Russian billionaire Rustam Aksenenko receives Swiss citizenship. The Federal Office for Migration wanted to prevent that.
The Federal Administrative Court has approved a complaint by the Russian. According to the court, there is no evidence of the man’s alleged money laundering. The judgment of the Federal Administrative Court published on Wednesday is the second in the case of the naturalization application of the Russian resident in the canton of Geneva.
In July 2017, the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) rejected his naturalization for the first time. It justified the decision with the fact that the applicant was suspected of having been guilty of money laundering. It could therefore pose a threat to the internal and external security of Switzerland.
The Federal Administrative Court overturned this decision in December 2019. It instructed the SEM to provide evidence or concrete evidence of improper cash flows to the complainant.
No concrete evidence
The SEM did not succeed in doing this. The State Secretariat has not received any new documents from the Federal Office of Police (Fedpol) or other agencies that would support the allegations. Nevertheless, it rejected the application for naturalization again in October last year, pointing out the lack of transparency in finances and the unclear origin of the Russian’s assets.
The Federal Administrative Court stated that a criminal conviction of an applicant is not necessary for a threat to the security of Switzerland to be assumed. The corresponding provision in the Naturalization Act has a preventive character. Concrete evidence of a hazard was sufficient.
In its deliberations, the Federal Administrative Court deals with analysis reports by the Fedpol from 2004 and an investigation by the Federal Prosecutor’s Office (BA) against Aksenenko in 2003 for money laundering and involvement in a criminal organization.
Some of the information provided by the Russian was incorrect
The Russian was accused of having diverted funds to the detriment of the Russian Ministry of Transport through companies in Switzerland and abroad. This ministry was headed by the father Aksenenkos, against whom criminal proceedings for abuse of office and embezzlement were initiated in Russia in 2001. In 2005 the minister died.
According to the judgment, the BA examined in detail where Aksenenko’s funds and those of his companies came from. It turned out that the information given by the Russian about the origin of the funds was partially incorrect. In addition, he was unable to produce any documents to show where the funds came from.
As part of a request for legal assistance from Switzerland, the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office provided information that Aksenenko and his cousin had founded various transport companies and had contracts with the Russian railways.
No criminal investigation opened
Funds were withdrawn from the Russian railways by means of discounts and false tariffs. In the period from 1992 to 2002 around 50 million francs flowed into Aksenenko’s and his cousin’s accounts in Switzerland and offshore countries.
However, the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office no longer confirmed these allegations in the course of the BA’s further investigation. Rather, the Russian authorities let the Swiss know in April 2006 that no criminal investigation had been opened against Aksenenko and that there were no indications of illegal transport transactions.
The BA closed the investigation into Aksenenko in July 2006. However, following a tip from Fedpol, she started another investigation. There was suspicion that a representative of the Russian judiciary had been bribed to slow down or bring to an end the investigation by Switzerland and Russia against Aksenenko.
The court agrees with the Russians
For this Aksenenko is said to have paid 2 million euros to the director of a company in Moscow, as the Federal Administrative Court writes. In this case, too, the BA was unable to obtain any specific information. She closed the case in 2009.
The Federal Administrative Court concluded from its considerations that, despite the extensive investigations by the BA against Aksenenko, it could not be proven that he was part of a criminal organization, laundered money or bribed foreign officials.
The person wishing to be naturalized is also not recorded in any information system. In this respect, the court does not assume that the complainant is endangering the internal or external security of Switzerland. (SDA)