What You Need To Know:
✅ In his work for the investigative report The Russian Laundromat, Roman Anin, a Novaya Gazeta journalist, uncovered that a sum of $22 billion USD, stolen from the Russian government by corrupt officials, was laundered through a number of European banks;
✅ “Putin is a smart guy… you will not find docs signed by the President,” – Roman Anin, a Novaya Gazeta journalist;
✅ On the other hand, there have been good results in other countries within the European Union and in the European Parliament;
✅ "If the banks want to control the money flows, if they don`t want to be involved in these big money laundering scandals, then they got to check not only their clients but also the origin of the money which their clients get” – Roman Anin.
In his work for the investigative report The Russian Laundromat, Roman Anin uncovered that a sum of $22 billion USD, stolen from the Russian government by corrupt officials, was laundered through a number of European banks.
Anin spoke to Hromadske at an investigative journalism conference at Mezhyhirya — the lavish estate of Ukraine's fugitive ex-president Viktor Yanukovych—where he said investigations into the fraudulent acts have not progressed in Russia: “Law enforcement is not so eager to investigate up until the end. Because otherwise they would need to imprison those who are in power,” he said. “Putin is a smart guy… you will not find docs signed by the President.”
While there is nothing baring Putin’s name, according to Anin, you will find many other documents signed by people close to him: “That is what happened in particular with the Panama Papers that’s what happens in many other cases in Russia.”
Anin mentioned that there have been good results in other countries within the European Union and in the European Parliament. “In the U.K there were hearings in Parliament and the deputy ministry of finance had to explain why the British banks and companies were involved in this scheme. Simultaneously, there was a big case in Denmark," says Anin, adding that the Danish prime minister apologized for the scandal.
According to Anin, a major problem lies with the banks as they check their own clients, but don’t question the origins of the money. "I would say that the main problem here is the will. If the banks want to control the money flows, if they don`t want to be involved in these big money laundering scandals, then they got to check not only their clients but also the origin of the money which their clients get.”
Hromadkse’s Nataliya Gumenyuk spoke to Roman Anin, Novaya Gazeta journalist at the Mezhyhirya Festival on June 10, 2017.
Roma, your investigation which was called Laundromat. That was an investigation with a number of the media outlets. Your work showed how the money laundered thorough number of European banks including Moldovan banks and it was huge amount of money, 22 million as far as I remember.
Roman Anin: Billion
22 Billion U.S dollars. What is the result? Do we see what is going on with this story?
Roman Anin: Well, it depends on the different countries. Let’s say that the main victim is Russia and there are no results because there are two criminal cases that started after our investigation which started three years ago. And I was a witness in both cases and I saw that investigators—they did not want to do anything real, let’s say because the criminal cases were started by the lowest departments of investigating committee, which means that the Russian state was not really interested in investigating the case.
But simultaneously we had very good results in other European countries. So, there was an investigation started in the U.K and there were hearings in parliament and the deputy ministry of finance had to explain why the British banks and companies were involved in this scheme. Simultaneously there was a big case in Denmark and the Prime Minister had to say that he does not like the situation and he is very sorry that it happened with Danish banks and there is an ongoing investigation as well. And the latest news is that two days ago, actually I heard it just today, a friend of mine, Paul, was involved in the investigation as well, told me that there is a commission, a special commission inside the European Parliament which is called the Russian Laundromat, just as our story, that they will study the case and the main idea is to understand why the European banks were involved in the laundering and why their compliance procedures did not work.
Of course the people can read the full investigation and we will encourage them to read it again, those who don’t know maybe, but really, who are the main beneficiaries? In the end and in this large scheme?
Roman Anin: There are many of them, to be honest. The money was mixed the money from different crimes was mixed the biggest beneficiaries we were be able to identify was a mysterious businessman who is the main contractor to the Russian railways, Alexey Kropivin. And he was involved in many scandals and criminal cases all over the world. But among others there were pro-Russian parties who got the money. There were multinational corporations like Siemens, like Hitachi and others. Of course it does not mean that they were stealing money from Russia but it means in import schemes so you can call them the smuggling schemes.
To what extent can the banks control if you generally assess the situation? There will be a bank or companies would have their smaller companies in Estonia or the Baltics or elsewhere so that is kind of usual way to launder the funds. What depends on the headquarter? To what extend can the headquarters be eager to remain and have a good reputation and say that was not us?
Roman Anin: An important word you mentioned was eager or not. Because on the one hand they are not responsible for clients which are out of their bank. They are responsible for the clients inside the banks. They got to check them they got to control them and so on. But they do not check to clients, which sent money to their clients from foreign countries from foreign banks, which was a problem in the Laundromat case. What the big bank said was ‘our client was okay’. Our client was let’s say Siemens but Siemens got money form bogus companies, from shell companies, from notorious companies like Trasto bank, its license was revoked recently from a Moldovan bank and so on. So I would say that the main problem here is the will. If the banks want to control the money flows, if they don`t want to be involved in these big money laundering scandals, then they got to check not only their clients but also the origin of the money which their clients get.
Regarding the country Moldova, it had been in the heart of it all. That is a very special case when we have a small country which is more or less…What is happening in the most involved countries?
Roman Anin: The main problem here is the main victim is Russia. And with money laundering cases, in order to prove money laundering you got to prove the first crime. Money laundering is always the second crime. So in order to prove money laundering you have to prove the first crime and Moldovans—the main problem with them is that they could not get any help from Russia so they were asking for help they were begging for help and they got nothing. And that is why there are big problems with the case in Moldova, as in other countries.
We are for many years talking about the international money laundering schemes but now they are more prominent. There are more people and as you said the case has been raised in the U.K parliament, the European Parliament. There is more respect to the job of the investigating journalist. But still, with the results, the investigations have become international. How about the law enforcement? Are they still in our region, in Eastern Europe, able to investigate on their own? Are there things moving in that direction?
Roman Anin: Well, they are. Lets say that in Russia the case was pretty well investigated by the operatives from FSB; they did a very good gob. When it came to criminal case itself, because you know that studying a criminal case you got to do a lot of jobs in terms of proving the crime and so on. So before the criminal case they did a really good job. The same in Moldova, but when it came to criminal case, which means for punishment for people involved, them the problems start. Because you know in this particular case, some big names were involved including Igor Putin who is a relative to President Vladimir Putin. Some people form FSB were involved as well. So when it comes to a criminal case, people are not so eager. I mean law enforcement are not so eager to investigate up until the end. Because otherwise they would need to imprison those who are in power.
You mention Igor Putin. That is always a special case. There is so much attention on the Russian president today. Everybody wants to find something. But at the end we don’t really, besides that investigation you have done on the Panama papers, on his old friends who is the conductor, there are not that many things that are proven—even like the Russian activist Navalny. They would find the things connected to Prime Minister Medvedyev. There is always a question how difficult is it really to investigate Putin and what we really know? I think there is the will of reporters to find out something.
Roman Anin: We know a lot but when you say proving things: Putin is smart. He will never sign any document and he will never sign any financial records and so on. He is a smart guy. In terms of proving we proved a lot with Panama papers and the Roldugin case. In my opinion it is not Roldugin’s money, it is Putin’s money and we had a lot of collateral proof to say that. But you are right. There is no any signature by Putin there are not any signatures from anybody else from his family because they are smart people. If we think as law enforcement, we see there is a bunch of proof, we could not find the man with the gun who shot somebody but we could find witnesses that said that he saw him… and so on and so forth. The same with financial crimes; you will not find docs signed by the president. But you will find many other docs signed by people who are close to him. That is what happened in particular with Panama papers that’s what happens in many other cases in Russia.
That is particularly interesting because we are sitting in Mezhyhirya. This is exactly the place where journalists could not enter before four years ago, which belonged to the Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. So it was very secretive though there were possible to find the connection to him personally. There a lot of guesses that Putin is supposed to be much richer than Yanukovych, just understanding the resources of Russia compared to Ukraine. But are they so smart? Are we waiting for something?
Roman Anin: They are smart but still we could find a lot of connections as well. Private connections to his daughter, to his relatives and so on. With Yanukovych, could he ever prove that the whole thing belongs to him? No it belonged to Austrian companies, or to a company where the lawyer was from Austria. You could not find any signature from him as well. We have the same in Russia. Now everybody understands that it was him and the same will be in Russia.
Do we see that there is a will of doing something with the offshores on the international level. We think the last three or four years, especially after the Yanukovych time a lot of people who are here who are investigator reporters were raising the issue. You can’t money launder things. It is not even about Cyprus or London could be the place for offshores. There were talks from previous British Prime Minister Cameron who said, ’We will do something.” Do we see that there’s really something happening with making the rules more strict?
Roman Anin: It does, but the problem is that bureaucracy is very slow in every country. The main fact that they are discussing it day-by-day which means that one day they will come to a decision when transparency would be the main factor in the offshore world. Some offshore territories now have to open their docs and beneficiaries. Which is good for the investigative reporters, which is good for business, economy, transparency. I think that in a couple of years, in 10 years, we will live in a more transparent world where offshores will become quite a problem.