Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 193

The chief prosecutors from the Group of Seven industrialized countries, including U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, are in Moscow for a two-day conference to discuss the issues of organized crime and terrorism. The Russian delegation, led by Vladimir Ustinov, includes Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo and Justice Minister Yuri Chaika. All three, along with Federal Security Service Director Nikolai Patrushev, held a meeting with Reno yesterday, during which they discussed “the investigation of several concrete criminal cases of great public interest”–as one Russian news agency, citing a source in the Prosecutor General’s Office, put it. The same agency, citing unnamed Russian law enforcement sources, said that the topics of discussion during the meeting with Reno included the Bank of New York money laundering scandal (Russian agencies, October 19). Russian officials had earlier indicated that the scandal would not be part of the conference’s agenda. In any case, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, addressing the conference’s opening session today, made an apparent oblique reference to the scandal, saying: “We are interested, more than anything, in making sure that dirty money is not laundered in other countries. We are prepared to completely block the sources of dirty money on our territory” (Reuters, October 19).

However, as has been the case in previous joint anticrime and anticorruption efforts, there are questions about how far Russia is willing to go. Swiss investigators, for example, have reportedly found evidence of money laundering and other crimes by high-level Kremlin officials–including Kremlin property chief Pavel Borodin, a long-time associate of President Boris Yeltsin–and U.S. investigators found that Yeltsin’s son-in-law, Leonid Dyachenko, deposited several million dollars into accounts in the Bank of New York’s Cayman Islands’ branch. Yet Russian Interior Minister Rushailo claimed last week that Russian law enforcement officials, while on a visit to the United States, received documents from the FBI which “confirmed once again that there are no concrete materials pointing to any connection between the Bank of New York and the president’s family or any member of his entourage” (Russian agencies, October 12). Likewise, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Yakushkin last week called Western press reports concerning bank accounts allegedly held by Yeltsin and members of his family a “campaign of “unverified facts.” Yakushkin said that such reports–which he said were discrediting the Russian authorities and Russia’s image–could “boomerang” and damage Russia’s relations with the West (Russian agencies, October 15).

According to allegations in the press, Mabetex, the Swiss construction firm which allegedly bribed top Russian officials in exchange for lucrative renovation contracts, reportedly made credit cards available to Yeltsin and his two daughters through the Swiss bank Banca del Gottardo. Last week, an official in the bank confirmed that it had provided a guarantee for credit cards for Yeltsin and his daughters (see the Monitor, October 15).

An unnamed official from the Swiss federal prosecutor’s office was quoted as saying that everything that has been reported in the press so far about Kremlin corruption is “only a microscopic part of the gigantic amount of material” which law enforcement agencies in Switzerland, the United States and other countries have gathered. The same source was quoted as saying that the Mabetex case is directly linked to the Bank of New York money laundering case, and that a group of FBI agents traveled to Switzerland on October 6 to examine documents related to the Mabetex case (Versiya, October 19).