With the release of the Panama and Paradise Papers, the world was able to see how the extremely wealthy and well-connected move and protect their money. But in and among that world dwells a network of accounts, held in a Cyprus bank, linking the Kremlin to Syria's chemical weapons program and ISIS.
The web of accounts at FBME Bank, revealed in an explosive cache of leaked documents, also moved hundreds of millions of dollars from suspect Moscow-based figures including associates of the Russian president Vladimir Putin, mafia figures, and Kremlin officials.
It is difficult or impossible to discern what the money traveling through many of the accounts was used for, but Buzzfeed notes there are clearly Kremlin connections to a slew of slush fund owners, some having links to financiers of the Syrian regime.
The list of account owners in the network now includes people sanctioned by the US government for facilitating some of the Assad regime’s worst crimes.
Former CIA agent and Russia specialist John Sipher said the web of accounts has all the trappings of a state security-backed dark money channel.
“The overlap between dirty money and state money is so ingrained that with this sort of arrangement you have to assume there are connections into government, the FSB, the mafia, Putin, and the oligarchs, both for personal enrichment and political ends,” he said.