The Anti-Money Laundering Authority is investigating suspicious transfers of money from abroad to individual accounts of monks on Mount Athos.
It has been going on quietly for a year, the case however taking a new turn after the start of the war in Ukraine and the sanctions imposed by the West on natural and legal persons linked to the Kremlin, which traditionally maintains close ties with the State. athonian.
A source with knowledge of the matter reveals that there are at least 20 transactions deemed suspicious over the past twelve months that are being investigated by AMF officers.
These are movements of large sums of money from banks and money transfer companies abroad, the money ending up not in the accounts of monasteries which, in the recent past, received the visit of high Russian officials, but on the individual accounts of monks from Mount Athos.
Knowledgeable sources explain that the specific transactions were considered suspicious by credit institutions in the country mainly because they involved transfers of unusually large sums of money, amounting to tens or even hundreds of thousands of euros. . in one case, it exceeded one million euros, although the investigation concluded that the money was intended to finance a mission in Africa.
Sources familiar with the matter confirm that most of the money transfers being investigated involve funds originating in Russia. They also specify that the money found deposited in the accounts of the monks does not come from legal or natural persons for whom, since last February, sanctions have been put in force due to the war.
One of the scenarios considered is that wealthy Russians choose to take their money out of Russia with the help of monks from Mount Athos in order to save their funds in case their country’s financial institutions collapse or their funds are confiscated. by the Kremlin because of the war. For the same reason, several Russians have reportedly advanced or shown interest in buying property in Greece in recent months.
“No evidence has emerged capable of fully confirming reports that the transactions are part of a larger organized effort to infiltrate Russia into Mount Athos,” a knowledgeable source said. “This effort was expressed mainly through the business and even political circles”, he adds, referring to recent indications from the American secret services on the transfer from Russia of 300 million dollars to parties and politicians in the period from 2014.
Besides the funds of Russian origin, however, several of the money deposits to the monks of Mount Athos under the microscope of the Anti-Money Laundering Authority were made by people in the Balkan countries, mainly the Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria.
*The article was originally published in the newspaper “Kathimerini”