EU may Impose Sanctions on Lukashenko's "Private Banker"

20.06.2011 15:23
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Three Belarussian companies belonging to the Belarusian businessman, Vladimir Peftiev, an economic adviser to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, described as his "personal banker," doing business in the EU, are likely to be frozen. "The move is desined to punish the Belarusian leader for jailing opposition activists and reporters without hurting the country's economy," said the EU Council.

The firms in question, arms maker Beltechexport, the country’s national telecommunications provider Beltelecom, as well as gaming companies Sport-Pari and Superloto. All of them have strong links with Vladimir Peftiev, Lukashenko’s personal bag man, who, according to the EU diplomat, uses the busineses for «money laundering.»

Peftiev’s official duties include the chairmanship of Beltechexport and of the Belarusian state tennis association. He is also said to have shares in Austrian mobile phone venture Velcom, the Austrian-owned Prior Bank and in Belvneshekonom Bank. US business magazine Forbes in 2010 named him as the country’s second richest man (after Lukashenko) with a fortune of around $1 billion.

Belarus shouldn’t Get Loans without Pochobut’s Release, EU

EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Monday (June 21) will seek to overcome opposition to the move. Ministers are also looking to publish a communique urging Minsk to free Polish reporter Andrzej Poczobut, telling it not to expect new EU development bank loans and warning it that bigger companies, such as oil and fertiliser firms Belneftekhim and Belaruskali, could be next.

After visiting Belarus last week, the International Monetary Fund said it faces a «serious crisis» due to a runaway budget deficit. Minsk in May applied for an IMF top-up loan, with some MEPs and senior EU officials saying it should only get money if it frees political prisoners,» the author says.

However, he points out, the EU countries do not want to pressure the lender. «The IMF normally does not set political conditions, and I do not want to try to interfere in the decision-making in this case,» said Janos Martonyi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Hungary, which holds the rotating EU presidency.

In addition, Italy and Latvia — which have business ties in Belarus — have voiced reluctance about the measures.

Peftiev Sanctions Not to Touch Lukashenko, Analyst

Dzianis Melyantsou from the Minsk-based Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies believes that the new EU sanctions will not affect the interests of Alexander Lukashenko.

«It’s easy for him to get money from any other Belarusian company, state-owned or private. In Belarus there are two legal state budgets — a normal one and the presidential fund. Nobody knows how the latter is formed. These targeted sanctions will ultimately hurt ordinary people,» he said.