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Thursday, May 26, 2022

Two-thirds of the assets in Spain of Russian oligarchs are in the name of relatives and figureheads

Latest NewsTwo-thirds of the assets in Spain of Russian oligarchs are in the name of relatives and figureheads

A plot with two houses in Castel Platja d’Aro (Girona), blocked by Spain, allegedly as the property of Russian oligarch Sergei Chemezov.© Tony Ferragut (COUNTRY)

The government has already identified 15 of the 1,168 Russian oligarchs on the EU sanction list as owners of fifty assets located in Spain, ranging from real estate and yachts to financial assets. Investigations by the so-called Coordination Group to determine the funds and economic resources of sanctioned persons have shown that two-thirds of these objects appear directly or indirectly not in the name of these oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin, but in the name of family members and associates who allegedly act as figureheads . This group was created in March after the start of the war in Ukraine and consists of specialists from various areas of government. On April 26, the Council of Ministers approved a royal decree to speed up the blocking of these assets, which, being in the name of third parties, could not be immobilized.

When it announced the rule, the government had already intervened in 12 financial products, 23 properties and three luxury yachts, Oscar Lopez, the prime minister’s cabinet director, detailed at the time in Congress. One of the boats has already been arrested by a judge at the request of United States justice. A fourth ship was also placed under judicial blocking by order of Washington. At that time, at least six other objects associated with oligarchs had already been discovered, in respect of which it was not possible to act, since they appeared in the name of persons or businessmen not included in the sanctions list.

Since then, the leak of discovered assets has continued, and, according to sources close to the investigation, there are already 35 of them. Of these, only 11 appear as the direct property of those who fell under the sanctions, and the remaining 24 appear in the name of relatives. So far, investigations have uncovered 107 alleged figureheads. Of these, 27 are relatives of the oligarchs. The remaining 80 people are listed as their partners in companies, share management positions with them in commercial companies, or issued or received at some point powers of attorney from persons who fell under sanctions. In addition, the investigations revealed 10 companies registered in Spain and 13 more abroad. Of the former, only half are directly linked to those sanctioned by the EU.

Agents of the Civil Guard guard the Tango yacht, allegedly owned by Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, seized by a judge at the request of the United States.FRANCISCO HUBILLA (AP)

A significant portion of these assets were discovered by tracking by the General Council of Notaries in the so-called Unified Notary Index, a database created in January 2004 that records all transactions carried out by public notaries since then. To do this, 150 million records of this database were crossed with a list of sanctioned EU. In most cases, information about the oligarchs that this list collects is a proper name, patronymic, surname and date of birth, but without the numbers of identification documents. Subsequently, the names of family members and people acting as partners or representatives of their companies were included in the tracking.

All information is transferred to the Coordination Group, headed by the Department of Homeland Security, which reports to the Ministry under the President. It includes, in addition to the General Council of Notaries, the security forces through the Intelligence Center for Combating Terrorism and Organized Crime (CITCO, an agency of the Ministry of the Interior coordinating investigations). Also included are the Customs Supervision Service (subordinate to the Tax Agency), the Executive Service of the Commission for the Prevention of Money Laundering and Monetary Crime (Sepblac, under the Ministry of Economy) and the Association of Registrars. If the connection of the property with the oligarch is confirmed, the registrars block the property.

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In the case of financial assets, it is the banking structures that track the presence of oligarchs among the holders of their deposits. If they find them, they freeze the funds and inform the State Treasury and Sepblac. However, the control obligations of subjects also apply to citizens of Russia or other nationalities living in that country, and to companies and organizations established there, even if they do not appear on the EU list. In this case, your deposits cannot exceed EUR 100,000. They are also prohibited from buying securities. A key tool for this is the Financial Property File, a centralized registry that has existed since 2016, with data that entities are required to provide about the owners, both natural and legal, of accounts and deposits, as well as safe deposit boxes and payment accounts in cryptocurrencies.

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