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First Moves Against Giant IMF/World Bank Rip Off

The first charges have been laid in the US over what has been described as the biggest money laundering scandal in history. The Fed's say US$7 billion was illegally funnelled from Russia to America. Scoop’s West Coast Correspondent John Howard reports.

Earlier this week Scoop broke the story in New Zealand that international law enforcement agencies estimated that allegedly US$40 billion in IMF and World Bank loans had found their way into the wrong hands in Russia and were being laundered back through Swiss and US banks. Other countries may also be involved.

Yesterday, US Federal prosecutors announced they had laid the first charges against three individuals and three companies charging them with channelling US$ 7 billion through accounts at the Bank of New York. The bank, the 15th largest in the US, is not named in the indictment.

Peter Berlin 44, Lucy Edwards 41, - a former vice-president of the Bank of New York - and Alexei Volkov 34, as well as Benex International Co. Inc. Beces International L.L.C. and Torfinex Corp were named as defendants.

Edwards has been dismissed by the Bank of New York for gross misconduct, violation of the bank's internal policies, falsification of bank records and failure to cooperate with the bank's investigation. She had previously denied any wrongdoing.

If convicted the penalities seem light in view of the money involved. Each individual could face a maximum prison term of five years and a maximum fine of $250,000. The corporate defendants could face maximum fines of $1.5 million.

US Attorney Mary Jo White said in a statement that "the ongoing investigation is very intense and broad, and is likely to go on for some time."

"Many questions about the various sources of the monies flowing through accounts at the Bank of New York remain to be answered," she said.

Lewis Schiliro, an FBI assistant director in charge of the New York office, said the FBI is primarily focused on determining the origin of the funds and tracing the path of transactions through accounts at the Bank of New York.

"As this investigation has progressed, cooperation from the Russian authorities has been forthcoming and has been helpful," he said.

Scoop reported earlier that Swiss federal prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, also held an emergency meeting with Russia's prosecutor to discuss the allegations against top Russian officials.

Barry Kingham, a lawyer for Berlin and Edwards said the couple, naturalised US citizens who live in London, will "appear in whatever court they are required to appear in." He said he could not comment on whether the couple will fight extradition. US prosecutors believe Volkov is not in the US.

The Russian people are outraged that money intended to rebuild their shattered economy is being looted by what they call "internationalist" thieves.


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