EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The EU is preparing to put Belarus' suspected money-launderer-in-chief onto its asset-freeze list following a curious omission, while a dead man and a duplicate are to be struck off the visa ban register.
"There is an understanding in a number of member states that this guy [the money-laundering suspect, Yuri Sivakov] should be on the list as well," an EU diplomat dealing with Belarus told EUobserver. "We are working on this at the level of heads of mission in Minsk. The technical amendments are easy to make."
Pictures of the four men said by the Council of Europe to have been murdered by a Sivakov-run 'death squad' (Photo: charter97.org)
EUobserver understands that the 64- or 65-year-old Mr Sivakov is currently the deputy rector of the Minsk Institute of Management and teaches criminology at the Police Academy of Belarus.
It is unclear if he has any extra-curricular commercial activities. But back in 2006 he ran a company called Chyest, suspected by the US of laundering $1.5 million a day of mafia money for the top cadre of President Aleksander Lukashenko.
The one-time interior minister was put under EU visa ban years ago due to his alleged involvement in the murder of four dissidents. But the EU left him off its asset freeze list in 2006 and again in its latest round of Belarus sanctions two weeks ago.
The EU's effort to pinpoint who should go on and off its registers is hampered by difficult working conditions in the repressive country.
The 2011 list was drawn up mostly on the basis of reports posted on the internet by Belarusian pro-democracy activists because EU diplomats could not conduct interviews with victims of the post-election crackdown. In many cases, EU structures do not know what Belarusian officials actually do beyond their official titles or even how old they are.
Final decisions on sanctions are taken by senior officials and EU ministers in Brussels on the basis of suggestions sent in from Belarus. But the senior people know even less about events on the ground.
Asked if it is possible that Mr Sivakov has so far evaded the asset-freeze on the basis of a special favour by one or other EU member state introduced at some stage in the complicated procedure, a senior EU diplomat in Minsk said: "I cannot exclude it."
The current list will in any case have to be updated to remove either Leonid Iasinovich or Leonid Iasenovich, a judge, because they are one and the same man. Mkihail Pishchulenok, another judge, will also have to be taken off because he is dead.
If all the corrections are made, 156 people will in future be banned from entering the EU and will have their assets frozen, compared to 158 (visa ban) and 157 (asset freeze) as originally signed off on by EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton.