Cypriot brokerage caught up in French probe denies Prigozhin ties

PARIS (Reuters) – A Cypriot brokerage firm caught up in an investigation by French prosecutors probing financial transfers possibly tied to Yevgeny Prigozhin on Wednesday denied it had ever had direct relations with the late Wagner mercenary chief.

The Paris prosecutor on Tuesday confirmed that in June it opened a preliminary probe into the origins of money flows worth hundreds of millions of dollars and euros after an alert from the French finance ministry’s anti-money laundering unit TRACFIN over transfers TCR International Ltd made between 2019-2021.

The transfers, deemed suspicious by TRACFIN, were made at a time when TCR International worked with BNP Paribas’ custodian unit. The probe was first reported by French daily Le Monde.

TCR International categorically denied to Reuters handling any financial transfers on behalf of Prigozhin, who was killed in a plane crash in August, or Wagner.

In a separate letter seen by Reuters, TCR International told Le Monde it had found no evidence that Wagner, Prigozhin and all related affiliations were linked to any of its past or present clients.

Lawyers representing TCR International said a preliminary investigation did not mean the brokerage was being targeted, but simply that checks were being made. There was no registered investigation with TCR International mentioned as a person of interest, they said.

TCR International said its operations fell under strict compliance rules and that it condemned money laundering practices.

Asked on Tuesday if it was aware of the investigation, BNP Paribas said it could not comment on its obligations. The bank said it had a global compliance system in place and was committed to meeting its regulatory obligations.

A source close to the investigation said the probe had not yet established any link between the transfers under investigation and either Wagner or Prigozhin.

Since Prigozhin’s death, Wagner has been brought firmly under Kremlin control. Unconfirmed Russian reports have said that Anton Yelizarov, known by the call sign “Lotus”, has been appointed commander of Wagner. Yelizarov did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

(Reporting by Richard Lough; Editing by Nick Macfie)