Liberman seeks transfer of Russian funds to immigrants

Over 1,000,000 immigrants from the former Soviet Union live in Israel, and many would be impacted.

 Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman (photo credit: NOAM MOSKOVITZ/KNESSET)
Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman

Israeli Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman is looking for ways to enable Russian immigrants to access their bank accounts in Russia and transfer money to Israel, a senior ministry source said on Tuesday.

Sanctions imposed by Western governments on Moscow over the Ukraine conflict have made it difficult for Russians living abroad, such as the ex-Soviet immigrants who tend to favor Liberman's political party, to obtain funds.

Tens of thousands would be affected

The ministry source said that in Israel, home to more than one million immigrants from the former Soviet Union, there are 57,000 retirees who receive Russian pensions but are unable to transfer those funds to Israel.

To that end, Liberman would on Tuesday convene discussions with ministry staff and representatives of the Bank of Israel "on the transfer of funds from Russia to innocent citizens living in Israel," the source told Reuters, confirming a report in the Calcalist newspaper.

"In addition, there are citizens who are not under sanctions who ... are trying to transfer their money from there to Israel through financial institutions that are active in Russia and not under sanctions but are facing difficulties due to the refusal of Israel banks to approve the transfers."

Liberman was born in Moldova and his Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home) party typically attracts an ex-Soviet immigrant constituent base. Israel is holding a new election on Nov. 1 after parliament dissolved itself last month.

The Bank of Israel said only that it would present its regulatory positions at the meeting.

While Israel is not a party to the sanctions, it has obeyed them since they are set by allies the United States and Europe. In recent years, Israeli banks have been fined heavily by the U.S. Department of Justice for tax evasion by American citizens.