The International Investment Bank (IIB) – revived by Vladimir Putin and built on the remnants of the USSR’s Comecon bank – is moving its headquarters to Budapest. IIB has officially responded to the concerns expressed by various politicians, media outlets and dignitaries regarding its diplomatic immunity and other dubious privileges.
Putin’s Resurrected Comecon Bank Will Have Diplomatic Immunity in Hungary
In a statement, IIB denies the allegation that it is “Russian” and insists it is an international development finance organization established by sovereign states. In defense, it cited the four positions out of six currently allocated to EU citizens by the Management Board. IIB also referred to its classification as a “supranational organization” by various international rating agencies (Fitch Ratings, Moody’s Investors Service and S&P Global).
Although many fear that the bank might constitute a legal loophole for Russia, the statement assures that nine sovereign states, five of which are members of the EU and NATO, make up the bank’s shareholders. As an international development finance institution, IIB is not subject to any sanctions and is apolitical.
Furthermore, IIB sees its arrival to Budapest as a logical step in the company’s expansion. The statement claims that the rights and privileges granted to the Bank fully comply with international public law and are analogous to conditions given to other international organizations in other countries.
On March 18, The New York Times criticized Orbán's controversial, Russian-friendly policies and took special note of IIB’s arrival. IIB, it says, is an obscure Russian financial institution with a small-time balance sheet. The New York Times highlights IIB Chairman Nikolay Kosov's time spent in various diplomatic postings during the Soviet era: 'Western security officials believe that Mr. Kosov himself served in Russian intelligence.' IIB denied his involvement, saying Kosov was 'in no way linked to the K.G.B.' Based on Western and Russian sources, Kosov is a descendant of a 'K.G.B.-family'. His parents were K.G.B agents: his father, for example, served in Budapest.
The company “emphatically rejects” its label as the Trojan horse of the Russian secret service, and argues that in “almost 50 years of IIB’s existence” there have been zero employees engaged in activities “incompatible with the status of an international official.”
Jobbik Protests against Russian ‘Spy’ Bank’s Move to Budapest
This latest statement comes on the heels of criticism and concern regarding the Putin-linked bank’s arrival. MSZP MEP István Ujhelyi said that “opening the door for Putin’s bank is a stealthy mode of treason” with which Fidesz threats not only Hungary but the whole EU. Opposition party Jobbik protested against the bank’s presence by citing a threat to national security. The party argued that Russia would be setting up a “nest of spies” in the country with the support of Hungary’s prime minister and government.
featured image: Minister of Finance Mihály Varga and Nikolay Kosov signing the agreement in February; via MTI/Ministry of Finance