Europol joins hunt on EU-Russia money laundering

EU Observer

The EU’s joint police body, Europol, is hunting down Russian mafia money laundered in EU banks.

Its operation was revealed in a report by an investigator in the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe, Swiss MP Andreas Gross, out on Tuesday (25 June).

It says: “On 25 April 2013, a meeting took place at Europol in The Hague to exchange information and co-ordinate the investigation by anti-money-laundering experts of a number of countries concerned by transfers of funds originating in the tax reimbursement fraud denounced by Sergei Magnitsky.”

Gross notes the meeting “should … mark the beginning of a co-ordinated action by the competent authorities to follow the ‘money trail’ wherever it leads.”

He adds: “Russian authorities should be at the forefront of such an action, as it is the money of the Russian people that was stolen.”

The case concerns a fraudulent tax refund, in 2008, of $230 million organised by the so-called “Kluyev group” and the subsequent death of the man who exposed it – Russian accountant Magnitsky.

Europol declined to comment on the revelation, citing house rules on confidentiality.

But EUobserver understands the countries which took part in the April meeting are Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Switzerland.

An EU contact said Europol took an interest earlier this year.

Europol officials went to a meeting on 7 February of the European Commission’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), together with officials from Austria, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Lithuania.

Europol people also went to a follow-up FIU meeting in June.

The EU source said FIU intelligence-sharing led Latvia, last week, to fine an unnamed bank for its part in the affair.

He added that Europol’s role is to collect evidence for criminal prosecutions of people involved.

The Gross report corroborates allegations that Magnitsky was murdered by Russian interior ministry officials in league with the Kluyev gang.

The Swiss MP looked at documents and conducted multiple interviews on trips to Bern, in Switzerland, and to London, Moscow and Nicosia between November last year and May.

He said Magnitsky was “healthy” before the suspects had him arrested in 2008.

But during one year of pre-trial detention, in freezing cells containing toilets overflowing with excrement, and following the prescription of Diclofenac, a stomach drug, he contracted pancreatitis, which causes acute abdominal pain.

The last time his mother, Natalia, saw him, on 12 November 2009, he looked “white and tired and had lost a lot of weight.”

Four days later in a cell in the Matrosskaya Tishina prison, he had a nervous breakdown. The Russian medic who was with him told Gross that Magnitsky covered himself with a plastic bag, thrashed around in his bed and said people wanted to kill him.

Guards reacted by using “special measures” – handcuffs and beating with rubber batons.

The next time his mother saw him, at his funeral, she “pulled back the blanket covering his upper body, and she saw marks on his fingers and knuckles, both scratches and haematoma, and his hands were balled into fists.”

“There is no doubt that some of the causes of Mr Magnitsky’s death were caused deliberately, by identifiable persons,” Gross says.

The Swiss MP also says he saw “complete documentation” showing the stolen money flowed from the Russian treasury into the bank of Dmitry Kluyev, a convicted fraudster, and then into accounts in EU banks under Europol and FIU scrutiny.

He adds: “(Serious) money cannot disappear, it always leaves an indelible digital trail … The global financial system functions like a giant digital balance sheet. The money trail is out there. It needs to be followed.”

His report is peppered with criticism of Russian officials’ replies to his questions, which Gross says ranged from the “not really convincing” to the “downright cynical.”

He highlights one theory why Russia has not brought the suspects to justice.

Citing “off the record” statements by unidentified “interlocutors,” he says: “Russia has a huge ‘parallel budget,’ involving massive ‘black funds’ used for stabilising and expanding the elite’s power, in Russia and beyond, especially in the territory of the former Soviet Union.”

The “interlocutors” said the black fund is fed by fake tax refunds, bribes in public procurement deals and “off-balance sheet” payments by state-owned firms.

Gross notes that Russia’s former central bank governor, Sergei Ignatiev, said in February that $49 billion a year is being “illicitly” transferred out of Russia and that “half of this” is “the work of one well-organised group.”

He also notes that “the same suspects, using the same modus operandi” as in the Magnitsky case are linked to dodgy tax refunds worth $1 billion.

According to the theory, which Gross says he cannot prove, “Magnitsky merely had the bad luck to stumble on an operation that was part of this ‘system’.”

With Russian border control data showing that the Magnitsky suspects often visit EU countries, Russian NGOs told Gross: “If you really want to interest our corrupt elites in turning Russia into a better place, you must sentence them to ‘life in Russia,’ by preventing them from taking out of the country what they value most: their money and their families.”

Gross said that European countries should impose “intelligent sanctions” – visa bans and account freezes – on the people concerned.

But he added that this should be “implemented by a quasi-judicial body giving suspected persons a fair chance to defend themselves.” unshaven girl быстрые займы онлайн https://zp-pdl.com/fast-and-easy-payday-loans-online.php https://zp-pdl.com/get-quick-online-payday-loan-now.php онлайн займ

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