Italian firm `laundered money for Kremlin'

A SQUEAKY-CLEAN Italian family firm has come under suspicion of laundering money for the Kremlin as the Russian financial scandal widens.

A report in the leading Italian daily Corriere della Sera alleges that a thriving furniture business that provided designer sofas for hotel lobbies around the world received large sums of Russian cash and channeled them into bank accounts in London, Ireland or Canada that could be accessed safely by members of the Yeltsin "family".

The paper said the cash, usually in pounds 100,000 tranches, was delivered to the company, Oak Industria Arredamenti, every fortnight by Russian couriers who drove down from Switzerland. One of those couriers, identified by Italian police, is now dead. He is thought to have been killed in a car accident.

Investigators in Como, near the Swiss border, have ordered the managing director of Oak Arredamenti, Virgilio Pologna, to stand trial for tax evasion. But behind that mundane charge investigators are pursuing the suspicion that the company was used to launder millions of dollars, possibly as a condition for lucrative contracts in the Kremlin.

The Italian connection first came to light after a routine tax inspection, and the alleged existence of the couriers was confirmed by a former local bank director. "Towards the spring of 1995 a courier used to come down from Switzerland every two weeks bringing me up to 400 million lire (pounds 130,000) at a time," he told Corriere della Sera.

After months of investigations, Italian police managed to identify one of two Russian citizens who had acted as couriers and sought to question him. But the man was already dead, reportedly the victim of a car crash. Details of the accident have not been revealed. The police are still searching for another Russian citizen who they suspect acted as a courier. Oak is one of countless small export-orientated businesses that flourish in Brianza, Italy's furniture valley, which runs from Milan almost as far as the Swiss border.

It has close ties with Mabetex, the Swiss-based company, which has landed a lucrative reconstruction contract for the Kremlin.

The director of Mabetex, Behgjet Paccoli, is under investigation for allegedly paying large kickbacks to win the tender, money that is reported to have ended up in the pockets of Boris Yeltsin's two daughters, Tatiana and Yelena.

Mr Virgilio Pologna told The Independent his company had produced couches, tables and wall coverings for the Kremlin makeover on order from Mabetex, but had never had any direct contact with the Moscow authorities.

"These accusations are totally unfounded and nonsensical," he said. "I have never met any Russian couriers. And anyway, why would anyone want to send money down to Italy and then to Britain or Canada when they could send it directly?"

Mr Pologna added: "My company has worked with Mabetex for many years, as have many other suppliers in Cantu. We are not associates or partners - and we have always been paid promptly and treated well."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada