The former head of the Bank of Moscow calls the charges of misappropriation of a billion roubles “a new fabrication of the investigators.”
The Russian Interior Ministry Investigation Department has brought new charges against the former top management of the Bank of Moscow. The former bank president Andrey Borodin, first vice president Dmitry Akulinin and vice president Alexei Sytnikov are charged with misappropriation and embezzlement of more than 1 billion roubles. In the theory of the investigators, from 2008 until 2010, a group of the bank’s top managers and employees organized by Borodin was practicing “misappropriation of entrusted funds through fictitious contracts for purchase and sale of foreign currency and illegally obtaining the difference between the rates in roubles”.
The first case against Borodin and Akulinin was opened in late 2010 – the bankers were accused of fraud with funds from the municipal budget in the amount of 12.76 billion roubles. Borodin and Akulinin were internationally wanted, but the United Kingdom gave Borodin political asylum (The Russian Interior Ministry claims that the same happened to Akulinin). In an interview with Forbes, Borodin spoke about why he considers the charge an invention of the investigators, what he did at the secret lunch of the Russian sponsors of the Conservative Party and what he thinks about possible extradition to Russia.
Q.: You are charged with misappropriation of yet another billion roubles. Before, the amount of damages was much higher: 12 billion roubles. What does it mean? Is it an additional episode in your case, or the amount of damages suddenly was reduced by a factor of 12?
A.: It is a new invention of the investigators, and this is a new case. Therefore, the amount of damages, in the opinion of the investigators, has not reduced. In my opinion, there are no damages at all.
Q.: Who informed you about the new charge? Your lawyers, journalists or Russian Interior Ministry representatives?
A.: My lawyers were invited [to the Interior Ministry Investigation Department] last week and relevant documents were handed over to them. They are under oath of non-disclosure, but because they have no right not to give this information to their client, that is me, I have the right to comment on the information and disclose it.
Q.: What new information have you learned from those documents?
A.: In my view, this all has been spun out of thin air. The documents contain 120 pages of text with more than 100 pages listing forex operations that, in the opinion of the investigators, are doubtful. The rest is a descriptive part in the best traditions of the 1930s. I won’t even bother to retell you that.
Q.: Can you give examples?
A.: My brain is unable to reproduce that; one needs some special training for that. Well, it boils down to that I was in collusion with my subordinates and beginning from 2008 we would conduct some wrong forex operations. This defies reasonable comment. Clearly, in an organization with almost 10,000 employees the top manager does not do any operations and does not conclude foreign-currency transactions. Everyone had totally different missions and powers; therefore, representing it the way the investigators have done is — Well, it is their wild and creative imagination and nothing else.
Q.: Back in 2013 the British authorities granted you political asylum. Has the Russian side tried to contest the decision in any way?
A.: We know that in 2012 the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office requested my extradition from the UK. Yet, I know nothing about the fate of that request. The local authorities did not let us know about its existence or what they were going to do with it. It could have been sent back or left without consideration. I have no other facts that would point to the Russian law-enforcement agencies trying to do something else. Still, this does not rule out that they may try and do something in this respect in the future.
Q.: The new charges have been brought not only against you personally but also against the bank’s other employees: vice president Dmitry Akulinin, former vice president Alexei Sytnikov, senior trader Konstantin Salnikov and chief of banking operations Alla Averina. Who are those people?
A.: Some of the people in question are totally unknown to me, for example, trader Salnikov. Averina attended a few meetings, but I have never talked to her personally. You will agree that one can hardly become an accomplice if she has never interacted with the organizer.
Q.: Why then did this case emerge now?
A.: When repression sets in motion, it must go full circle. This logic explains what is happening. Yet, I have been saying who stands behind it – Mr Medvedev [Andrey Borodin believes that Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev is involved in his criminal prosecution – Forbes] and his entourage.
Q.: Who specifically?
A.: Mr [former Russian energy minister Igor] Yusufov, Mr [VTB board chairman Andrei] Kostin, in part [Moscow mayor Sergei] Sobyanin. It is not even exciting to list the names of those who took part in this. It was started on their initiative and I think that from time to time they demand reports on what has been done and what is happening, and law-enforcement agencies are under serious pressure from those people, I believe.
Q.: The Russian Interior Ministry officially reports that all the defendants in the “1-billion case” find themselves in the United Kingdom, just like you. Is that really so? Have they also been granted political asylum?
A.: I think you had better ask them or the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, if it has such information.
Q.: You mean, you are not in touch with them and know nothing about their fate?
A.: A am talking to you on my own behalf and I cannot talk for other people.
Q.: Two years ago the Russian Interior Ministry was saying that $400 million were arrested on your accounts in foreign banks. Is that money still under arrest, has it been transferred to Russia? What is the fate of your assets abroad?
A.: No comment.
Q.: Have there been attempts to arrest your accounts in Britain?
A.: No comment.
Q.: Is it true that Russian law-enforcement agencies, through their Estonian counterparts, have gained access to banking and financial information that will confirm money laundering by you and Akulinin via the Estonian Credit Bank, then controlled by the Bank of Moscow?
A.: I am unaware of the developments.
Q.: The Guardian has written that you have been invited to a Tory secret dinner – and some participants in the event were spoken of as “Russian sponsors” of the Conservative Party. What did you do there and what did you discuss with prime minister David Cameron and members of his team?
A.: Have you ever attended an event with more than 400 persons? It is something that in Russian slang we call ‘tusovka.’ I was invited by my friends, who are not members of the Conservative Party. Therefore we went there like to a social get-together rather than an event with political strings attached. Understandably, at such events, even if they are organized by the Conservative Party, politics is the last thing discussed. I think that the newspaper publication had to do with next year’s parliamentary election in Britain, and this is simply a small episode in the fight between the Labourites and the Tories ahead of the election.
Q.: Let us go back to Russia. Will the Bank of Moscow gain from the merger with VTB? How do you assess the strategy for the development of the Bank of Moscow proposed by the new top management?
A.: I am not interested in that and am not following that at all.
Q.: Representatives of the Russian Central Bank would say that they did not notice violations in the Bank of Moscow because they “trusted it.” How do you view the massive license recall from banks?
A.: The most important thing is that there should be trust in the banking system, but I think that in our country it all is somewhat lop-sided. In my opinion, the greatest evil is now concentrated precisely in banks supported by the state or those with state participation. It is understood that for the Central Bank actions with respect to the same VTB or a similar bank are off limits. I have worked for more than 15 years in the Russian banking system and I have an idea about who does what and how.
Q.: Are you going to open a business in Britain or you already have one?
A.: No comment.
The first criminal case against Borodin and Akulinin was opened in late 2010. They were charged with fraud involving funds of the municipal budget in the amount of 12.76 billion roubles through a loan issued by the Bank of Moscow to the Premier Estate Closed Joint-Stock Company. In May 2011 the Tverskoy District Court chose the measure of restraint for Borodin and Akulinin in their absence in the shape of taking into custody, and the two were made internationally wanted. Later it became known that the United Kingdom had granted political asylum to Borodin.
In November 2013 the Russian Interior Ministry Investigation Department opened another criminal case against Borodin and Akulinin under Article 174.1 of the Criminal Code (money laundering) suspecting illegal financial operations in the amount of 623 million roubles. The investigators believe that from 2008 until 2011 Borodin and Akulinin used their official positions to organize remittance from the correspondent account of the Bank of Moscow of no less than 50 billion roubles to accounts controlled by commercial companies registered in Cyprus.