Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 216

While international attention is focused on the war in Chechnya and the controversy it has generated at the Istanbul summit, the scandal surrounding alleged Kremlin corruption has erupted once again. The newspaper Versiya claimed this week that it had documents from Switzerland’s Banca del Gottardo proving that Yeltsin, his daughter and adviser Tatyana Dyachenko, and Kremlin property manager Pavel Borodin held accounts in the bank. Some of those documents were published, including what was said to be a 1995 agreement to open an account in Banca del Gottardo, bearing Yeltsin’s signature. Reportedly, sources at Banca del Gottardo said that at least US$11 million passed through the accounts of Yeltsin, Dyachenko and Borodin (Versiya, November 16). Officials with Banca del Gottardo, however, denounced the Versiya report as a “blatant forgery” and said that such accounts have never existed (Moscow Times, November 18).

The controversy began earlier this year, after then Prosecutor General Yuri Skuratov launched an investigation into kickbacks allegedly paid by the Swiss construction firm Mabetex to high-level Russian officials in return for lucrative contracts to refurbish Russian government buildings, including the Kremlin. Skuratov asked Carla Del Ponte, then Switzerland’s top prosecutor, for help in the investigation, and Swiss media reported that Swiss investigators were focusing on bank accounts belonging to more than twenty Russian officials, including Borodin, a long-time associate of Yeltsin. Versiya earlier this year published what it said were facsimiles of documents showing that Borodin had accounts in Banca del Gottardo. Borodin has repeatedly denied having any foreign bank accounts. Last August, Milan’s Corriere della Sera reported that Mabetex chief Bedgjet Pacolli had told Swiss investigators he had transferred more than US$1 million to Yeltsin and his two daughters (Dyachenko and Yelena Okulova), and that Mabetex had provided the Yeltsins with credit cards. Pacolli has denied all the allegations, and the Kremlin has repeatedly said that neither Yeltsin nor any member of his family have held foreign bank accounts. On November 17, the Kremlin issued the denial once again.

The same day, Ruslan Tamayev, a top investigator in Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office said that his office would question everyone involved in the Mabetex case, including Yeltsin, if need be. Yesterday, Tamayev questioned Oleg Lurye, the Versiya reporter who wrote the story published this week. Afterwards, Lurye said he told prosecutors that he is “99 percent” sure the documents published in Versiya were genuine. He also said he gave the Russian investigators documents obtained in Switzerland, and that Versiya was planning to publish new material involving Mabetex (Russian agencies, November 18).

A newspaper reported today that Russian investigators have already seized documents from the Ministry of Finance and state’s Vneshtorgbank in connection with the Mabetex probe (Moskovsky komsomolets, November 19).