Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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Czechs Probe Austrian Bank Over Russian Business

Czech police said Friday they were handling a criminal complaint filed against Austria’s Raiffeisenbank by a local citizen rights group claiming it is financing terrorism with its activities in Russia.

Raiffeisenbank, one of the last major Western lenders in Russia, is the fourth largest Czech bank with 1.8 million clients in the EU member of 10.5 million people.

The Hydra association set up to protect the rights of Czech citizens and entrepreneurs said it had filed a complaint against the bank’s Czech and Austrian units in late June.

It insists these units cooperate with the bank’s subsidiary in Russia and hence finance “a terrorist organisation called the Russian Federation”.

“We can confirm we have received the complaint and that we are dealing with it now,” Prague police spokesman Ondrej Moravcik told AFP, declining to disclose further details.

Hydra claims the Russian state is using tax money paid by Raiffeisenbank to finance its war in Ukraine, which began in February 2022.

“The Raiffeisen Group has subsidiaries in the Russian Federation which create profits from which (they)… pay a part in the form of taxes to the budget of the Russian Federation which can be considered to be a terrorist organisation,” reads the complaint obtained by AFP.

Hydra chairman Libor Malecek told AFP it did not make sense for the Czech government to provide humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine and at the same time to “tolerate banks… that help finance the other side”.

Hydra has also filed a complaint with Austrian and European authorities.

It is calling for an international investigation team also comprising US authorities, who have already launched a probe into the bank’s activities in Russia.

Raiffeisenbank said in its annual report that it had made two billion euros in net profits and paid 560 million euros in income tax in Russia last year.

The bank told AFP it recognised “the urgency for action which the war has created”.

“The RBI Group will continue to progress potential transactions which would result in the sale or spin-off of Raiffeisenbank Russia and deconsolidation of Raiffeisenbank Russia from the RBI Group,” it said.

RBI chairman and chief executive Johann Strobl said on Tuesday that any potential withdrawal from Russia needed the approval of Russian authorities and European authorities.

“It’s not an excuse, it’s reality,” he was quoted as saying by the Bloomberg agency.

Source : Macau Business

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