The allegations that Cypriot investment firms and banks have been involved in helping sanctioned Russian oligarchs to hide their wealth to escape EU sanctions are serious and require counter-measures.
This is happening at the same time as the EU is working on a new directive to harmonise criminal offences and penalties for sanction evasion across the EU (VURM). Impunity for violating sanctions following Russia's invasion of Ukraine is still too widespread in Europe. The Renew Europe Group fears that sanctions will be rendered meaningless without introducing and enforcing rules against sanction evasion. Anyone who helps oligarchs violate sanctions, whether with intent or through serious negligence, should be penalised. Member States should be forcefully held to the rules by the EU Commission.
Ahead of a debate in the European Parliament today, where the Renew Europe group will seek answers from the Council and the Commission on how they are going to respond, Sophie in 't Veld (Netherlands), the European Parliament's rapporteur for the 'Directive on the Definition of Criminal Offences and Penalties for the Violation of Union restrictive measures' (VURM), said:
"Cyprus is an integral part of the EU, so this is not a Cypriot scandal but a European scandal that concerns us all. The complete lack of enforcement of EU laws by both the national authorities and the European Commission has turned the EU into a gangsters' paradise. Russian oligarchs have done their business freely, roaming the EU with golden passports as walking wallets of Putin. How come the authorities did nothing, knew nothing? How come once again it is journalists who investigate and expose crimes? How come we have to rely on them for the law to be enforced?"