Report: Russian banks evade sanctions by trading cash for gold

Some Russian banks may be evading sanctions on banknotes by trading gold in the UAE and Turkey, according to a report by Sayari, a financial-intelligence company.

Sanctions on shipping banknotes to Russia were imposed after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022. The restrictions ban exports of dollars and euros to Moscow.

Sayari's research found that in the first quarter of 2023, some Russian banks imported over $82 million in dollars, euros, and UAE dirhams. One of the financial institutions was Lanta Bank JSC, whose owners also control the mining company GV Gold.

According to the data, the entities that sent cash to Russia also received imports of gold from the country during the same time period.

Gold is one of Russia's most valuable exports, often ranked second after gas and oil. Western sanctions have curbed the trade of Russian gold, halting deliveries to hubs in London and New York and shifting trade to Turkey and the UAE.

Additional sanctions led a large share of exports to move to Hong Kong in 2023.

The Sayari report shows that Russian banks continued to trade gold in exchange for banknotes until July or August of 2023.

The U.K.'s National Crime Agency (NCA) issued a warning in 2023 that Russia used gold as a means of evading sanctions.

New rounds of Western sanctions have aimed to target Russia's sanctions-evasion efforts. Russian media reported on Feb. 1 that Turkish banks have ended relationships with Russian businesses for fear of triggering U.S. sanctions.

Read also: That diamond ring? It may have helped pay for Russia’s war

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