Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 33

During his press conference yesterday, former Central Bank official Sergei Aleksashenko also revealed that a number of large Russian corporations–including the diamond-holding Almazy Rossi Sakha, the state oil company Rosneft and the oil giant Yukos, along with financial institutions such as Promstroibank–are minority shareholders in FIMACO. When reporters reacted with surprise at the mention of Yukos, Aleksashenko backtracked, saying he was not certain about Yukos’s involvement (Moscow Times, February 17). Yukos is part of the financial industrial group controlled by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, founder of Bank Menatep. Menatep acquired a controlling share in Yukos during the 1995 “loans-for-shares” privatization process. Another leading Russian banker, Pyotr Aven, founder and head of Alfa Bank, wrote last month that the winners of all the major loans-for-shares auctions were picked in advance, and that during privatization, Russia’s major enterprises were purchased with government money (Kommersant daily, January 27).

As an editorial published today noted, “There is nothing unusual in a central bank having foreign subsidiaries. But it is unlikely that, for example, the U.S. Federal Reserve runs its European subsidiaries as a joint venture with Exxon Oil and Microsoft” (Moscow Times, February 17).

Aleksashenko also said in yesterday’s press conference that while the International Monetary Fund (IMF) did not know about FIMACO specifically, “it knew that such schemes were possible, and Russia advised the IMF about them in 1993” (Moscow Times, February 17). While it seems likely that IMF credits to Russia constituted part of the funds which FIMACO managed, this has not been confirmed. The IMF has not yet commented on the FIMACO controversy. In an interview published yesterday, IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus was not asked about FIMACO and did not himself mention it. He did say, however, that fund’s work is organized so that “if we have the slightest suspicion that credits might wind up where they are not supposed to, then we do not allocate a cent” (Novye izvestia, February 16).