Roldugin was not the helpful proprietor of those belongings however solely, because the indictment suggests, a “straw man” or “pockets” for Mr. Putin.

“It’s well-known,” the indictment stated, “that Russian President Putin formally solely has an revenue of 100,000 Swiss francs, and isn’t rich, however in truth has monumental belongings that are managed by individuals near him.”

Prosecutors additionally drew consideration to firms arrange in Mr. Roldugin’s title by Financial institution Rossiya, an establishment whose chairman, the billionaire financier Yuri Kovalchuk, they stated, “is taken into account Mr. Putin’s treasurer.”

Mr. Roldugin has acknowledged that he’s not a businessman. He stated in a 2014 interview that “I don’t have thousands and thousands,” but the accounts opened with Gazprombank credited him with holding belongings of over $50 million and receiving over $8 million a yr, the indictment stated.

In an interview on Russian tv in 2016, Mr. Roldugin stated his so-called wealth consisted primarily of donations from wealthy businessmen to finance the acquisition of pricey musical devices for Russian musicians.

Gazprombank opened the accounts in 2014, after Russia had annexed Crimea, and managed them till 2016. Their existence got here to gentle in 2016 within the Panama Papers leak, which launched greater than 11 million paperwork with monetary particulars of over 214,000 offshore enterprise entities.

Switzerland’s monetary market regulator, FINMA, began an investigation quickly after the leak, main ultimately to the legal prices filed by prosecutors in opposition to Gazprombank.

Switzerland has taken steps to wash up its fame as a haven for soiled cash, and Wednesday’s one-day trial attracted curiosity as proof of Swiss authorities holding bankers to account. It has additionally drawn criticism, nonetheless, for the leniency of the penalties sought by prosecutors. They requested for a suspended sentence of seven months, with two years of probation, for every defendant.

“That’s absurd if you wish to change the setting for bankers laundering cash for Russian officers,” William F. Browder, the British-based financier and campaigner in opposition to corruption in Russia, stated in a cellphone interview. “They need to face custodial sentences, not a slap on the wrist.”

The proceedings present one other instance of how “Switzerland desires to be seen to be doing one thing however doesn’t need to be robust,” stated Mr. Browder, as soon as a significant investor in Russia who began a marketing campaign for sanctions in opposition to corrupt Russian officers after his tax adviser, Sergei Magnitsky, was detained, severely overwhelmed and left to die in jail.

In 2021, the Swiss authorities closed a decade-long investigation right into a money-laundering scandal involving funds siphoned off by Russian officers into Swiss financial institution accounts, with out urgent prices. In January, the authorities determined to return to Russia greater than $14 million of the funds frozen in that investigation and held in accounts in Credit score Suisse and UBS.