Millions of euros of illicit Russian money which was laundered through Europe in a massive tax fraud scam could have been used to influence European Union politics.
MEPs from the main groups in the European Parliament have raised the alarm over €190 million worth of dirty money that is believed to have been passed through the EU.
In a letter to foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini, the group claimed “there is information that shows that the money has been used to influence European politics, media, and civil society to prevent consequences for Russian human rights violators”.
They also claimed the €190 million was “just the tip of the iceberg” and that the same group behind that fraud “is linked to similar crimes worth almost €1 billion”.
The tax fraud was first discovered by Russian auditor Sergei Magnitsky and his former employer Bill Browder, a British hedge fund manager who found evidence that the funds were laundered through several top EU banks.
Investigations were launched by authorities in the US, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Moldova, Lithuania, and Poland – and the later Panama Papers leak revealed €770,000 was funnelled to Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s friend, a cellist named Sergei Roldugin.
Now MEPs have called for a ban on visas and the freezing of assets on 32 Russians implicated in the scam, which is being known as Magnitsky affair.
The letter, signed by 51 cross-party MEPs, accused Brussels of doing little to improve the human rights situation in Russia.
It said Mogherini’s earlier pledges to put pressure on Moscow over rights abuses had “failed” and inaction “shows a weakness of Europe and encourages Vladimir Putin to take more provocative and destructive steps”.
While Browder said: “It’s time for the European Union to do its part by enacting the will of its members to stop criminals with blood on their hands from reaping the benefits of Europe.”
Mogherini’s office has confirmed the received the letter and “a response will be sent in due course”.
The MEPs’ warning comes ahead of elections next year in France and Germany, where anti-EU parties such as the National Front and the AfD aim to run for power despite both being accused of receiving Russian money.
While British and German spy chiefs have warned that Russia has tried to sway the outcome of EU votes the same way that it did the US elections.
Yesterday, it was revealed US electoral college voters have refused to complete the election without being offered a talk on claims Russian hacking could have helped Donald Trump win the presidency.