“It’s really big”: Czech authorities investigate breach of sanctions against Russia
A Czech-based, Russian-owned company is under investigation on suspicion of violating EU sanctions by exporting heavy machinery to Russia, news outlet Deník N reported on Thursday. The case is being described as potentially the country’s biggest sanctions breach since Russia invaded Ukraine.
“The sanctions are working. We see that production in many industrial areas in Russia is falling and it is impacting the war effort significantly.”
That was the message from Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský when he spoke to Radio Prague International in January.
Since then the European Union has introduced yet more sanctions, with the latest package last month the 11th to date.
Now, however, the news outlet Deník N reports that a Czech-registered company named Kovosvit MAS is suspected of having exported heavy machinery to Russia – via Turkey – in breach of EU sanctions.
Lukáš Prchal is one of the reporters who broke the story on Thursday.
“They managed to get some of their heavy machines, which are dual-use goods, which can be used for making weapons, to Turkey. And from Turkey they disappeared and they were already in Russia. That’s the main point. They violated sanctions against Russia, according to the investigation. This is really big, because it’s actually one of the first of these cases in the Czech Republic since the Russian aggression against Ukraine started.”
The company Kovosvit MAS, which is based in a small town in South Bohemia, started applying for permits to export its products out of the EU in the second half of last year, Deník N said.
Some applications were granted as the goods, worth millions of crowns, were officially supposed to end up in Turkey.
However, the Czech BIS counterintelligence service, working with other government agencies, discovered that the machinery – large lathes – had in fact passed through a Turkish shell company and ended up in Russia, Deník N reported.
“I don’t know what will happen next, but now there is an ongoing investigation by the Czech police and other Czech authorities. And this investigation can end really badly for the company.”
Specifically the firm could face a fine of tens of millions of crowns and the responsible company officials could get prison terms of up to eight years for violating the Czech law enforcing the EU’s sanctions against Russia.
Kovosvit MAS is owned by a firm called Andži, which is controlled by a Russian woman named Tatiana Kuranova. She is listed as chair of the Board of Directors of Kovosvit MAS on its website.
And, says Lukáš Prchal, there is one curious detail in Kuranova’s story.
“She lived in Moscow several months ago, and now she’s living in Germany. And the company which owns the company Kovosvit has its offices – or one really small office – two or three hundred metres from the Czech intelligence services [in Prague].”
Deník N quotes the national customs service as saying that another four more cases of breach of the sanctions regime against Russia are also being investigated in Czechia at present.
There have been 45 cases of suspected sanctions violation to date, an official told the news outlet.