Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 163

New charges continue to appear concerning alleged high-level Russian corruption, some of them emanating from media outlets which have no clear stake in either the American or Russian legislative or presidential elections.

On September 5, for example, British media reported that a firm controlled by the Russian mafia, Arbat International, has a 20 percent share in TMBR bank, which is the clearing bank for United Energy Systems (UES), the Russian electricity monopoly run by Anatoly Chubais. Citing “Russian intelligence sources,” the account asserted that UES has a 30 percent stake in TEMBR and that Chubais’ financial relationship with TEMBR has “been monitored” (The Guardian, September 5). Several other Western media, including USA Today, recently named Chubais as one of the Russian officials involved in the Bank of New York money laundering scandal. Chubais called the charges “slanderous,” and asked Russian law enforcement to investigate them (see the Monitor, August 25, 27). Pavel Borodin, who heads the Kremlin’s property department, is said to have opened a personal account in Switzerland’s Banco del Gottardo in 1995. Copies of banking documents purportedly showing that Borodin had opened the accounts–and that his daughter and Badghet Pacolli, head of the Swiss construction firm Mabetex, were co-signers–were the basis of that suggestion (Corriere della Serra, September 4; Agence France Presse, September 6). These charges largely repeat those made earlier this year by the Russian weekly Versiya. Borodin and Pacolli have repeatedly denied that such accounts exist.

Mabetex won contracts worth more than US$300 million to refurbish Russian government buildings, including the Kremlin–which led some, including Swiss prosecutors, to suspect that kickbacks were involved. According to press reports, the head of Mabetex provided Yeltsin and his two daughters with US$1 million spending money for a 1994 trip to Budapest–a charge both Borodin and Pacolli have denied (see the Monitor, August 26-27, September 1).

Dmitri Yakushkin, President Boris Yeltsin’s spokesman, said over the weekend and yesterday that the charges related to Mabetex violated the presumption of innocence and resembled the methods of the Spanish Inquisition (Russian agencies, September 6; RTR television, September 5).