Dozens of service providers across Cyprus, including banks, companies, professional groups and individuals involved as defendants in a massive banking lawsuit, are crying foul over a decision by the District Court of Limassol to approve the disclosure of sensitive information to two Russian banks following a charge filed by their current administration on alleged misappropriation of funds and assets by the previous owners.
The banks lawyers, as plaintiffs, requested the information as fundamental to making their case, but the defendants, who provided services for the previous owners, are arguing that the Court failed to consider the fact that the banks in question are under western sanctions-also implemented by Cyprus, for supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin and his invasion of Ukraine.
The judge ruled on the ‘Disclosure Proceedings’ on May 2nd 2 003 in the framework of a civil lawsuit filed by the two banks in question.
Here are a number of key parameters in the case as outlined in the defendants’ arguments.
The plaintiffs maintain that the previous owners of the banking institutions in Russia conspired with a number of individuals, both legal and physical entities to misappropriate funds and assets.
The 44 defendants constitute mainly banks, auditors, accountants and professional services firms here in Cyprus, as well as companies registered in Britain and the United States, amongst others.
As the defendants allege, the entities named in the lawsuit may have been caught in a power game between the current and previous owners of the banks, without actually being aware, much less guilty, of any illegal activity.
According to In-Cyprus sources, no incriminating evidence was presented against the accused entities during the preliminary hearing process, but the plaintiffs continued to insist that the defendants might have in their possession valuable information that can identify the individuals involved in the misappropriation or might be behind transactions damaging to the banking institutions.
According to the defendants, the judge signed off on the disclosure requested, rejecting affidavits presented by the plaintiffs, alleging that no concrete facts were presented in justification of issuing the decree, the banks did not plead the applicable relevant legislation and most importantly, they cannot be considered as credible, as they failed to disclose vital information pertaining to the case.
Defendants further point to the fact that the relevant statute of limitations has now long passed, making the plaintiffs testimony irregular, due process was not followed, while there is also no guarantee that the plaintiffs will not use such information maliciously.
What the defendants invite public opinion to reflect upon is the impact and depth of the decision in question on the political and economic life of the country, as the two Russian banks involved in this case are under western sanctions and possibly still maintain connections to the Putin regime.
By extension, defendants in Cyprus argue, the substantial sensitive information released by the relevant disclosure decree can easily be made available to Russia, a country under sanctions for invading a sovereign nation, with its leader indicted for war crimes.
As a spokesperson for the defendants told In-Cyprus, ‘security issues can also be raised as the information might be harmful in the wrong hands’.
The defendants further wonder how can the judge, ‘without’, as they say, ‘having a shred of evidence to implicate any of them in illegal activity’, could approve such a disclosure order
‘It is certain’, the spokesperson tells us, ‘that if the plaintiffs had even the slightest evidence they would have filed it in court in order to strengthen their position’.
This is a domestic power struggle between two banking institutions, the defendants argue, with the actions of the plaintiffs clearly vindictive and the 44 accused entities caught in the middle.
They also point to the fact that if the banks are successful in their lawsuit, a presumably substantial financial compensation will end up in their coffers and possibly channelled directly to the Kremlin, in support of the invasion.
‘In many such cases, profit is the sole purpose’ a spokesperson for the defendants told In-Cyprus.