This article originally appeared at Hospodářské Noviny (Economic News). Translated for RI by Anthony Grulich.
Financial Analytic Department detectives, the intelligence gathering units at the Ministry of Finance, had to cope with European sanctions on those within the closest circles of Russian president Vladimir Putin. And one of the people subject to them is the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who has elite thoroughbreds stabled in the Czech Republic since spring 2012.
“The goal of sanctions isn’t the liquidation of Ramzan Kadyrov’s race horses in the Czech Republic, but to prevent the designated person from gaining material benefit from horse racing activities as long as the sanctions are in place” the Financial Analytic Department head Libor Kazda stated.
At issue is that when Brussels, together with the USA expanded the list of sanctions against Putin and those close to him last year because of what happened in Crimea and in the east of the Ukraine, the Czechs had to ensure that nothing from what Kadyrov’s horses earn at races should end up in his wallet. The amounts involved aren’t necessarily minor: the Chechen dictator uses the Czech Republic as one of his bases. The animals, whose value range in the millions of crowns, are here mainly to prepare for generously rewarded horse races in Dubai.
However, the “Digitspies” as the FAD experts are sometimes called had to deal with a different dilemma. How to freeze the money from Kadyrov’s race horses while at the same time not endangering the lives of the horses. In the end they apparently decided upon a compromise solution, which will enable the horses to continue with their training and satisfy the requirements of the EU at the same time. The details of the compromise as well as the exact amount of money to date the Czechs have deprived from Putin’s friend and coworker was not divulged by Mr. Kazda.
“The case is actually open for the entire duration of the restrictive provisions against a physical person. The sanctions are meant to deter from further negative behavior and not to punish. Notably, in this case (not) to punish horses” added the man appointed as the head of the influential organization by Andrej Babiš (current Deputy Premier + Finance Minister) last spring and previously active within the police anti-corruption department.
Previously, Kadyrov had his horses accommodated at stables in Mimon but were transferred last year by trainer Arslangirej Šavujev to modern facilities in Krabčice u Roudnice belonging to businessman Rostislav Kopecky. The thirty eight year old Caucasian lover of luxury originally had about ten horses there, while Jockey Club CR statistics from the end of 2014 now make reference to just two. Kadyrov, whom human rights activists accuse of persecuting and torturing his own as well as Putin’s opponents, has probably begun to withdraw his horses just as in Germany to locations where sanctions are not in effect – mainly the Middle East.
The head of the Chechen state, which is sending its paramilitary units to battle alongside pro-Russian separatists in Donbass, it seems, wasn’t the only figure from Putin’s circle occupying the time of Czech financial detectives last year. „Hundreds of cases annually are related to international sanctions” is the response from the Ministry of Finance. Apparently, the total sum amounts to figures in the hundreds of thousands of euro, more than ten million crowns. However, Kazda refused to disclose (the identities of) the businessmen and/or politicians from Russia or Ukraine involved. In the past, the notion that the richest Ukrainian Rinat Achmetov or Russian railway head Vladimir Jakunin, who maintains a friendly relationship with Czech president Miloš Zeman, could have any assets here through intermediaries was pure speculation.
Kadyrov himself is a key figure within the structures of the Kremlin and in reward for securing peace of mind for Putin in Chechnya, Moscow sends him billions of dollars annually. His father Ahmed Kadyrov was murdered in 2004, the ex-president and leader of the first Chechen rebellion from the mid 90’s, who later sided with Russia.
The Financial Analysts, who monitor suspicious banking and asset operations (transactions) and cooperate closely with the police and financial authorities, warned in their annual report for 2014 among other issues, that the Czech Republic is often used as a transit country through which, Russian businessmen and their companies are transferring hundreds of millions of crowns to tax havens. They want to protect themselves from the falling value of the ruble as well as international sanctions.