Alfa bank
Alexey Marey/ Kornferry
Alexey Marey/ Kornferry

One of Russian banks hit by EU sanctions related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, has on its board of directors the holder of a Maltese golden passport, research by BusinessNow.mt has found.

Alfa Bank, which is one of the country’s largest privately-held banks will be banned from floating shares or applying for refinancing in the bloc.

Alexey Alexandrovich Marey is the bank’s former CEO and currently sits on its board of directors. In 2016, according to the lists of naturalised citizens released by Malta’s Government, he became a citizen of the country.

While the Government’s refusal to publish separate lists of those that acquired their citizenship via the so-called ‘golden passport’ individual investor programme (IIP) requiring aspiring citizens to invest large amounts of money locally, versus those who earned citizenship by living in the country or via family ties, means the list doesn’t show he purchased his citizenship, however, BusinessNow.mt has verified that he is indeed a recipient of a golden passport.

Mr Marey is a long serving employee of Alfa Bank, having joined in 2004. He occupied several positions in the bank, most notably serving as CEO between 2012 and 2017.

According to his unverified online biography, he departed the company to move to a permanent place of residence with his family in London.

He currently serves as a non-executive director at three companies: the Nasdaq-listed payment solutions provider Qiwi plc, where he chairs the board’s Strategy Committee; ChelPipe, a leading pipe producer, where he chairs the board’s Nominating Committee; and Borjomi International Group.

Mr Marey is also not the only senior member of the bank’s team to acquire Maltese citizenship in recent years.

Maxim Sergeyevich Pershin, the former co-head of the corporate and investment banking division acquired Maltese citizenship a year later, although seems to have departed the bank since.

Karl Cini & Brian Tonna

While Mr Pershin’s activities since leaving the bank are hard to ascertain, Mr Marey’s might raise some eyebrows.

According to the Malta Business Registry, he is a significant shareholder in Enern Tech 2, which has something of a convoluted corporate structure, having as its shareholders a number of firms and individuals resident in such far flung jurisdictions as Jersey, the Czech Republic, Curacao and, via himself, Russia.

Notably, it has as its Director, Legal and Judicial Representative one ‘BTI Management Ltd,’ a company registered to the infamous Brian Tonna and Karl Cini, partners at the disgraced Nexia BT, which has been implicated in a number of corruption scandals, starting with the Panama Papers scandal.

Ukraine sanctions & Malta passport

The unprecedented sanctions launched by various Western powers against Russia have once again brought about debate regarding Malta’s highly controversial golden passport scheme.

Recent critics include President of the European Parliament and Maltese MEP Roberta Metsola, who last week urged European leaders to end the sale of “golden passports” to wealthy foreigners

She said: “The Kremlin has long thought it could buy its way into Europe. It is time to close any loopholes, end the dangerous phenomenon of golden passports that provide a backdoor to European citizenship and ensure that Russian money does not become as critical as Russian gas.”

The scheme has since been suspended for Russian and Belarusian citizens, with Community Malta Agency, Identity Malta Agency, and Residency Malta Agency claiming that this was because existing due diligence checks cannot be carried out effectively in the current scenario.

The bodies also claimed that, following thorough checks, they had found that no beneficiaries of any status, related to the granting of citizenship or residence, are on the EU Sanctions List. 

It is worth noting, however, that the body did not address the sanctions lists of the UK and the US, which diverge from that of the EU.

Any independent investigation into the list is made prohibitively difficult by Maltese authorities’ aforementioned refusals to provide lists of those who acquired citizenship via investment, and the somewhat the oxymoronic way the combined lists are presented.

Despite the fact that no Maltese citizens were directly hit by sanctions, however, there are examples of their businesses being hit.

For example, as was reported in local media on Thursday, Maltese passport buyer Pavel Grachev’s Polyus Gold company was suspended from trading on the London Stock Exchange.

More indirectly, Arkady Volozh, who acquired citizenship in 2016, has seen his stake in the multi-billion euro Russian search engine giant Yandex decline in value by 60 per cent in the immediate wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, costing him more than $400 million, according to Forbes.

Featured Image:

Alfa Bank branch in Odessa, Ukraine (2012). Photo: wikiwand.com

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