Dutch bank affiliated with oligarch: ‘Nothing wrong’

Amsterdam Trade Bank (ATB) is located in the World Trade Center on Amsterdam Zuidas. The company is owned by the Russian Alfa Bank, part of the Alfa Group, where the oligarch Mikhail Fridman is the founder and major shareholder.

Alfa Bank is not among the banks that were thrown out of the international payment system Swift this week. However, the bank is on one of the EU’s sanction lists. Fridman is also involved.

Long in Holland

ATB has been active in the Dutch market since 1994. The subsidiary of the Russian bank provides loans to small and medium-sized enterprises, among other things. She also attracts savings from Dutch individuals. The bank did this for years under its own name, but since the end of last year also under a new brand: FIBR.

Amsterdam Trade Bank and FIBR do not boast that they are in the hands of Russian owners. In the description of the banks on their websites, they do not refer to either Alfa Bank or Fridman.

It is visible that the CEO of Alfa Bank Andrei Sokolov sits on the bank’s seven members.

Deeply sad

ATB does not comment on the war in Ukraine on its website, FIBR does. In a statement, the bank said it was “deeply saddened” by the “tragic events in Ukraine” and “convinced that war can never be the answer.”

The bank seems to regret the raid, but it is not a harsh verdict.

Assure customers

The statement seems to be primarily aimed at reassuring customers. The company emphasizes that it is ‘an independent Dutch bank’, ‘with its own strategy and mission to better serve European SMEs’. The bank also states in an email that the sanctions will not have any consequences for its customers.

According to the bank, customers should not worry about being hit by European sanctions against Russia. This means that credit lines for entrepreneurs remain open and that savers can keep their money.

“Sanctions no consequences”

“Our activities focus on lending to SMEs in Europe and are financed by Dutch and German savers, which are covered by the Dutch deposit guarantee,” the statement said.

“As a regulated Dutch bank, we act independently of all our shareholders, are governed separately and comply with all sanctions against Russia. We are not subject to any recently announced European or British sanctions, and the appointment of our shareholders will not affect our business.”

Owners on sanction lists

With this, the bank seems to be saying that it is not experiencing any negative effects of Alfa Bank and founder / shareholder Fridman being on the European sanctions lists.

As a result, Fridman’s assets such as bank deposits and shares have been frozen. On the European sanctions list, he is described as having close ties to the Kremlin and as a ‘facilitator of the circle just around Putin’.

Fridman supported the threat against Ukraine

Fridman is also said to have made attempts in recent years to lift Western sanctions against Russia’s aggressive stance against Ukraine. He also supported actions and policies that undermined or threatened Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence.

Earlier this week, the oligarch spoke out against the war in Ukraine and resigned as director of the telecom giant Veon, which is headquartered and listed in Amsterdam.

Possible consequences

According to Yvo Amar from BenninkAmar Advocaten, which specializes in sanctions law, it is not indisputable that Amsterdam Trade Bank will not be affected by the sanctions. “It must turn out. Fridman’s assets have been frozen, so it could also apply to the entities he controls. And so could Amsterdam Bank.”

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