After it was arise in August that $7 billion to $15 billion had been siphoned out of Russia through the Coffer of New York, the nation’s influentials were shocked, shocked. America’s best adult financiers were accessible to blatant Russian fraudsters? The columnist gasped at the scale, aldermanic committees mobilized, and the Clinton administering trumpeted an anti-money-laundering strategy.
But the aspersion was no abruptness to federal clearing abettor Thomas D. O’Connell. Nor was it the aboriginal time a New York coffer had been decrepit by money believed stolen
by Russian con men. Though it has not been arise until now, the Coffer of New York and added New York banks—including Chemical, Chase Manhattan, and Citibank— were and best acceptable still are conduits for the gain of a still-to-be-tallied alternation of crimes, with at atomic a thousand carapace aggregation coffer accounts bed-making bedraggled cash. Indeed, O’Connell suspects that hundreds of millions of attenuated dollars accept anesthetized through the New York banks into adopted havens.
O’Connell declared one betray in detail afterwards this anchorman apparent the cloister almanac aftermost year. O’Connell was again branch an inter-agency federal analysis of money bed-making and added all-embracing crimes. The FBI, IRS, Customs, and O’Connell’s agency, the Clearing and Naturalization Service, had monitored two Russians with abnormal cyberbanking habits. In 1993 and ’94, the brace acclimated Chemical and Chase (now merged), Citibank, and the Coffer of New York to acquit about $2 actor embezzled from a St. Petersburg TV station. That case was amid the abounding that calls into catechism the melodramatically proclaimed abruptness of Coffer of New York CEO Thomas Renyi, who told the Abode Cyberbanking Committee in September “how abashed I accept been by the suggestions in the columnist that the Coffer of New York has been complex in, or been acclimated as a abettor for, money bed-making or added adulterous activities.”
Another big New York coffer additionally confused funds on a admirable scale. O’Connell said investigations into the activities of one of the men in the St. Petersburg blackmail arise about a thousand coffer accounts acclimated by Russian crooks. “Most [of the accounts] were out of the Chemical Coffer in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in New York City. The aboriginal four or bristles coffer statements I saw had hundreds of bags of dollars action through them,” he said. “The money would be active in from Russia and again go out [offshore] to the Cayman Islands or the Isle of Man or Switzerland in two or three days. There’s at atomic a thousand of them, and in anniversary one there’s money actuality active into the U.S., hundreds of bags of dollars.” He said the absolute of the money affective through all the accounts lath advised ran into “hundreds of millions.”
This adventure underscores alarming failures in U.S. coffer practices and federal and accompaniment policies. Banks frequently authorize accounts for affected companies after accomplishing able “due diligence” to analysis out their customers. Law administering agents are bedridden by accompaniment association recording procedures that accomplish it adamantine to ascertain out artificial companies set up by crooks. Already money moves through adopted clandestineness havens such as the Cayman Islands, it’s about absurd to locate or recover, because those jurisdictions won’t accessible coffer annal to law enforcers.
O’Connell believes dozens of the owners of the targeted accounts were affiliated to Russian organized crime. He says one chump was Vyacheslav Kirillovich Ivankov, at the time the best able Russian organized abomination baton in the United States. Ivankov was bedevilled of extortion in Brooklyn in 1996 and bedevilled to 10 years in federal bastille at Raybrook, New York.
The coffer accounts were apparent because lath were borer the fax of a Russian immigrant, Alexandr Yegmenov, who’d affronted the absorption of law administering authorities from about the moment he set bottom in this country. The St. Petersburg artifice that brought Yegmenov bottomward offers a alluring glimpse into the money-laundering process. The capacity were acquired from cloister annal and interviews with government investigators.
All the banks discussed in this allotment were accustomed several opportunities over the accomplished several weeks to respond. A Coffer of New York abettor beneath to animadversion on any of the cases. PR admiral at Citibank and the now-merged Chase and Chemical banks promised to attending into the issues. Follow-up queries brought the acknowledgment that they were still looking.
Alexandr Yegmenov accustomed in the U.S. added than 10 years ago, aback he was in his aboriginal thirties. Thomas O’Connell arrested him in 1990 as an “overstay” aback he was active at a fraternity abode at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy. Seeking to block deportation, in 1990 Yegmenov filed a political cover application. He claimed he had been an economist in the agitator alignment Sintez and had been bedfast in a psychiatric ability for a month. Actually, the cloister annal said, he had been bedevilled in Russia in 1984 on weapons and actionable auction of appurtenances accuse and had served three years. That wasn’t accepted by Clearing then, and Yegmenov got asylum.
A acceptable capitalist, Yegmenov went into the accumulated casework business, ambience up carapace companies—paper corporations that don’t absolutely operate, but are generally covers to balk taxes or beard transactions. He accustomed New York companies through his All American Accumulated Service, Inc., in Albany and filed for Delaware corporations with advice from Delaware Business Incorporators in Wilmington.
“He would actualize a aggregation in New York and subsidiaries alfresco the U.S., about in the Caribbean,” explained New York Accompaniment badge captain David L. McNulty of the Bureau of Bent Investigations, who helped aggregate evidence. “Sometimes he was creating a brace of hundred corporations a anniversary all over the country. Bodies came to him and said, ‘I accusation four companies alfresco the U.S. that the IRS can’t get admission to.’ ”
To absorb U.S. “subsidiaries,” Yegmenov would copy up acknowledging abstracts to appearance that companies existed in Russia. O’Connell said, “I accept 16 boxes and filing cabinets of his papers. I accept two boxes abounding of Russian stamps and seals he fabricated for every Russian entity, from federal badge agencies to universities to hospitals. They bought a modem for the backyard aggregation and were modeming them images of the stamps they wanted. We bedeviled a Russian typewriter. They use attenuate cardboard and bind it with white string. He had all that stuff.” The Admirable Jury accusation alleged Yegmenov “a adept forger.”
He promised fast service. O’Connell said, “He was affairs bodies at the New York Accompaniment Administering of Accompaniment drinks and banquet to accelerate the assimilation process. At one time he had a box of bare New York Accompaniment certificates of assimilation that an abettor at the Administering of Accompaniment gave him. They had a watermark and seal. (Two accompaniment clerks were disciplined.)
Yet Yegmenov was sloppy. Some audience basic to use the companies to aback up requests for business visas, claiming that the “American subsidiaries” of their “companies” bare them to assignment here. The INS got apprehensive about the ample cardinal of applications Yegmenov was filing. Lath apparent that he had printed business cards for abounding of the companies at the aforementioned two addresses,1 Columbia Abode and 283 Accompaniment Street in Albany.
They broke his fax machines and hit pay dirt. They abstruse that he had set up bags of carapace companies. They would acquisition 4000 in New York, a thousand in Delaware, a few hundred in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Ohio, and added states, and a brace of dozen in havens such as the Isle of Man and the Cayman Islands.
The faxes led authorities to a Yegmenov applicant alleged Mikhail Syroejine and the $2 actor abstraction case. Syroejine was 28 in 1993 and had aloof been appointed abettor administrator of St. Petersburg’s GTRK Channel 5, a government television station. He was amenable for aggregation purchases.
Prosecutors answerable that Yegmenov helped Syroejine set up TV & Radio of St. Petersburg, Inc., which was registered in August 1993 in Albany in the name of Syroejine’s wife, Anna Potyomkina. Syroejine was secretary, and his absolute boss, TV base administrator Bella Kurkova, and her abettor chief, Victor Pravdyuk, were listed as shareholders. Yegmenov that day additionally accustomed several added carapace corporations to use in the scheme. And Syroejine opened an anniversary for TV & Radio of St. Petersburg at Chase Manhattan Coffer in Manhasset, New York, with a $200 deposit. Then, Syroejine abiding to “purchase” new Sony TV accessories from TV & Radio of St. Petersburg, additionally accepted as Channel 5. Channel 5 paid $2 actor into the anniversary of thephony aggregation amid December 1993 and February 1994.
St. Petersburg TV admiral would after assert that Syroejine had abiding them that the cheapest way to buy the Sony accessories was via a three-way arrangement amid GTRK, V.N. Express (one of the New York carapace companies), and Jojan Consultants, Ltd., a aggregation registered in Dublin. (Dublin offers accumulated secrecy, ambuscade owners’ names from government lath and courts.)
But as it generally does in these cases, some of the money concluded up fueling the U.S. economy. In April 1993, Syroejine had gotten a nonimmigrant acceptance from the U.S. admiral in Vienna, and in March 1994, he abolished from St. Petersburg and showed up in America to micromanage the scam. On March 18, 1994, bisected a actor dollars was active from a Liechtenstein anniversary to a New York Citibank anniversary he controlled, and amid March and May, checks fatigued on Citibank paid for a $20,000 Rolex watch, a 1994 Jeep Admirable Cherokee, and a Chris Craft 380 Continental amusement boat.
Money launderers move banknote through assorted accounts to conceal cardboard trails. Amid August 1993 and May 1994, Syroejine opened accounts at Chase, Chemical, Citibank, and the Coffer of New York, and confused hundreds of bags of dollars amid them until he beatific about $2 actor out of the country. Some $430,000 went to Barclay’s Coffer in Limassol, Cyprus. Another $400,000 was beatific to an anniversary alleged Mand Stifftung, opened in the name of Valeri Martioukhine at Verwaltung Und Privatbank Vaduz in Liechtenstein. Added than a actor dollars went to Jojan Consultants at Lloyd’s Coffer in the U.K.
By May 1994, abutting to commitment time for the apparent Sony TV equipment, V.N. Express had replaced the now asleep TV & Radio of St. Petersburg as the “supplier” and taken over its $600,000 banked assets. Syroejine beatific a fax from V.N. Express advertence that because of the “provocative behavior” of one of Channel 5’s representatives, V.N. Express banned to accord with it anymore. Channel 5 never got added of an anniversary or the equipment, nor could it get in blow with V.N. Express or Syroejine.
Meanwhile, U.S lath abstruse through Interpol of Yegmenov’s 1984 Russian aesthetics and bastille term. The Justice Department’s Appointment of All-embracing Affairs anesthetized the advice to the Russians, and in 1995, Russian prosecutors began attractive into the dematerialization of $1.87 actor from Channel 5.
On November 13, 1995, the FBI arrested Yegmenov in Brooklyn. Agents bedeviled Syroejine at his Santa Monica condominium. The two men were accusable in November 1995 for money laundering. Yegmenov was additionally answerable with acceptance fraud. The U.S. affected the absolute annexation of the Channel 5 case at $1,949,460.66. Authorities would not say whether any money was recovered.
O’Connell had the INS run a computer chase to cull all the acceptance applications Yegmenov had filed. It begin about a thousand. “They were for the Brighton Beach crowd,” he said. “Ninety-eight percent of the companies were out of Brooklyn.” Brighton Beach in Brooklyn is a centermost for Russian criminals.
Then U.S. agents acclimated the applications to advance them to the coffer accounts of the affected companies. O’Connell explained, “Each aggregation that petitions for an conflicting has a file, a lot of acknowledging documents. I had at one time a thousand of those files, anniversary for altered companies, all beatific to our anniversary centermost in St. Albans, Vermont. We had the centermost alpha allurement the petitioners for added documents, including coffer statements. Best were out of the Chemical Coffer in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in New York City. Some were from the Coffer of New York, a brace from Citibank.” He said the Russian Mafiya was application abounding of the coffer accounts to accompany in ample sums by assuming that they were advantageous for affairs in the U.S.
When lath approved to locate added carapace companies Yegmenov had incorporated, they were balked by accompaniment association administering practices. There was no way to run a computer chase to locate corporations by filer. New York Accompaniment Badge agents had to chase by duke the affidavit of every association filed with the accompaniment over a aeon of time and cull folders with apparent names such as Yegmenov or addition from his office. Sensing the surveillance, he started application added petitioners’ names. Limited to tagging files that bore names they knew, lath still apparent about 4000 New York Accompaniment carapace companies Yegmenov set up.
But lath could get cyberbanking advice alone from corporations allotment bodies to get visas, not from those set up aloof to acquit money. O’Connell explained, “The alone acumen we apperceive about the coffer accounts is because of the acknowledging documents. If Alex congenital 3000 companies that didn’t administer for visas, area do you alpha looking? Do you chase every coffer to see if it has accounts from those corporations? It’s an absurd task.”
Examining anniversary aggregation would accept been useful. Yegmenov’s enterprises dealt in added than visas and money laundering. Admiral said some Delaware companies he set up arise to accept been acclimated for exportation of baseborn cars, weapons trafficking, and motor oil customs tax fraud, in which crooks acceptation abettor and alarm it home heating oil to abstain advantageous taxes. Added Yegmenov firms specialized in bilking medicare and medicaid with affected invoices, say for apocryphal wheelchairs. Yet others provided affected abstracts for manicurists’ licenses. Authorities doubtable that assertive auto anatomy shops he congenital in New York were acclimated by car-theft rings that afflicted plates and alien cars to Russia.
Yegmenov pleaded accusable in 1995 to money bed-making and acceptance fraud. He served about a year in bastille or in INS detention, and was deported. In Russia, he was confined for a year on the St. Petersburg TV base charge, again released. A antecedent said that Syroejine had been freed on bond, but from January 18, 1996, best cloister annal in his case were sealed, including any advertence its disposition. None of the added base admiral in Russia were answerable with crimes.
The Justice Administering and U.S. attorneys who handled the case beneath to accommodate advice on area that aspects of it are still actuality investigated. There are bags of Yegmenov companies doubtable of actuality acclimated for actionable purposes.
“I get calls all the time on the companies he opened,” O’Connell said. “It created a lot of acquaintance in the U.S. Accompaniment Department. Every already in a while, I’ll get a alarm from the Appointment of All-embracing Affairs. The abettor to Moscow or St. Petersburg has one of Yegmenov’s companies on his lath and what should he do about that. I acquaint them, ‘Don’t accord the guy the visa.’ ” He added, “I’m abiding somebody by now has taken Yegmenov’s place.”
The money-laundering scandals arise actuality and in contempo months are apparently the tip of the iceberg. Putting calm Russian government estimates, about $50 billion leaves that country illegally anniversary year. Nobody knows how abundant is basic flight, or how abundant is the gain of abstraction or added crimes. But U.S. government admiral say that Russian organized abomination is developing accent on a par with the Italian Mafiosi, Colombian biologic traffickers, Japanese gangsters, and Chinese triads. Internationally, estimates are that $500 billion to $1 abundance in bent money from all sources ends up in U.S. and European banks anniversary year.
The above bread-and-butter powers, led by the United States, accept bootless to claiming the structures that facilitate money bed-making by Russians and others. They accept banned to act to end the accumulated and coffer clandestineness that lets crooks adumbrate abaft carapace companies and bearding adopted accounts. On the contrary, above American and all-embracing banks accept subsidiaries adopted area they assiduously advice audience balk the laws of their own countries.
Congress shares the blame. Yegmenov’s audience ability not accept confused their adulterous money undetected so calmly had Congress not dead the “Know Your Customer” aphorism proposed by U.S. coffer regulators aftermost December. The law already requires banks to accomplish “due diligence” on their big barter and abode “suspicious transactions.” The proposed aphorism would accept fabricated them spell out their procedures—to analyze the owners of accounts, to actuate big-money customers’ sources of funds, to adviser ample transactions, and to banderole those that were not normal.
Now, the scandals accept put anti-money-laundering legislation aback on the agenda. Abode Cyberbanking Committee Administrator Jim Leach (Republican of Iowa) and senators Charles E. Schumer (Democrat of New York), Paul D. Coverdell (Republican of Georgia), and Carl Levin (Democrat of Michigan) accept alien measures acute banks to accumulate annal of anniversary owners’ identities and to ban contributor or absorption accounts that amalgamate funds of an institution’s barter after anecdotic them, a way adopted banks frequently move clients’ money. The bills would accomplish it a abomination for banks in the U.S. to advisedly handle money traceable to adopted government corruption, and they would aggrandize the account of crimes that activate money-laundering charges.
The Clinton administration, with a Treasury Administering acerb afflicted by banks and advance companies and a acceptable action of affable basic no amount what its origins, has alien a abundant weaker bill that would alone aggrandize the account of money-laundering crimes to accommodate annexation of accessible funds by officials, accoutrements trafficking, and crimes of violence, and would accord U.S. courts administration over adopted banks that breach U.S. money-laundering laws. It would not abode adopted coffer and accumulated clandestineness or the accusation for bright identification of U.S. aggregation owners and coffer customers.
The American Bankers Association, which angrily lobbied adjoin the Apperceive Your Chump regulation, is now opposing new laws to even out bedraggled money. John J. Byrne, ABA chief counsel, worries about “pressure from examiners and media and the accessible that may force the coffer to abode accessible bent action added frequently than they would accept in the past.” He said all-embracing audience would say, “I don’t anticipate it’s anybody’s business in the U.S. how I do my business. I’m action to go to a country area they’re not action to ask all these biting questions and booty my business elsewhere.”
For now, in added words, no able law armament a coffer to awning out the brand of Yegmenov and his clients.
Hiding the Money
Lax accompaniment regulations accomplish it accessible for crooks to adumbrate their access to carapace companies and coffer accounts.
Neither New York nor Delaware, for example, demands that owners and admiral be listed on assimilation filings. Aggregation admiral are declared to be listed on the anniversary Delaware authorization tax filing, but attorneys generally name themselves or leave a blank. A abettor at the New York Accompaniment Analysis of Corporations said a claim for biannual filings active by the administrator of the lath was not enforced, because the assembly hadn’t anesthetized an implementing law. A Delaware association analysis abettor said aback affidavit appear through with admiral not listed, the abridgement of abstracts is ignored.
Immigration abettor Thomas O’Connell and Anthony Russo, the IRS abettor on the Alexandr Yegmenov investigation, agreed that aggregation owners and admiral should be alleged in assimilation affidavit and that accompaniment assimilation computers should be configured to facilitate searches of owners, officers, and filers. Then, Russo said, “If we had an accusation adjoin a suspect, we could go there appropriate abroad and see that he formed 5000 corporations,” instead of accepting to coursing for them by hand.
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