Police join FBI in Russian mafia laundering inquiry

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TWO BRITISH detectives have flown to the United States to help to investigate allegations that the Russian mafia was laundering money through the Bank of New York. The officers from the National Crime Squad are to assist the FBI in New York.

The FBI investigation follows a tip-off from British intelligence that large sums of money were being transferred through accounts at the bank.

British intelligence authorities have been monitoring the activities of Semion Mogilevich, a 59-year-old Ukrainian who has been called "the most dangerous mobster in the world" and who is believed to specialise in laundering money from East to West.

Evidence is also mounting that British intelligence, alongside other European law agencies, is monitoring massive money laundering out of Russia by individuals close to the Russian government.

Swiss law enforcement authorities said earlier this year that Russian organised crime had been actively laundering money in banks there and Swiss prosecutors have been investigating the allegations of money laundering involving members of Boris Yeltsin's administration.

The source of this laundered money is not yet clear. However, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Monday launched an inquiry after claims that tens of millions of dollars of IMF aid to Russia was illegally laundered out of the country during the political crisis last year.

Switzerland's banking commission said it was assisting with the American investigation into the Bank of New York accounts. It was revealed on Tuesday that the FBI was also looking into the activities of five European banks.

Two vice-presidents of the Bank of New York have been suspended. London- based Lucy Edwards, 41, who was born in Russia and now has American citizenship is on paid leave. Her husband, Russian businessman Peter Berlin, controls the account in the name of Benex through which $4.2bn (pounds 2.6bn) is said to have passed in just six months. In total some pounds 10bn is involved in the investigation.

A vice-president of the bank based in New York, Russian-born Natasha Gurfinkel Kagalovsky, who supervised the suspect accounts, has also been suspended.

Last week the British National Crime Squad raided and searched a West End apartment owned by Mr Berlin and Ms Edwards. Noboyd was arrested.

According to The New York Times the Bank of New York case has now come to the attention of the US House of Representatives banking committee and the US Attorney General, Janet Reno.