Cyprus-based RCB denies that it provided unsecured loans

ATHENS (Reuters) - Cyprus-based lender RCB said on Monday it had never provided unsecured loans, in a reference to a report by Britain’s Guardian newspaper of its alleged role in helping people close to Vladimir Putin amass fortunes.

Reuters could not independently confirm the allegations, which RCB said were ‘unfounded’ and ‘duly refuted as untrue’.

In another statement sent to Reuters, the Cyprus Central Bank said it was ‘evaluating’ the information for possible links to the Cypriot banking system. It would take appropriate action if necessary, it said, without elaborating.

“RCB Bank, as a principal (sic), did not and does not provide unsecured loans,” RCB bank, which is affiliated with the Russian state-owned bank VTB and regulated by the Central Bank of Cyprus, said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

“The Bank always acts in a transparent manner and all information about its activities is available to the relevant Cypriot and European authorities.”

The Guardian newspaper on Sunday alleged that RCB and other banks had extended “enormous unsecured loans” to entities linked to close Putin acquaintances.

It followed a massive leak of documents from a Panamanian law firm allegedly detailing ways in which hundreds of thousands of clients had evaded tax and laundered money spanning a period of almost 40 years.

The Guardian said the documents showed a network of secret offshore deals and loans worth $2 billion led to close friends of the Russian president.

Cyprus has close business ties with Russia. Russian businesses bore the brunt of a 'bail-in' on deposits that were converted to equity to recapitalise the country's largest lender, Bank of Cyprus BOC.CY in 2013.

A second bank, Laiki, was wound down.

RCB and another Cypriot systemic bank, Hellenic, were never considered for a bail-in because they had none of the heavy exposure the other two banks had to Greece’s debt crisis.

Reporting by Michele Kambas; Editing by Tom Heneghan