Four Bankers Convicted Over Swiss Account of Longtime Putin Pal

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L.) presents a medal to Russian cellist Sergei Roldugin, during an award ceremony in Moscow’s Kremlin, Russia, Sept. 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, Pool, File)

Four former bankers with the Swiss affiliate of a key Russian bank were found guilty Thursday of failing to properly check accounts opened in the name of a Russian cellist with longtime ties to President Vladimir Putin.

The defendants were handed suspended sentences in Zurich district court that, if violated, could lead collectively to hundreds of thousands of Swiss francs in fines.

The verdict follows a one-day trial on March 8 based on information about secret financial flows revealed in the Panama Papers leaks in 2016 that implicated musician and Putin’s childhood friend Sergei Roldugin. It took years for prosecutors to unravel the web of money and bring the case to court.

The trial opened a rare window into allegations from the Panama Papers that a member of Putin’s circle of friends helped funnel millions abroad and that financial employees may have turned a blind eye to such inflows. Putin has denied the accusations.

The former Gazprombank employees — three Russian-born and one Swiss-born, who could not be named under Swiss law — were charged with failing to adequately check whether Roldugin actually owned the assets in the accounts. He was a bank customer from 2014 to 2016.

All four defendants denied the charges, which include allegations of violating the Swiss anti-money-laundering law. Gazprombank Switzerland is in the process of winding down its operations and was not itself facing charges.

In a statement, the Zurich regional prosecutor’s office said it welcomed the verdicts as “an important signal that due diligence obligations under the money laundering law must be observed.”

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