Cyprus Crisis Sees Russian Investors Flee to Virgin Islands
Published: August 19, 2013 (Issue # 1773)
President Vladimir Putin's calls for domestic companies to repatriate their funds back home from offshore jurisdictions have fallen on deaf ears, with almost half of the $67 billion investment by Russian residents abroad in the first quarter of this year settling in the British Virgin Islands, according to figures released by the Central Bank on Friday.
The British Virgin Islands saw $31.66 billion of direct investment by Russian residents during the first three months of 2013 in the wake of the banking crisis in Cyprus — previously Russians' favorite tax haven. The figure skyrocketed from just $2.1 billion in the first quarter of 2012 and $4 billion during the fourth quarter of last year.
The investments accounted for 47 percent of the $67.2 billion that Russian residents invested outside the country in January through March.
The second largest investment was made in Luxembourg and accounted for $13.9 billion, up from $258 million in the first quarter of 2012 and $1.8 billion during the last three months of last year. Cyprus saw a modest $2.7 billion, down from $4.8 billion in the same period a year earlier, the Central Bank data showed.
"The figures are, apparently linked to the financial problems in Cyprus," said Alexei Devyatov, chief economist at UralSib Capital.
He suggested that, although the Cypriot crisis broke out only in March, many investors had expected problems, and this resulted in redistribution of capital flows between offshore centers in the first quarter of the year.
It might take Cyprus a few years to win back depositors' trust, Devyatov said.
The collapse of the Cypriot banking system earlier this year left the accounts of many Russian companies and individual depositors frozen, followed by a restructuring of the Bank of Cyprus and plans to liquidate Cyprus Popular Bank, also known as Laiki.
The move was part of the bailout plan approved by the Cypriot government and its European Union creditors that also envisaged that the island country's authorities would slash part of the deposits in the Bank of Cyprus exceeding 100,000 euros to recapitalize the lender. The bank's clients falling under this category will lose 47.5 percent of their savings, Reuters reported earlier this month.
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