Russia: Authorities Investigate US$3.3 billion in Illegal Transfers

The Russian Interior Ministry is investigating several commercial banks for illegally transferring around US$3.3 billionout of Russia, Interior Ministry deputy head of economic security Andrei Zdor announced Thursday.

“The unlawful scheme involved a chain of deals for the purchase and sale of shares from leading Russian companies where the sellers and the buyers were offshore companies and shell firms controlled by their organizers,” said Zdor.  He referred to the organizers as a “criminal group,” adding that they could soon be arrested.

The Ministry raided several organizations including Fondservisbank, and seized documentation allegedly proving the illegal transfers.  According to Zdor, Russian authorities suspected Fondservisbank of breaking the laws governing the handling of accounts belonging to state-funded organizations.

In the bank raid, authorities uncovered documents “testifying to a possible breach of legislation in the process of servicing the accounts of budget-dependent organizations, carrying out operations with government securities and the purchase and sale of foreign currency,” Zdor said.

At a meeting of the Government Commission on Electricity Generation in December, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin criticized large state-run companies for siphoning assets into offshore centers. Subsequently, Russian authorities launched an investigation into the largest state companies, looking for evidence of corruption tied to offshore accounts.

Among the investigated companies are Gazprom, Russian Railways, Sovcomflot, Transneft, VTB, Sberbank, Vnesheconombank and Rosatom.