On 7 June 2018 I received a letter from Citadele bank’s marketing and corporate communication division, Aris Dreimanis. The letter was forwarded via an e mail from a partner at the Brunswick Group, an international communications consultancy, and concerned “The Colour of Russian Money Part 5.” Mr Dreimanis’s letter and the accompanying e mail were aimed at dealing with the inaccuracies in the article and laying out the true facts. I am accordingly happy to withdraw the article in line with their request. 

However, even if my article was not correct, the use of a powerful company to deal with an obscure internet author raises important questions. The bank, obviously has a right to protect its image. Equally journalists  and citizens have, within the framework of a democracy, the right to ask questions based on the available facts. It is in that spirit that I ask these questions. I have no resources to fight a legal battle and would have no alternative but to withdraw this statement and apologise were they to adopt such means. However, the questions I ask now relate solely to material which is freely available, and arise naturally.

Mr Dreimanis states that there is no relationship between ISG, the Belise registered firm which operates in Latvia, Russia, Ukraine and AP Anlage & Privatbank, Citadele’s Swiss subsidiary. I accept his statement, but note that the impression of a relationship arises quite naturally from the certificate which is seen below and can be viewed in this linked search.

A supposed certificate referring to a “mutually beneficial relationship” between AP Anlage & Privatbank and the Intelligent Solution Group (ISG) 

However, the page where the certificate was shown, in a business directory entry for ISG, has been deleted. I accessed the page in June 2018 after receipt of their letter. It seems reasonable to ask if the certificate was a forgery? ISG, in a page now deleted from their website which is available here state that their specialists can help clients open an account at the bank. Was there ever a relationship between ISG and the bank? This is simply a question on the basis of freely available material which surely cannot be objected to?

A now deleted page from the ISG site advertising the services of its specialists for opening accounts at AP Anlage & Privatbank

It seems reasonable to ask whether the specialists at ISG liaised with the bank to open accounts?

Mr Dreimanis also objected to suggestions in the article, which I now withdraw, that the bank acted as a repository for oligarchic funds. These related to an advert on the bank’s site, from a page which has since been amended, which referred to the bank holding money in its own name, but on behalf of clients, at other banks.

The partner at the Brunswick group who contacted me quoted the Swiss banking regulations:

 “A fiduciary investment is the placement of fixed deposits (in domestic and foreign currencies) with usually foreign banks or other financial institutions (hereinafter referred to as “financial intermediaries“) for investment purposes in exchange for a commission.”

This may be the case. However, if the bank holds or held the deposits in its own name at third party banks, how does this work in relation to the Know Your Customer rule? Under Swiss law a bank must know who you are, and this applies in most countries. So how did the banks concerned comply with this requirement if AP Anlage & Privatbank was placing deposits in its own name? Is the text on the page misleading? 

A final question which I believe is worth asking regarding Citadele bank. What proportion of the bank’s non Latvian resident clients, in terms of the value of their deposits, are high net worth individuals from Russia and Ukraine?

I accept without reserve Citadele’s views on the now withdrawn article and ask these questions solely to give them the opportunity of going on the record, perhaps with a press release, and clarifying how these accounts worked, the distribution of the alleged certificate, and their high value clients from Russia and Ukraine. I appreciate the offer by the partner at Brunswick to respond directly to any queries I may have. However, I believe that it is important to have a public discussion in a democratic society, and will happily publish their and the bank’s clarifications re the material above.

Steve Komarnyckyj is a PEN award winning literary translator and poet whose work is published by Kalyna Language Press and features on the PEN World Bookshelf. You can e mail him on stevekomoffice(at)zoho.eu

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