Russian money laundering probe to name a major European bank

A MAJOR European bank is to be named in a report on the laundering of money from Russia compiled by a newly established confederation of Russian businesses.

The report, compiled by the Moscow-based National Investment Council, is to name 13 Western banks which knowingly engaged in transferring so- called black money from Russia, the Council's founder, Alexander Lebedev, said yesterday.

Mr Lebedev said the report would also name 28 Russian banks which have been involved in misappropriating funds channelled into Russia by institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund, to rescue Russia's banks from bankruptcy.

The Council compiled the report as part of its drive to restore confidence in Russian business and encourage better regulation in the country. It will present it to the Russian authorities shortly after the Council has its maiden official meeting on 8 December.

Mr Lebedev said some Western banks were involved, not always knowingly, in the illegal transfer of funds into private bank accounts in Switzerland and other offshore jurisdictions. Some Russian banks were obtaining a fraction of IMF money, by falsely claiming to be on the verge of bankruptcy. "We are talking in the region of tens of billions," said Mr Lebedev.

One major European bank is among the institutions implicated by the thousand- page report, which is expected to say one of the bank's small regional branches was involved in money laundering. The naming of a European institution would add a further twist to investigations being pursued by the FBI and the UK's National Crime Squad into possible money laundering by the Russian mafia through the Bank of New York. The FBI is believed to be investigating five European banks.

Mr Lebedev is the first deputy in the centrist Our Home Russia movement, a political party headed by Victor Chernomyrdin, the former Russian prime minister. Mr Lebedev is president of Moscow's National Reserve Bank.