Africa emerges launderer for corrupt Russians' money


From Akani Chauke in Johannesburg, South Africa


Indications that vast amounts of money linked
to controversial Russian officials have ended up in Africa are a tip of
the iceberg of a continent sharply slipping into a launder for finances
of unscrupulous Russian officials.

This is tied to the foray into Africa by the world's biggest country by
size wobbling into controversy.

The money laundering fiasco is also attributed to the sanctions Canada,
the European Union (EU) and the United States (US) imposed on Russia in 2014 after it
annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine.

These restrictions were the most wide-ranging applied to Russia since
the fall of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) 28 years ago
this month.

Offshore zones in Africa have since emerged as of particular interest as
Russian officials scour for new markets to stash their money. This is
after the restrictions and Russia's position in South America was rendered

Former Russian minister, the oligarch Mikhail Abyzov, and Viktor
Kozelsky, a current member of the Russian tax department, who is also a
member of the ruling party, are at the centre of money laundering storms
in Africa.

Abyzov is the subject of a Russian probe for alleged fraud and
racketeering following accusations that he took US$770 million offshore
from the country, according to Forbes magazine.

There are suggestions some of the loot by Abyzov, a confidant of Prime
Minister Dmitry Medvedev, ended up in African offshore

The name Viktor Kozelsky has cropped up in a money laundering storm
brewing in Nigeria, Africa's biggest economy, albeit blighted by a
reputation for corruption.

The scandal is related to Russian money of dubious origin.

Kozelsky is the head of the Federal Tax Service of the southwestern
Saratov region and State Advisor to the Russian Federation, as confirmed
by the agency
( ).

Allegations against Kozelsky have brought to the fore the scourge of
money laundering in West Africa.

The Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in the
region (GIABA) expressed concern.

Justice Kimelabalou Aba, GIABA's director general, said the bloc was
confronted with several threats related to transnational organised

"This situation, with its dramatic effects on our member states,
therefore, warrants all stakeholders' commitment and efforts in
preventing, and combating the scourges of money laundering and terrorist
financing," read a statement delivered on his behalf at a recent
three-day training for investigative journalists in Liberia

Think-tanks such as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) believe the
controversies mentioned above, particularly the Kozelsky issue, are
merely a sprout of a deep-rooted problem.

Possibilities are that the beleaguered man may be connected with other
more influential corrupt Russian officials and thus his is not an
isolated case.

At its recent plenary where it evaluated Russia, FATF advised the
country to "refine its approach to supervision and prioritise the
investigation and prosecution of complex money laundering, especially
concerning money being laundered abroad."

Ironically, Russia, according FATF, has in-depth understanding of the
money laundering and terrorist financing risks it faces.

According to international experts, the money laundering debacle
implicate and mirror the blunder-prone foray by Russia into Africa. Africa
and the then Soviet Union enjoyed cordial diplomatic, political,
military and cultural relationships from 1945 to 1992.

Russia's rekindling its ties with Africa is seen as an exploitation of
the United States' waning participation in the continent, marked by the
withdrawal of troops and declining political agenda.

But such blunders, characterised by graft, in the diplomatic charm
offensive are well documented.

Last year, the South African government of President Cyril Ramaphosa, in
office on a pledge to curb corruption, cancelled a lucrative nuclear
agreement his disgraced predecessor, Jacob Zuma, agreed with the Putin

Russia was initially scheduled to construct plants for South Africa's
ambitious nuclear power project but the deal was not spared the corrupt
nature of the previous government.

In the Central African Republic (CAR), which is emerging from years of
conflict, Russia has played a prominent role in the revival of peace but
there are strings attached. CAR President, Faustin-Archange Touadera,
disclosed his country was considering hosting a military base for

The World Economic Forum (WEF) noted among other challenges in Russia's
African strategy, that the country would inevitably face accusations of
acting as a neo-colonialist power with the sole objective of controlling
mineral resources.

Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, said the first Russia-Africa
Summit held in Sochi on 22-23 October "will give impetus to the further
development of the whole range of trade and economic relations between
Russia and our friends on the African continent".

- CAJ News






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