Barclays and UBS face questions over Roman Abramovich’s billion-dollar trusts | Roman Abramovich

Barclays and UBS face questions over Roman Abramovich’s billion-dollar trusts | Roman Abramovich

Barclays and UBS face questions over their ties to Roman Abramovich after his secret offshore trusts reorganized shortly before Europe and the UK imposed sanctions a few Russian oligarch.

Oligarch information, a cache of leaked paperwork seen by the Guardian, counsel that earlier than the Russian invasion Ukraine the 2 banks held not less than $940m (£760m) in belongings on behalf of Abramovich’s trusts and the businesses he in the end owned.

Shortly earlier than Moscow launched its invasion, 10 offshore trusts have been shortly rearranged to switch useful possession of a good portion of Abramovich’s huge fortune to his youngsters.

Questions and Solutions

What are Oligarch Information?


Oligarch information are cached leaked confidential paperwork together with emails, financial institution information, firm information, belief paperwork and compliance stories. The information come from Cyprus offshore service supplier MeritServus. Based mostly in Limassol, MeritServus helps its shoppers arrange and handle offshore firms and trusts to guard their wealth.

Cyprus, an EU member state, has lengthy served as a serious offshore monetary heart for rich Russians, who’ve favored the Mediterranean island as a vacation spot to stash their wealth. Roman Abramovich seems to have been a MeritServus shopper for over 20 years. Holding belongings in offshore ports like Cyprus, typically by trusts, isn’t in itself unlawful and there are legit the reason why some individuals do it.

The information have been shared with the Guardian by an nameless third celebration. The leaked file means that the information was obtained by hackers calling themselves the “Freaky crew.” The Guardian solely publishes tales primarily based on leaked information the place it believes it’s within the public curiosity.

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The paperwork point out that within the final week of February 2022, when the reorganization was accomplished, Barclays and UBS have been knowledgeable that Abramovich’s youngsters turned the last word useful homeowners of the monetary belongings managed by the banks.

On March 10, United Kingdom The federal government imposed sanctions on Abramovich for allegedly sustaining shut relations with Vladimir Putin. The EU adopted on March 15 with its personal sanctions. Abramović rejected the accusations and can attraction towards the EU measures.

The information come from Cyprus-based offshore providers supplier MeritServus, which has managed Abramovich’s monetary pursuits for greater than 20 years. The agency managed 10 trusts arrange for Abramovich’s profit and an unlimited community of offshore firms.

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The paperwork elevate questions on how Barclays and UBS they responded to the adjustments and whether or not, since sanctions have been imposed on Abramovich, they’ve allowed the youngsters to profit financially from belongings that up till that month have been really owned by their father.

A supply with direct information of the administration of accounts held by Abramovich’s trusts at Barclays mentioned the financial institution had acknowledged the adjustments to the trusts. The precise particulars of the steps Barclays subsequently took stay unclear.

In Switzerland, the Guardian’s information accomplice on the Oligarch information, Tamedia, has discovered that UBS has determined to forestall an try to switch useful possession of financial institution accounts to Abramovich’s youngsters, however particular particulars of UBS’s actions are unknown.

Each Barclays and UBS didn’t reply to questions on whether or not they allowed Abramovich’s youngsters to profit from funds held by the trusts after their father was sanctioned. Each banks mentioned they may not touch upon whether or not an individual was a shopper or not.

Roman Abramovich
United Kingdom On March 10, the federal government imposed sanctions on Abramovich for allegedly sustaining shut relations with Vladimir Putin. {Photograph}: Andrew Successful/Reuters

A Barclays spokesman mentioned it “understands the significance of the sanctions rules” and takes its commitments “very significantly”. A UBS consultant mentioned it complied with “all related sanctions necessities”.

Neither Abramovich nor his youngsters responded to detailed requests for remark.

However the paperwork make clear long-standing relationships between the 2 banks’ personal wealth divisions and the opaque offshore trusts that defend the wealth of one among Russia’s richest males.

In line with the information, Abramovich was a shopper of UBS’s world household workplace in Zurich, which advises the financial institution’s wealthiest shoppers. For Barclays, the connection was dealt with by the department of its unique personal financial institution in Monaco.

Barclays Bank building in Monte Carlo, Monaco
The supply mentioned that the Abramovich household was one of the crucial essential shoppers of the Monaco workplace. {Photograph}: A Astes/Alamy

A supply conversant in the Barclays relationship described the Abramovich household as one of many Monaco workplace’s most essential shoppers.

An evaluation of leaked monetary statements means that within the six months earlier than the reorganization, firms owned by simply three trusts held not less than $785 million at UBS and not less than $155 million at Barclays.

Underneath UK and EU sanctions legislation, a financial institution is required to freeze belongings if they’re 50% or extra owned by a sanctioned particular person. A freeze can be used if the sanctioned particular person owns lower than 50% of the belongings however workouts direct or oblique management over them.

After the invasion of Ukraine, Switzerland broke with its custom of political neutrality and largely accepted EU sanctions packages designed to punish Russia. Monaco additionally mentioned it might implement EU measures.

Sanctions consultants mentioned the reorganization of Abramovich’s trusts might complicate makes an attempt to freeze belongings that, earlier than the adjustments have been made, have been really owned by Abramovich.

Logo of the Swiss bank UBS
The information point out that Abramovich was a shopper of UBS’s world household workplace in Zurich. Picture: Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

However they mentioned that in these circumstances, banks must be cautious about permitting youngsters to make use of accounts even when they aren’t themselves topic to any monetary penalties.

In July 2022, the UK Sanctions Authority and the Nationwide Crime Company issued “red alert” itemizing frequent methods used to avoid monetary sanctions, which included transferring belongings to proxies comparable to kin and decreasing asset possession under the 50% threshold.

Three days earlier than the Russian army invaded Ukraine, on February 21, 2022, Cypriot trustees managing Abramovich’s funds wrote to Barclays’ Russia and Rising Europe division within the financial institution’s ornate workplace overlooking Monte Carlo.

After offering an replace on the precise possession construction of firms owned by the Zeus Belief, trustees Meritservus mentioned Abramovich’s youngsters have been “entitled to 51% of all distributions” from the belief’s funds. They revealed to the Europa Belief that Abramovich’s youngsters have changed him as a beneficiary.

On the day of the invasion, February 24, directors started sending an identical package deal of papers to UBS in Zurich.

Barclays Bank logo
Barclays mentioned it has sturdy techniques, controls and processes to forestall circumvention of the sanctions guidelines. Picture: Tim Goode/PA

The paperwork up to date data held by the financial institution about who in the end benefited from accounts managed for not less than 5 trusts — Grano Belief, HF Belief, Zephora Belief, Europa Belief and Zeus Belief — in addition to plenty of affiliated offshore firms.

Sanctions legal professionals who advise giant monetary establishments mentioned that below these circumstances the financial institution must decide whether or not, in reality, Abramovich nonetheless workouts some direct or oblique management over the belongings.

“They are going to need to do an evaluation, and once you’re in that territory, it’s extremely a lot about your threat tolerance,” one lawyer mentioned.

A Barclays spokesman insisted the financial institution had “sturdy techniques, controls and processes in place” to forestall sanctions guidelines being circumvented. “We recurrently talk with our regulators concerning sanction dangers, in addition to our controls and oversight,” they mentioned.

Demetris Ioannides, managing accomplice of MeritServus, mentioned that the Act of Confidence and Knowledge Safety Rules stop him from disclosing the knowledge to 3rd events. Nonetheless, he mentioned financial institution prospects “should instantly notify the financial institution of any adjustments to the knowledge supplied when opening a checking account”.

He added: “Our group has all the time and can proceed to totally adjust to all anti-money laundering rules and sanctions.”


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