Cyprus in the middle of a political battle in the US, CBC sources say

The Cyprus Central bank has rejected U.S. media reports accusing Cyprus of being a money laundering heaven, attributing them to a domestic political battle that’s being waged in the US.

CBC sources said Cyprus is implementing very strict anti-money laundering procedures, adding that they are among the strictest in the European Union. The comments followed several US media reports regarding the financial dealings of Paul Manafort, U.S. President Donald Trumps former campaign chief. The reports referred to payments Manafort received through Cyprus, which U.S. authorities are looking into as part of a federal anti-corruption probe into his work in eastern Europe.

US media reported that US Congressman Mike Quigley came to Cyprus to probe Manaforts activities in the island.

On his return Quigley was quoted as saying that Cyprus in a centre of Russian money laundering.

However, the same CBC sources said Quigley had not come into contact with anyone at the CBC which is responsible for monitoring anti-money laundering procedures in the banking sector.

The Cyprus Justice Ministry has said that no formal request has been filed by US authorities for judicial assistance on the Manafort investigation.

Moreover, according to the same source, CBC officials who have spoken with US authorities on the issue, were told that they have no concerns about money laundering in Cyprus and that they have no intention of launching any investigation concerning such allegations.

The same official recalled that accounts connected to Paul Manafort in the now defunct Laiki bank were closed back in 2012. Laiki Bank was shut down 2013 as part of a bailout by the EU and the IMF which also saw a complete overhaul in anti-money laundering practices. Laikis assets were absorbed by Bank of Cyprus. Wilburr Ross, before appointed as Commerce Secretary, was the banks vice chairman.

The CBC sources said as many as 15,000 Cypriot bank accounts have been closed over the last two years, among others due to the much stricter implementation of anti-money laundering laws, regulations and procedures by banks.

A more strict regulatory framework forces the banks to close all accounts whose owners fail to comply with any additional information requested by the banks, the same CBC sources said, recalling that the banks, and not business intermediaries, are now held liable for non-compliant customers.

Source: Cyprus News Agency