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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
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

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us