Surprise! Moscow Stonewalls on Laundering Probe

  • Share
  • Read Later
The only surprising thing might be that the U.S. investigators weren’t mugged on their way out of Moscow. In the latest development in the international investigation into links between the Russian mob and the Bank of New York, USA Today reports that U.S. gumshoes went to Russian officials last week for bank statements, audiotapes and documents relating to the possible diversion of nearly $15 billion from Russia to U.S. shores – and were turned down flat. According to a U.S. investigator, Moscow called the request an "unnecessary intrusion" into its internal affairs, and later, Russian investigators visiting Washington claimed they had not been shown any evidence supporting the allegations. (U.S. investigators said they showed the officials "irrefutable evidence" of billions of dollars laundered, including hundreds of documents tracing the transfer of money from Russia's Central Bank through U.S. banks.

Investigators in Italy, meanwhile, are having better luck with some smaller fish than the Central Bank. They have uncovered Italy-based Russian racketeers in the northeast town of Rimini who have been sending out their financial laundry to the Bank of New York, according to the New York Times — the Italians, apparently, are not relying on help from Moscow. It’s not hard to imagine the reason for that Russian stonewall; when half a nation’s economy is controlled by organized crime, it’s inevitable that government officials – including those at the Central Bank – have a finger or two (or an arm, up to the shoulder) in the cookie jar. The Russians, say U.S. investigators, just want to find out where the U.S. paper trail is leading before they fill in any of the blanks. Said former CIA counterterrorism chief Vincent Cannistraro told USA Today: "They're trying to find out what it is we know before they play."