By John Helmer
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades (lead images, left) has come under intense political and personal pressure to agree to terms of settlement for the future of Cyprus, swapping Turkish military occupation for European Union rights for all Turkish immigrants to the island — the former to be implemented over years; the latter to become effective immediately.
The sensitivity of that deal, Cypriot, Greek and US sources said this week, is such a political bombshell for Anastasiades seeking re-election in a year’s time that he wouldn’t be risking detonation, if not for a personal vulnerability he is facing at the same time.
Two New York Supreme Court releases this month reveal that emails between Nicos Anastasiades’s family law firm and a wealthy Russian client, Leonid Lebedev (left lead, right side), were withheld when Anastasiades’s partner, Theofanis (Theophanis) Philippou, testified in a Cyprus court recently. Philippou has been one of Lebedev’s personal lawyers in Cyprus, and he has made official records of this. Anastasiades was also Lebedev’s adviser at the law firm and at the Imperium group of companies, which Philippou and Anastasiades operated to manage their clients’ corporate business, personal trusts, and cashflow. Their relationships with Lebedev predate Anastasiades becoming president of Cyprus in February 2013.
It is that record which Philippou was ordered by the New York and Cyprus courts to produce. It is their sensitivity for the president now that has led to a cover-up.
Anastasiades has been vulnerable to disclosure of his involvement with Lebedev because Lebedev is accused in Russia of looting more than $200 million from a regional electricity utility; transferring the funds to Cyprus companies; and then converting part of the cash to his personal trust accounts in New York. The Anastasiades firm has been directly involved in the Cyprus companies, the Lebedev trust, the New York bank accounts, and in litigation of other civil claims against Lebedev and his companies allegedly for stealing $180 million from Commerzbank of Germany.
That is a chain of money-laundering, if the Russian courts convict Lebedev of crimes. They have yet to do that.
Professing his innocence, Lebedev has sought refuge in the US, where he has negotiated with State Department and other US officials for safe haven. He has also divulged what he knows about Anastasiades to the US officials. Anastasiades, Philippou (right) and the two Anastasiades daughters who also run the law firm in their father’s absence, are aware of the potential legal implications for them in the US.
Lebedev has also been conducting a lawsuit of his own in New York Supreme Court, claiming $2 billion from two of the former shareholders in the big Russian oil company TNK – Victor Vekselberg and Len Blavatnik. They say they paid Lebedev $600 million for his TNK shares to two companies, Coral Petreoklum and Agragorn, between 2003 and 2006, and owe him nothing more. Lebedev claims he never received their money. The truth to be decided by New York Supreme Court Judge Saliann Scarpulla depends on documents, including emails, exchanged between Lebedev and the Cyprus lawyers.
Anastasiades has the key to the files confirming Lebedev’s alleged control of Coral Petroleum and Agragorn. He can make, or break, Lebedev’s bid for the $2 billion. But Lebedev has the key to files which threaten Anastasiades with a US investigation of money-laundering. As a reminder, Lebedev flew secretly to Cyprus last May; local press reported his contact with Anastasiades.
For fresh emphasis, Lebedev flew to Cyprus in November to attend the court-ordered interrogations of Philippou and his employee, Viktoria Henkelmann. A source at the court (pictured below left) described Lebedev attracting attention by riding up to the courthouse in a conspicuous limousine. A Cyprus airport source confirms Lebedev stayed on the island until he flew out on December 12. To qualify for Cyprus citizenship in 2011 Lebedev bought a home in Limassol (right); his application for citizenship was managed by the Anastasiades law firm, though Philippou later testified in court that the home, passport and other Lebedev assets in Cyprus did not exist.
In the context of Anastasiades’ role in negotiating for Cyprus with Victoria Nuland, the former US Assistant Secretary of State, the Lebedev case materials have been widely reported as the “Nuland blackmail”. Anastasiades has responded to these reports by saying through a spokesman that all questions relating to the law firm should be answered by it. Nuland’s spokesman at State refused to clarify the circumstances in which State has granted US residency to Lebedev, and what it knows of his relationship with Anastasiades.
Last October Limassol District Court Judge Stalo Tsivitanidou-Kizi ordered Philippou and Henkelmann “to disclose to the advocates for the parties in Cyprus, and provide them with copies of any document referred in paragraph 11 of the judicial assistance request (Letter of Request).” The request was signed in New York by Supreme Court Judge Scarpulla. Here is an excerpt of what it required: