Swiss bankers face trial accused of helping Putin’s friend transfer cash

Swiss bankers face trial accused of helping Putin’s friend transfer cash

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ZURICH — Four bankers will stand trial in Zurich next week accused of helping a man known as “Vladimir Putin’s wallet” deposit millions of Swiss francs in Switzerland.

The four men, who worked at Gazprombank, will appear at Zurich District Court on March 8 accused of lacking diligence in financial transactions.

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The defendants are accused of having “failed to exercise due diligence to ascertain the identity of the beneficial owner,” of the funds, according to the indictment seen by Reuters.

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Swiss media said the amount involved in the case was around 50 million Swiss francs ($53 million).

The men, who were senior executives at the bank which is currently shuttering its Swiss operations, cannot be identified under Swiss reporting restrictions. Their lawyers did not respond to requests for comment.

A spokesman for Gazprombank said he could not comment on an ongoing trial and referred to the presumption of innocence of the defendants.

Two accounts were opened at Gazprombank in 2014, according to the indictment, with the beneficial owner identified as Sergey Roldugin, a close confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The bankers did not carry out any checks to see if Roldugin, a cellist and conductor, was the beneficial owner of the assets, it added.

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“At the time of the opening of the account it was reported … that Sergey Roldugin was a close friend of the Russian President Vladimir Putin and godfather of his daughter,” the indictment said.

The defendants made no attempt to clarify if Roldugin was the real beneficial owner of the assets or where the money came from, the court document said.

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In the bank’s documents, only Roldugin’s professional activity as a musician was listed, making his ownership and involvement “in no way plausible,” the court documents said.

In Switzerland, banks are obliged to reject or terminate business relationships if there are initial doubts about the identity of the contracting party.

Both accounts were closed in September 2016.

Roldugin has already been targeted by U.S. sanctions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has also been sanctioned in Switzerland, whose government referred to him as “Putin’s wallet” in its list of blocked people.

The prosecutor is seeking suspended sentences of seven months for each of the bankers. ($1 = 0.9382 Swiss francs) (Reporting by John Revill and Oliver Hirt; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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