Russian bank questioned over loss of IMF's $4.8bn

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The Independent Online
THE RUSSIAN procurator-general has begun an investigation into the Central Bank for a wide range of offences, including the misuse of billions of dollars in International Monetary Fund (IMF) funds sent to bail out the country.

The procurator-general, Yuri Skuratov, said that an investigation is under way, which has already reached the preliminary conclusion that the Central Bank "infringed the law".

The focus of the inquiry, which embraces other banks, appears to be a wide range of fiscal activities flowing from Russia's financial collapse and the devaluation of the rouble.

Among the issues under inspection is the use of the first $4.8bn tranche of a $22.6bn rescue package supervised by the IMF, which was supposed to enable the Central Bank to defend the rouble but failed. Suspicions abound in Moscow over how the money was used.

Although the investigation may be an attempt to discredit the previous administration, the authorities appear to be taking it seriously. The inquiry is being headed by intelligence agents from the procurator-general's staff, the Federal Security Service and Russia's general accounting office.

Official attention is also trained on the events of 17 August, the day Russia announced its plans to devalue and default on billions of dollars of debt. "We are investigating the implementation of the laws [regarding banking and the Central Bank] and the events of 17 August," Alexander Zvyagintsev, spokesman for the public prosecutor's office, said.

The bank has conceded that individuals may have been at fault. But, a spokesman said, "an investigation of some staff does not mean an investigation of the Central Bank".