Roman Abramovich, a former Kremlin businessman and politician, is considered one of the richest people in the world. He has been on EU, US and UK sanctions lists along with hundreds of Russian oligarchs and politicians since Russia invaded Ukraine.
Abramovich has been a major client of Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) for many years. The oligarchs’ Russian Postal Fund companies set up several bank accounts with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and VPP’s Catherine – and used them to transfer billions by 2017.
In 2015/2016 alone, three RBI accounts recorded incoming and outgoing transactions totaling €2.3 billion. These are the central findings of a joint research conducted by “Profil” and ORF – as part of the “Pandora Papers Russia” project coordinated by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which has been published internationally since April 11.
According to the evaluated documents, an opaque exoskeleton appeared in the environment around the 55-year-old businessman at the end of the 1990s and early 2000s, with the British Virgin Islands and Cyprus playing key roles.
Beginning in the 2000s, Abramović’s advisors gradually established accounts with many large and small banks in the Western world, for example in the USA, France, Holland and Switzerland – as well as in Austria. Contacts with two Austrian banks: the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Katherine Private Bank in Vienna, which belong to the Raiffeisen financial sector, have been documented for decades.
Billions of euros were at stake at the Reserve Bank of India. According to research by Profil and ORF, another oligarch shell company, BVI, based in the British Virgin Islands, set up three accounts with Raiffeisen International in June 2011. It had been around for nearly six years before it was dissolved in April 2017. It was a body Austrian financial markets have known this before. In 2016, the authority examined several of the bank’s business relationships with “high-risk clients” – that is, those related to offshore positions – including the Russian oligarchy’s corporate structure.
The FMA procedure is still open four years later
In March 2018, the FMA imposed a fine of €2.748 million on the Reserve Bank of India for multiple violations of legal documentation requirements to prevent money laundering and combat terrorism. It was the highest penalty imposed on any bank in Austria.
The bank appealed the FMA’s criminal decision, and the proceedings were brought to the Federal Administrative Court, then to the Administrative Court, and then again to the Federal Administrative Court, before the latter reduced the fine to €824,400 in January 2020 – while the FMA review and Raiffeisen lodged an objection to Administrative Court. Therefore, the decision is still not final.
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