Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 25

The latest issue of the biweekly newspaper Novaya gazeta includes an article by Oleg Lurye, the well-known investigative journalist, who makes some sensational claims about the links between Russian organized crime and state officials. The claims, according to Lurye, are included in a classified report by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation which, he says, was presented to former President Bill Clinton last December. According to Lurye, the secret FBI report, entitled “Eurasian Organized Crime on the Territory of the United States,” says that the bureau had documented 317 meetings on U.S. territory between representatives of “the Russian mafia” and top officials from the inner circle of former President Boris Yeltsin. Lurye also quotes the FBI report as saying that the bureau knew of seventy-six meetings which officials of President Vladimir Putin’s administration and government had conducted with members of “Eurasian crime groups.” In addition, the FBI report states that individuals connected to international crime groups repeatedly held talks and engaged in “business” with certain members of the State Duma and the Federation Council, and that more than half of the Russian businessmen who travel to the United States on business receive help from criminal organizations. These businessmen, the report states, serve as intermediaries between the Russian mafia and Russia’s top political authorities. Lurye suggests that comments President George W. Bush made in a New York Times interview just days before his inauguration concerning corruption in Russia may have been based on the FBI report.

Intriguingly, Lurye also claims that the FBI report makes recommendations concerning the detention of corrupt top-level Russian officials for the purpose of “clarifying their relations with organized crime” (Novaya gazeta, February 5). While the author of the article does not mention any names, it is interesting to note that Pavel Borodin, the Russian-Belarus union state secretary and former Kremlin property manager, was detained in New York last month on a year-old Swiss arrest order connected with the now-infamous Mabetex case. Lurye himself–first with the weekly newspaper Versiya and later with Novaya gazeta–was one of several journalists who led the way in looking into that case, involving charges that Borodin and others received millions of dollars in kickbacks from two Swiss firms, Mabetex and Mercata Trading, which had won lucrative Kremlin contracts to refurbish Russian government buildings. Last December, the Russian authorities closed down their Mabetex probe, citing insufficient evidence. That same month, Lurye was severely beaten and his face slashed with a razor just a day after appearing on an NTV television talk show, during which he attacked the Prosecutor General’s Office for closing down the Mabetex case and ignoring corruption allegations against Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov while going after Media-Most founder Vladimir Gusinsky (see the Monitor, December 18, 2000).

Meanwhile, there have been new developments involving Borodin, who remains in a Brooklyn jail pending a decision on whether he will be extradited to Switzerland. The Swiss embassy in Washington DC yesterday presented the U.S. State Department with an official request for Borodin’s extradition, along with a summary of the case against him, which involves charges of money laundering and participation in a criminal organization. One of the key Swiss officials in the Mabetex probe, Geneva prosecutor Bernard Bertossa, repeated yesterday that he was sure he and his colleagues had enough evidence to prove the accusations against Borodin. Interestingly–and somewhat strangely–Oleg Lurye, in an apparent about-face, wrote a detailed article last month claiming that Bertossa and his fellow Swiss investigators had not collected enough evidence to make their case against Borodin. Lurye also claimed that Bertossa himself had admitted this in a conversation with him last year (Novaya gazeta, January 25). Borodin’s lawyers yesterday called for his immediate release from prison. They argued, among other things, that the Swiss warrant did not contain enough facts to justify his detention by the U.S. authorities (Russian agencies, February 6).