MEPs to quiz Council and Commission on 'Cyprus Confidential' reports

In light of the latest revelations on money laundering and evasion of sanctions against Russia in Cyprus, MEPs in Strasbourg are today anticipated to discuss counter-measures.

According to an announcement on the European Parliament's official website, the issue is on the Plenary agenda because, "The latest investigation carried out by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) revealed that Cypriot investment firms and banks have been allegedly involved in hiding the wealth of sanctioned Russian oligarchs and billionaires."

"MEPs are set to discuss with the Council and the Commission how to urgently and effectively plug all loopholes in the financial system and accelerate the ongoing negotiations with member states on tighter anti-money laundering rules," the announcement continued.

In the days leading up to today's discission, meanwhile, MEP Eero Heinäluoma has called for a “full investigation” of the role auditing firm PwC is alleged to have played in efforts by oligarchs to evade EU sanctions.

Heinäluoma (S&D, Finland), the European Parliament’s negotiator on the EU anti-money laundering legislation, said that after a request by the Socialists & Democrats group, MEPs will discuss “the latest money laundering scandal in Europe”.

“Millions of leaked documents expose how accountants, bankers, auditors and lawyers in Cyprus helped Russian oligarchs circumvent EU sanctions. This is a stark reminder of why Europe urgently needs stronger anti-money laundering rules that will ensure the enforcement of sanctions,” the MEP said.

“We are currently working on a deal that would clamp down on the evasion of sanctions by oligarchs and their enablers. It has to be finalised by the end of the year,” he said, adding, “Moreover, we call for a full investigation of the auditing giant PwC’s alleged role in helping Russian oligarchs evade EU sanctions.”

The discussion at the European Parliament's Plenary comes days after President Nikos Christodoulides confirmed that he has requested the assistance of foreign experts "from a country that has great expertise in these matters" following the recent negative reports.

The President on 20 November also chaired a meeting on the course of implementation of decisions taken regarding the improvement of the monitoring framework of the sanctions imposed on Russia by the USA and about the course of investigations carried out for violating sanctions.

The meeting was attended by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs Constantinos Kombos, Justice and Public Order Anna Koukkides-Prokopiou and Finance Makis Keravnos, the Deputy Minister to the President Irene Piki, the Director of the Diplomatic Office of the President of the Republic Marilena Raouna, the Director of the Office of the President Charalambos Charalambous and the Director of the Press Office of the President of the Republic Victor Papadopoulos. The Attorney General George Savvides and the Deputy Attorney General Savvas Angelides were also present.

Also anticipated to be discussed by the European Parliament today are the conclusions of the Parliament’s year-long inquiry into the use of Pegasus and equivalent surveillance spyware, and in which Cyprus was also initially implicated, after MEPs asked for a number of legislative changes to respond to abusive spyware use in Europe.

They recently argued that the Commission’s response has been insufficient and vague. In a plenary debate with the Commission, MEPs are expected to demand appropriate measures in response to reports of spyware use stifling civil society, democratic opposition, and journalists in EU member states, a European Parliament press release on the discussion noted.

Earlier this year, the EU’s Committee of Inquiry to investigate the use of the Pegasus and equivalent surveillance spyware (PEGA) put Cyprus on blast, accusing the island of being an “export hub for spyware” that should repeal all export licences it has issued that are not in line with EU legislation. Cyprus has denied any wrongdoing.

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