Skip to main content

Daily Beast: Prokhorov had accounts in sketchy bank (but no crimes alleged, and oligarch denies he concealed assets)

In an exclusive 12/13/17, the Daily Beast published The Shady Bank Where This Russian NBA Owner Stashed Money, suggesting a whiff of scandal surrounding Mikhail Prokhorov, currently owner of the Brooklyn Nets (about to sell 49%) and the Barclays Center operating company:
But a 2014 “confidential” report written by the Central Bank of Cyprus (CBC) found that the wealthy Russian, a so-called politically exposed person—finance parlance for government officials, candidates, and their relatives who are deemed to be at a higher risk of bribery or money laundering—kept 23 accounts at FBME Bank Ltd., formerly known as the Federal Bank of the Middle East.
All 23 of the Prokhorov accounts had been set up by “front men,” according to the CBC report, and FBME was found not to have complied with Cyprus’ own anti-money-laundering law in accepting the deposits.
The bank was shuttered in May of this year following a U.S. Treasury Department statement noting that it was used to facilitate a host of international financial crimes, including money laundering on behalf of sanctioned regimes and non-state actors.
So, what does that mean? As The Daily Beast notes, Prokhorov hasn't been accused of a crime, and it's hardly uncommon for rich people of his ilk to shelter wealth. Nor is it clear how much Prokhorov had deposited, or how much of that has been frozen. A Prokhorov spokesman issued a statement:
"The multiple companies within Onexim Group interact with dozens of banks worldwide in the regular course of doing business. At no point did Mikhail Prokhorov ask any bank to conceal his assets in connection with his presidential run in 2012 or for any other purpose.”
That last contracts the report, which, reports the Daily Beast, "alleges that the bank 'hid' the true ownership of them 'in view of the fact that Mr. Prokhorov was a [Russian] presidential candidate.'”

Implications = murky

Another lingering question is why Prokhorov, as well as the many other clients--The Daily Beast notes that  16% "of the bank’s depositors were also designated as foreign politically exposed persons, or PEPs"--chose this bank, which had long faced international scrutiny and moved from Cyprus to Tanzania.

“We are seeing a pattern of Russian dark money used for bad purposes,” Daniel Fried, the former U.S. coordinator of sanctions policy under the Obama administration, told the Daily Beat, noting that Porkhorov and other depositors have to be included in a report to Congress. The connection between those deposits and anything nefarious, though, remains unclear.

NetsDaily's "Net Income" (aka Bob Windrem) noted that Prokhorof has also surfaced in coverage of Russian Olympics doping, denying secondhand reports that he'd paid hush money to a biathlete accused of doping. He wrote:
In each case, there’s been no formal charge of Prokhorov’s involvement in any crime and the poor state of Russian-U.S. relations is driving a number of journalistic threads. Will it hurt his standing with the NBA? At this point, there’s no indication of that.
Past vetting

Indeed, let's remember the vetting of incoming Nets owner Prokhorov. Was he "a man of character?" 60 Minutes' Steve Kroft asked NBA Commissioner David Stern in March 2010.

"I think he's a man who's passed a very tight security check," Stern replied deliberately, "and nobody has come up with any reason why he shouldn't be an NBA owner."

The NBA’s investigator later described a limited probe: "Despite the colorful publicity [about the Courcheval incident, in which Prokhorov was briefly jailed in France over suspicion he'd imported prostitutes], extensive research revealed that Prokhorov had no ties to organized crime and that his financials qualified him to become an NBA owner."

Prokhorov faced a somewhat tougher Bloomberg TV interviewer: "Have you ever given a bribe?”

"It was like, 15 years ago, last time," Prokhorov responded, his syntax suggesting multiple instances. Since then, however, he's been known as a colorful, albeit overoptimistic, NBA owner.

Comments