Geneva opens money laundering probe into ‘Putin’s banker’

Pugachev while serving as a Russian senator in 2008 Sergei Pugachev via Picasa Web Albums:

Geneva justice authorities have opened a money laundering investigation into former Russian oligarch Sergei Pugachev, blocking access to funds in the process. The investigation is based on revelations in the so-called Panama Papers.

This content was published on July 25, 2016 - 17:43 with agencies

Henri Della Casa, a press spokesperson for the Geneva investigators, on Monday confirmed earlier reports of the investigation and the blocked funds in the SonntagsZeitung and Le Matin Dimanche newspapers. However, he did not specify the amount of the blocked funds or which financial institutions are involved.

The newspaper reports revealed that Pugachev, a former Russian senator who later became known as “Putin’s banker”, is accused of having laundered some $700 million via Geneva’s Banque Societé Génerale. Those money laundering activities were brought to light via the Panama Papers, which revealed offshore banking data stemming from the Panamanian firm Mossack Fonseca.

Pugachev, who lives in Nice, France and has become a French citizen, left Russia in 2011 after the collapse of his bank, Meschprombank. The government of Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused Pugachev of pocketing some $2 billion originally meant to rescue the bank from going under.

Pugachev was put on trial in Moscow and sentenced to pay the state $1 billion, according to the SonntagsZeitung. He was also sentenced in London to two years in prison for defying court orders and making false statements. However, he remains exiled in France, which has said it will not extradite him.

Russia sought legal help from Switzerland in convicting Pugachev, according to the SonntagsZeitung.

The former Russian oligarch has also sought legal retaliation, filing a lawsuit against Russia at the Court of Arbitration in The Hague calling for $12 billion in compensation for property and possessions he alleges were wrongly taken from him by the Russian state. These include a series of large shipyards.

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