Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 121

In a recent interview with the monthly “Sovershenno sekretno” (Top Secret), Yuri Skuratov gave further details about what corruption investigations had revealed prior to his suspension as prosecutor general. He said that after his investigators seized the databases of the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange concerning trades in GKOs (the state treasury bills which were frozen last August), they found that the GKOs had served as “a washing machine for laundering illegally received revenues of top officials and representatives of the criminal world.” Skuratov also claimed that just prior to the August 17 market collapse, the Central Bank, rather than trying to prop up the ruble, “began to actively dump GKOs, earning huge money and worsening the situation in the country.” While Skuratov continues to refuse to name who was involved in manipulating the GKO market, he did say that a small group of officials, including Sergei Kirienko (then prime minister), Anatoly Chubais, (then Russia’s special representative to international lending institutions) and Mikhail Zadornov (then finance minister) made the decision to default on the GKOs (Sovershenno sekretno, No. 6, 1999).

In the case of Mabetex, Skuratov said that top officials signed contracts for construction and restoration work of government buildings in Russia in which “the real volume of work was less than indicated, and what was left over was shared between those who ordered the work and those who carried [it] out” (Sovershenno sekretno, No. 6, 1999). Russia’s State Audit Chamber recently found that the Kremlin administration spent US$488 million refurbishing President Boris Yeltsin’s Kremlin residence, at a cost of more than US$14,0000 per square meter–with the average price for building or refurbishing top-of-the-line office buildings in central Moscow running at some US$2000 to US$3000 per square meter (Moscow Times, June 18). While the Audit Chamber did not charge that laws had been broken, the General Prosecutor’s Office, at Skuratov’s direction, launched a criminal investigation earlier this year into whether Kremlin officials received bribes for renovation contracts. Prosecutors seized documents from the office of Pavel Borodin, who heads the Kremlin’s property department. Last month, “Versya”–a weekly magazine owned by Sovershenno sekretno–published what it said were documents from a Swiss bank account held jointly by Borodin and officials of Mabetex, the Swiss construction firm which won contracts to refurbish the Kremlin and other state buildings.

Skuratov said that the investigation of Mabetex, which was assisted by Swiss federal prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, encountered unprecedented resistance, and that he knows with “100 percent” certainty that Boris Berezovsky worked to obstruct the investigation of alleged embezzlement from Aeroflot and to have him, Skuratov, removed from his post (Sovershenno sekretno, No. 6, 1999). The Swiss authorities assisted the Russian Prosecutor General’s office in investigating the activities of Andava, a Swiss firm reportedly controlled by Berezovsky, which won approval from Russia’s Central Bank to manage hundreds of millions of dollars of Aeroflot’s revenues.