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Bank of Utah connected to wealthy Russian's private jet, Paradise Papers show

Bank of Utah connected to wealthy Russian's private jet, Paradise Papers show (Photo: Daniel Kovach / KUTV)

(KUTV) A Utah bank is responding to revelations of its connections to a rich Russian.

This news came to light as part of the Paradise Papers, a large document dump that show how the rich and powerful hide their money.

One case involving Bank of Utah hits close to home.

The bank, which has 19 locations statewide, is the public face for a private deal involving Russian billionaire Leonid Mikhelson, according to The New York Times.

The Times says Bank of Utah helped Mikhelson –- who is a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin -- register his private jet in the U.S. to save money on taxes. This, despite Mikhelson not having citizenship or a residence here.

The Times reports Bank of Utah did this by putting the plane in a trust account in the bank's name. It's one of more than 13-hundred similar arrangements the bank has.

In a statement Monday to 2News, Bank of Utah said it has a “well-respected Trust department.” But, the bank said, “If any account is found non-compliant by the FAA or if questions arise, Bank of Utah works hand-in-hand with the FAA and takes immediate, appropriate action.”

The bank told 2News it legally cannot discuss specific customers or their accounts. But The New York Times reports bank officials were unaware Mikhelson was part of the shell company that owns the plane. The Times says the bank indicated the “case escaped scrutiny during an earlier period when their internal review process was less rigorous, and they vowed to review it.”

The full statement from Bank of Utah is below:

Bank of Utah participated in a very open and transparent conversation with the New York Times this past fall, to talk about the Bank’s expertise in corporate aircraft trusts. This statement is in response to the recently published article.

Bank of Utah has a well-respected Trust Department, which handles both corporate and personal trusts, and has built a special expertise and reputation in aircraft trusts over several years. Their expertise is sought after by corporations from around the world, which may be surprising to some who are unaware of Bank of Utah’s depth of services and expertise.

The importance and legitimacy of aircraft owner trusts in the United States have been well-recognized by the Federal Aviation Administration for many years. Bank of Utah works diligently to follow all FAA and bank regulations and procedures, and continues to update policies and practices to be the best in the industry. If any account is found non-compliant by the FAA or if questions arise, Bank of Utah works hand-in-hand with the FAA and takes immediate, appropriate action. Also, the Bank’s internal risk-management processes are considered to be “a living and breathing methodology,” always growing to implement best practices and enhancing our risk-assessment of countries as the world changes.

Bank of Utah follows standards that are mandated by the highly-regulated banking industry. As a regulated financial institution, the Bank follows all laws and regulations regarding the people and companies with whom it does business.

Published media comments that Bank of Utah “would not reveal” ownership or details of aircraft trusts is due to the fact that Bank of Utah is both contractually and legally prohibited from sharing ownership information unless the requesting party is a government regulator or if the request is pursuant to a legal subpoena. Therefore, Bank of Utah is not able to discuss ownership information or actions taken within our customer portfolio, even though some of this information is a matter of public record. This is consistent with both FAA and banking regulations.

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