Cyprus traces Milosevic-linked money laundering
Cyprus said Monday, April 9, it had traced two instances where Yugoslav state assets were channeled through the island's banking system and spirited elsewhere.
"We have sent all the relevant information and documents on these two cases to Yugoslavia so they can incorporate it into their own inquiries, government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou told AFP.
He said the government's anti-money laundering unit had investigated the suspect accounts at the behest of the Yugoslav authorities, who think Cyprus was a major transit point for cash sent abroad by former president Slobodan Nilosevic.
"These were two accounts given to us by the Yugoslav authorities ... they were here and they are not anymore", Papapetrou said, adding that a number of other Yugoslav company accounts were still pending investigation.
Yugoslavia's National Bank governor Mladjan Dinkic last month gave the Cypriots the names of at least 10 Cyprus-based offshore companies with links to the Milosevic regime, allegedly used to funnel billions of dollars out of Belgrade.
Dinkic also revealed that a close relative of the ousted Serb leader has an active account on the island. "Cyprus is fully responding to what was asked of it. We believe that it is to our credit that we are cooperating and divulging full data on these issues", Papapetrou said.
Yugoslavia's new government has arrested Milosevic on corruption charges, and the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague is also after him.
Papapetrou denied any complicity by the Cyprus government, which has always refuted allegations that it was the center of Milosevic's laundering activities.
"We cannot pre-empt the outcome of investigations here and in Yugoslavia but the fact these funds were received in Cyprus means nothing," he said, adding that he did not know the origin of the money or its destination after Cyprus.
In a parallel development, Cyprus has sent 25 box-files of possible evidence against the disgraced Yugoslav leader and other alleged Serbian war criminals to The Hague, as requested by war crimes tribunal prosecutor Carla del Ponte.
She asked for Cyprus to freeze at least 25 Yugoslav accounts to assist her hunt for Milosevic's evasive money trail.
Yugoslav authorities suspect Cyprus was a key money laundering center for Milosevic during his tumultuous 12-year rule when an estimated four billion dollars vanished while the Yugoslav federation went bankrupt.
They believe most of that money initially came to Cyprus, especially between 1991 and 1994, before being transferred to other foreign bank accounts. Yugoslavia said last December that US Treasury officials traced one billion dollars of Milosevic's money to secret accounts in Cyprus. — (AFP, Nicosia)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)