A special investigation into millions of leaked banking transactions and documents has revealed how almost EUR 5 billion of Russian money was channeled into Western banks through a network of shell companies.
Dubbed the “Troika Laundromat” the investigation by the OCCRP and a number of partner media platforms revealed how Russian businessmen including a number with close links to the Kremlin, used offshore companies and ‘unwitting signatories” to launder money into Europe and the US.
The money was then used to fund lavish luxury parties, purchase superyachts, invest in property in the UK and Montenegro, and even to make donations to charitable foundations managed by Prince Charles.
But the wealthy and powerful that were involved in the system took steps to hide their identity. Third party signatories were used to sign off on fake invoices and contracts, with the signatories often having no idea that their identities had been used in this way. One such individual who had apparently signed off on millions of euros worth of contracts and loan agreements was found to be a simple Armenian construction worker who still lives at home with his parents.
The man at the centre of the scandal is an ethnic Armenian called Reuben Vardanyan. A wealthy banker and the Chairman, CEO, and principal partner of Troika Dialog bank, he claims that he had no knowledge of what was happening, despite being in charge of the bank at the time.
The Troika Dialog system allowed the Russian elite to avoid sanctions, evade tax, make secret investments, and of course, launder the proceeds of organised crime and other illicit activities.
The bank is also alleged to have supplied funds to many of President Putin’s friends, including the godfather of one of his sons who stands accused of holding money on his behalf.
The money was sent out of Russia, via Troika and was funnelled through a number of banks including Raiffeisen, Citigroup, and Deutsche Bank. Raiffeisen is currently the largest bank in Albania with over 60% of all retail deposits in the country. It is not yet known if Albanian accounts were used in the processing of money originating from the Troika Laundromat.
With over 1.3 million banking transactions from 238,000 individuals and companies, it is expected that more revelations about who benefitted from the vast sums of money, are yet to come.