Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 40

Prosecutors questioned former Central Bank chairman Sergei Dubinin yesterday in connection with their probe into alleged corruption at Aeroflot, Russia’s state airline. Law enforcement sources reportedly said that Dubinin had been summoned to the Prosecutor General’s Office to answer questions concerning the Central Bank’s decision to issue Aeroflot licenses which allowed it to transfer its hard-currency revenues abroad. In 1997, Andava–a Swiss company reportedly controlled by Boris Berezovsky–won the right to control of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues from Aeroflot’s foreign ticket sales (Russian agencies, February 25). Late in 1998, “Lyudi” magazine printed what it said were transcripts of a 1997 telephone conversation between Dubinin and Berezovsky, in which Berezovsky expresses impatience in delays over being granted a license to transfer Aeroflot revenues to Andava (see the Monitor, February 12). Dubinin’s reactions come across, if anything, as nervous and even fearful (Lyudi, December 1998). The Central Bank granted the license to Andava in May 1997.

Earlier this month, prosecutors raided the offices of several firms closely connected to Aeroflot, and Valery Okulov, the airline’s chief and President Boris Yeltsin’s son-in-law, removed key Berezovsky allies from the company’s management (see the Monitor, February 2-3, 5). The moves against Berezovsky’s positions in the airline were said to have been backed by Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov.

But while Berezovsky, who is currently CIS executive secretary, has apparently not yet been questioned in any of the criminal cases surrounding his business “empire”–besides Aeroflot, this would include the Sibneft oil company, the Atoll private security, and, indirectly, the AvtoVAZ car factory–the questioning of Dubinin suggests that the former Central Bank chief may become a chief fall guy in the Primakov government’s anticorruption campaign. Dubinin, who is currently a top executive with Gazprom, Russia’s natural gas monopoly, is also under fire in the scandal surrounding FIMACO, an offshore firm which for five years managed billions of dollars from the Central Bank’s hard-currency reserves. In addition, there are persistent rumors that the General Prosecutor’s Office and the Interior Ministry have documents implicating top Central Bank and government officials–former and current–in illegal operations with GKOs, Russia’s now-defunct short-term treasury bills.