Prosecutors in Switzerland have charged four bankers with helping to hide tens of millions of Swiss francs on behalf of Vladimir Putin, in one of the first ever court cases in the west to directly involve assets allegedly belonging to the Russian president.

The four individuals were employees of Gazprombank’s Swiss subsidiary, and include its chief executive, Roman Abdulin.

According to an indictment — a copy of which was provided to the Financial Times by a court in Zurich — the bankers were criminally negligent in allowing accounts to be opened in Switzerland on behalf of Sergei Roldugin, a cellist and the godfather to Putin’s daughter, without questioning the origin of the funds flowing through them.

“It is notorious that Russian President Putin officially has an income of just over SFr100,000 and is not wealthy, but in fact has enormous assets managed by people close to him,” the indictment says. “Roldugin . . . [was] a straw man.”

A spokesperson for Gazprombank Switzerland — which is in the process of winding down its operations as a result of international sanctions against Russia — denied the charges against the bank’s employees, but declined to comment further on “ongoing legal proceedings”.

The four are considered innocent until proven guilty. News of the case was first reported by the Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger.

Prosecutors allege minimal due diligence was performed at Gazprombank on Roldugin.

According to the indictment, the bankers signed off on declarations that the cellist was not a “politically exposed person” — a formal designation that would have triggered additional scrutiny — despite widespread public reporting about his connections to the Kremlin and Putin.

Accounts opened in Switzerland by the bankers indicated Roldugin had assets of at least $50mn and planned to funnel more than $10mn into the country annually through a complex waterfall of shell companies and accounts. “The declared assets were in general in no way plausible as Roldugin’s own assets,” prosecutors state.

The bank’s official due diligence file on Roldugin contained only a printout of the website for the Mariinsky theatre in St Petersburg — where Roldugin was a conductor — and a single negative search result on Worldcheck, a compliance database.

Prosecutors allege the Gazprombank quartet were fully aware of Roldugin’s true significance and connections.

Their indictment also details how companies set up in Roldugin’s name were established by officials at Bank Rossiya, which attempted to mask its involvement using anonymous email addresses.

“Bank Rossiya is the bank of Russia’s leading politicians and its majority shareholder and chair of the board [Yuri Kovalchuk] is considered Putin’s treasurer,” the indictment notes.

The case was opened as a result of the Panama Papers leak in 2016 — a trove of more than 11mn documents related to 214,000 offshore entities, some of which were used to stash illegally obtained wealth.

An international consortium of media organisations, including Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine and the UK’s Guardian newspaper singled out the affairs of Roldugin in particular based on analysis of the documents, highlighting his proximity to Putin, Bank Rossiya and vast unexplained wealth.

Finma, Switzerland’s financial markets regulator, opened an investigation against Gazprombank as a result of the leak. In 2018 the regulator concluded that the bank was “in serious breach of its anti-money laundering due diligence requirements in the period from 2006 to 2016”, and imposed strict penalties on the bank.

It also lodged a complaint with cantonal prosecutors in Zurich, triggering a formal criminal investigation.

Prosecutors are now seeking jail sentences for all four bankers concerned. The trial will begin in Zurich on March 8.

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