The Ministry for Foreign Affairs’ logo in Helsinki on 3 February 2022. (Heikki Saukkomaa – Lehtikuva)


THE MINISTRY for Foreign Affairs has confirmed that it drafted a document used by the owners of a Finnish spa to assure US officials that they had severed their ties to oligarchs subjected to sanctions following the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, reports Helsingin Sanomat.

The document is related to changes made to the ownership of Långvik Congress Wellness Hotel, located in Kirkkonummi, Southern Finland, in 2014–2015.

Boris and Arkady Rotenberg, the oligarch brothers behind SMP Bank, initially sold the operations of the spa to one of the two sons of Boris Rotenberg, Roman Rotenberg. After the US levied sanctions also against Roman Rotenberg, the operations were sold for one euro to Ryokan Oy, the owners of which include two Finnish business associates of Boris Rotenberg, Martti Ahto and Auvo Niinikehto.

The property itself remained in the ownership of the Rotenbergs.

Ryokan on Tuesday told Helsingin Sanomat that it obtained the document from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs as it sought to make sure the transaction would not be interpreted as circumventing the sanctions.

The document details elements related to the transaction and describes the people buying the business. While it notes on a general level that asset sales are ruled as valid if the buyer is not acting on behalf of a person subjected to sanctions, it does not state that the buyers are long-term business associates of the Rotenbergs.

It also calls attention to a clause in the lease agreement stating that no cash or rent is to flow between the owner of the property and the business operator for three years.

Kaija Suvanto, the director of EU and treaty law at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, confirmed the authenticity of the document to Helsingin Sanomat on Wednesday.

“The company was at the time in contact with the ministry and asked if the ministry could facilitate discussions,” she recounted, stressing that the ministry did not comment on any specifics on the ground that it could not make any promises regarding sanctions imposed by the US.

“We can’t make any promises or give any blessings,” she said.

Facilitation, she clarified, entailed organising a meeting on the premises of the ministry and submitting information to the US. The meeting was attended by personnel from the US Embassy in Helsinki.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs did not investigate the backgrounds of Ryokan, according to Suvanto.

“We simply conveyed the information that had apparently been requested by the US. The US examined the answers in light of its own rules on sanctions,” she commented to Helsingin Sanomat.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT