A charity run by Prince Charles received donations from a company used to transfer large amounts of cash from Russia. According to The Guardian, investigators found 1.3 million bank transactions showing around £3.5 billion ($4.6 billion USD) sent to Europe and the U.S. from a Russian-operated network of 70 offshore companies in one of the largest banking leaks.
The investigation is centered on Russian investment bank Troika Dialog, with evidence showing that managers funneled money for more than eight years, starting in 2004. Troika has since merged with the country’s biggest high-street bank.
Troika’s boss during these transactions was Ruben Vardanyan, who has close ties to Putin. There is no evidence, however, that Vardanyan did anything illegal, and he has claimed that he believed the bank knew its clients, and “applied regulations and compliance procedures that met the requirements of the legislation of that time.” He added that he had no knowledge that Troika companies received funds related to fraud.
The files showed transactions that include the transfer of $70 million to one of the Russian president's best friends, Sergei Roldugin, who was revealed by the Panama Papers as the possible beneficiary of funds being held for Putin.
Vardanyan admitted that he knew of Roldugin, but said, “I haven’t done any business with him personally. Why did he receive money from Troika Dialog companies? I don’t know anything about that.”
There was also the revelation that, from 2009 to 2011, Vardanyan donated $200,000 to the Prince’s Charities Foundation. However, he said the money was sent to help “preserve architectural heritage in England.”
Still, the findings should boost concerns by U.K. ministers, who are calling for better due diligence by British institutions before they accept money from offshore companies.
“You have to ask yourself, why is money being moved in this way, through multiple companies?” said Tom Keatinge, money laundering expert for the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) think tank. “It’s a way of obfuscating source and ownership.”