Swiss Launch Probe Into Credit Suisse’s Russian Customers


Swiss prosecutors confirmed today that they’ve opened an official criminal investigation into suspicious transactions in several Credit Suisse accounts, which appear to show that the family of a Russian tax official became suddenly wealthy after approving the refund of $230 million in 2007 to scammers who were impersonating the leading hedge fund Hermitage Capital.

Russia’s Interior Ministry cleared the tax official Olga G. Stepanova, and bizarrely blamed the theft on the Hermitage lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who had first reported the corporate identity theft and delivered evidence to Russian prosecutors that the scheme was an inside job involving Stepanova, Interior Ministry cops and a number of career criminals. Magnitsky became a martyr to Russian anti-corruption crusaders when he died in November 2009, after almost a year in the custody of the police who he’d accused.

In its latest issue, Barron’s reported (see “Crime and Punishment in Putin’s Russia,” April 18) how Stepanova’s construction worker husband opened secret bank accounts at a Zurich office of Credit Suisse and over the two years following the $230 million theft of public funds, received over $15 million that went into his shell corporations in Cyprus and the British Virgin Islands, villas in Dubai and Montenegro, and vacation condos for Stepanova’s deputies in her office of the Russia’s Federal Tax Service. The Stepanovas now live in a spectacular avant-garde mansion in an exclusive suburb of Moscow. Yet the couple’s income declarations (required of tax officials under anticorruption rules) show a combined annual income over the last decade that averaged just $50,000.

Last week, Barron’s made inquiries with the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland which weren’t answered by deadline. This morning, the Swiss prosecutors responded, saying that on March 7, 2011, they “officially launched a criminal investigation in respect of suspected money laundering.”

Hermitage Capital founder William F. Browder had filed a money laundering complaint with Credit Suisse and the Swiss A.G., with copies of the suspicious Credit Suisse records. Hermitage received them from a Russian businessman who said he’d been part of the network responsible for the scam and tasked with paying off the corrupt officials involved. Magnitsky’s death disillusioned the businessman and he shared the Credit Suisse records with Hermitage.

The Swiss AG says that the investigation relates to “persons unknown.” The prosecutors will give no details about any findings they’ve made or measures that have been taken. Credit Suisse has also declined to discuss its client activities but insists it has hewed to money laundering laws.

Before he was arrested for reporting the crime, Magnitsky compiled evidence that Stepanova, certain Interior Ministry police and others had been involved in other apparent tax scams that stole over $100 million from the Russian people. In January, Stepanova resigned from her position as head of Moscow’s influential Tax Inspection Bureau No. 28 after a Federal Tax Service audit raised questions about another $100 million in dubious refunds she’d approved. The Tax Service referred its findings to the Interior Ministry, but the ministry responded by detaining and questioning the auditor, not Stepanova – who has since gone on to a job with a powerful new Defense Department agency in charge of equipment supplies for Russia’s police and military.

Russian officials have not responded to the Barron’s story, or the dozens of Russian language reports that followed. In total, the questionable tax refunds approved by Stepanova in the last decade approached half a billion dollars: that’s about as much as the Russian government’s annual budget for environmental protection. buy viagra online займ срочно без отказов и проверок https://zp-pdl.com/best-payday-loans.php https://zp-pdl.com/online-payday-loans-cash-advances.php займ на карту срочно без отказа

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