The issue has caused fury in Washington, where US politicians believe that money from the International Monetary Fund has been syphoned off and laundered through New York.
Finance ministers from the Group of Seven leading industrial nations gave Moscow a stark warning last night that until new safeguards were put in place, there would be no more money.
In their communique they said: "We agreed that the Central Bank of Russia should take steps identified by the IMF to improve internal controls and to initiate quarterly audits of CBR reserve management practices that will be made public before future IMF tranches are disbursed." Russia had been expected to receive the latest slice of cash from the Fund in the next week, but it now looks as if this may slide until much later in the year. The warning, the starkest yet, shows that even if there is no proof that IMF money was stolen, there are serious suspicions that senior Russian officials may have allowed the money to be misused.
The ministers also said that they would step up efforts to fight money laundering by identifying states and territories allowing criminal groups to launder money. And they also warned of action against tax havens.
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