UK fintech unicorn Revolut forced to deny links to Russia

RevolutNikolay Storonsky, Revolut.
  • British digital bank Revolut has been targeted by Lithuanian Member of Parliament Stasys Jakeliūnas over alleged links to Russia during its process to secure an EU banking licence in the country.
  • The politician claims that Revolut is intervening in the country’s political processes and is not transparent enough.
  • Revolut denies all of the allegations against it.
  • Revolut was started by Nikolay Storonsky and Vlad Yatsenko in 2015 and already has 3.2 million customers.

Unicorn challenger bank Revolut has strongly denied claims that its activities in securing a banking licence in Lithuania are attempts to interfere in the country’s politics.

Revolut was granted a European Banking Licence in Lithuania in December but has since faced claims of interfering in the country’s political processes by Lithuanian Member of Parliament Stasys Jakeliūnas, chair of the Lithuanian parliament’s budget and finance committee.

Jakeliūnas said of Revolut’s banking licence: “I would interpret that as an attempt to intervene into the political process here” and that the challenger bank was “not forthcoming enough, they were not transparent enough, as reported in The Telegraph.

A spokesman for Revolut denied the Lithuanian politician’s suggestion that Revolut is acting on behalf of Russia, and that the CEO’s Russian background implicates him. It’s unclear exactly what type of interference is being alleged.

The bank’s co-founder and CEO, Nikolay Storonsky, was born in Russia but has a British passport and has lived in the UK since the age of 20. Lithuania is a former part of the Soviet Union.

Storonsky’s father is a director at Promgaz, a division of Gazprom which has been on the US sanctions list since 2014, though Revolut has since claimed that the identity of Storonsky’s father is an “irrelevant question.”

The challenger bank, which offers app-based bank accounts and debit cards offering fee-free transactions in multiple foreign and crypto-currencies, is also backed by DST Global headed by former Russian national Yuri Milner.

Read more: Revolut, the UK’s $US1.7 billion star fintech, has big dreams as it takes on the American market

However, the DST fund that backs Revolut has no Russian money, according to the fintech, and is a passive minority investor giving it no board presence or voting rights.

Lithuania’s Jakeliūnas also claimed that he has received information on Revolut and its CEO from Lithuania’s Financial Crime Investigation Service and State Security Department.

A Revolut spokesman described the allegations as politically motivated. The Telegraph first reported the Russia allegations.

In an open letter Storonsky has previously rejected claims of Revolut’s ties to Russia, stating that “fearmongering is not something that should be taken lightly.”

Revolut has faced significant negative press in recent weeks, and last week was referred to the UK’s financial watchdog, the FCA, over a London Underground advert which was criticised as inappropriate and misleading.

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