Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 188

Swiss law enforcement authorities have launched a criminal investigation into the aluminum magnate Lev Chernoy for suspected money laundering and organized crime activities. The Geneva-based weekly SonntagsBlick reported that Chernoy has been working with Geneva metals firm operating in Russia through joint ventures and that Russian law enforcement is looking into Chernoy’s takeover of virtually the entire Russian aluminum industry (Komsomolskaya pravda, October 12; Associated Press, October 11).

Lev Chernoy, along with his brother Mikhail, has in the past been associated with London-based Trans-World group, which has been heavily involved in the aluminum business in the former Soviet Union. According to Russian press reports over the last five or so years, the aluminum business has seen particular violence, and a large number of its major players have died at the hands of assassins.

SonntagsBlick also claimed that Chernoy is linked to the Bank of New York money laundering scandal, and to tycoon and Kremlin insider Boris Berezovsky. Several firms allegedly set up by Berezovsky in Switzerland have been under investigation for receiving, in violation of Russian law, more than US$200 million from the hard currency revenues of the Russian state airline Aeroflot.

In August, Moskovsky komsomolets, which has been leading something of a media campaign against Berezovsky, reported that Chernoy and Berezovsky had met to discuss jointly purchasing the daily newspaper Kommersant, and that Chernoy subsequently set up shell companies in Switzerland. It was also suggested that Chernoy was linked to Semyon Mogilevich, the reputed Budapest-based Russian mafia boss who allegedly laundered money through the Bank of New York (Moskovsky komsomolets, August 23). Berezovsky subsequently denied having met with Chernoy, but did admit that he was behind the purchase of Kommersant by an obscure American asset management company. The Swiss authorities are also investigating alleged bribery and money laundering involving Mabetex, the Swiss construction company which received lucrative Kremlin restoration contracts. Media reports have alleged that top Russian officials and even members of President Boris Yeltsin’s family received largesse from Mabetex officials.