The son of a Russian oil executive who bought Maltese citizenship has been imprisoned in the UK after admitting to laundering more than €14 million in “cash”, together with an associate. 

Semen Kuksov, the 24-year-old son of Russian businessman Vladimir Anatolyevich Kuksov, was jailed for five years and seven months in February after admitting to his role in laundering the cash. 

Both father and son feature on the latest list of people granted Maltese citizenship in 2022. The elder Kuksov has not been connected to his son’s criminal case.

The Kuksovs appear to have been given Maltese citizenship weeks before Malta suspended passport sales to wealthy Russians in the wake of Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. 

Over a year later, Semen Kuksov was charged by the UK’s crown prosecution service with laundering £12 million (around €14 million) in “cash”, together with an associate. 

'Couriers used to launder cash'

The prosecution accused Kuksov of playing “a leading role in running the illegal enterprise which laundered large sums of criminally derived cash for a fee”. 

According to a Crown Prosecution Service’s press release, Kuksov and his associate managed couriers to collect criminal money and deliver the laundered money overseas.

They helped launder a total of £12.32 million in the UK and €168,950 in Ireland. 

Semen Kuksov admitted to the charges and was jailed for five years and seven months. 

He did not respond to a request for comment sent to his lawyer. 

A spokesperson for Community Malta Agency, the government entity responsible for administering the passports scheme, said the agency is currently reviewing the official documentation of Semen Kuksov’s case.

After being contacted by Times of Malta, Joseph Mizzi, the agency’s CEO, said Community Malta is “seriously considering” advising the minister to initiate the process of revoking Kuksov’s citizenship. 

The law governing the citizenship scheme allows the home affairs minister to revoke a passport if within seven years of being granted citizenship, an applicant is sentenced to a jail term that is 12 months or longer.

Kuksov’s father Vladimir has been one of the key players in Russia’s oil services industry. 

He is a shareholder and former chairman of AKROS, one of the leading companies in the Russian oilfield service and partner of several sanctioned Russian companies such as Lukoil and Gazprom.

AKROS itself does not appear on any sanction lists checked by Times of Malta

Vladimir Kuksov distances himself from son

Public documents show that Vladimir Kuksov switched the nationality on his UK-registered companies from Russian to Maltese on January 18, 2022. 

A number of high-profile Russians have been sanctioned by the EU and US in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Kuksov does not appear on any sanction lists checked by Times of Malta

When contacted for comment, a UK law firm representing Vladimir Kuksov said their client has no comment to make about his son’s case, “but notes that he and his adult son have lived separate lives for some years”. 

Kuksov’s lawyers said their client applied for Maltese citizenship “as long ago as 2019, perfectly appropriately”, and underwent the normal lengthy governmental due diligence process, before becoming a Maltese citizen. 

Kuksov provided “full appropriate information regarding his wish to become a Maltese citizen when applying in the standard manner to become one”. 

The lawyers said their client, like anyone else, was required to update all relevant company filings when becoming a Maltese citizen. 

The cash-for-passports scheme, launched in 2014, proved to be an instant hit for Russians. 

During its first year of operation, 54.3 per cent of applications were submitted from Russia. 

After years of brushing aside the reputational risks inherent in such a scheme, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked renewed scrutiny on who Malta chose to sell European passports to. 

In March 2023, the European Commission took legal action against the Maltese government, arguing that granting European citizenship for a “predetermined payment” violates EU law. 

The EU’s executive branch said in 2019 that citizenship schemes like Malta’s pose serious money-laundering, tax evasion and corruption risks. 

Malta has dismissed these concerns, arguing that the citizenship scheme, which has “robust due diligence processes,” is legal.

The government publishes an annual list of people granted Maltese citizenship. However, the list makes no distinction between citizens naturalised through the normal channels, and those who paid for their Maltese passport under the citizenship scheme.

Research for this article was supported by OCCRP/The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation.

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