By Lucy Komisar, The Komisar Scoop, Nov 28, 2003 published: “The former bankers have requested the federal officials in Switzerland to open an investigation into the charges and to search the records of the Swiss offices of Menatep SA, Menatep Finances SA and Valmet (in liquidation) and of Bank Leu related to investigate claims of fraud against the Russian company Avisma and money laundering by Menatep in Switzerland”.
“Two ex-bankers on Wednesday, Nov. 26, filed a criminal complaint with the Swiss attorney general against Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Platon Lebedev, and Alexei Golubovich, accusing them of money laundering and support for a criminal organization.
The Russia Journal has obtained a copy of the report. The Journal asked Yukos press office to comment on the charge but no comments were received.
The former bankers have requested the federal officials in Switzerland to open an investigation into the charges and to search the records of the Swiss offices of Menatep SA, Menatep Finances SA and Valmet (in liquidation) and of Bank Leu related to investigate claims of fraud against the Russian company Avisma and money laundering by Menatep in Switzerland.
The complaint was filed with Attorney General Valentin Roschacher in Bern by Andrei Strebel, a Swiss citizen, and Ernest Backes, of Luxembourg. The Swiss anti-money laundering law allows such private actions. Strebel, who formerly worked for Union Banking Corp. (UBC), The Arab Bank, SociÐ¹tÐ¹ GÐ¹nÐ¹rale and National Westminster Bank, all in Switzerland, and Backes, who exposed the double-bookkeeping of the financial clearing house, Clearstream, in the book “Revelation$,” brought the action through their new Institute for Commercial Research, which is affiliated with the University of Saarbruecken in Germany.
The complaint says that Khodorkovsky, Lebedev, and Golubovich are or were owners in Switzerland of the Swiss companies Menatep SA, Freiburg, Menatep Finances SA, Geneva and Valmet SA, Geneva. It claims that since its creation, “the Bank Menatep SA has been mixed with the affairs of members of the Russian oligarchy and criminal organizations, such as Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Alexander Konanykhine. It is also related to another mafia figure, Semyon Mogilvich, called the godfather of organized crime in Russia.”
The complaint cites the Avisma case which it says involved fraud and money laundering whereby tens of millions of dollars were diverted from Avisma. In the mid-90s, Menatep was the majority owner of Avisma, a manufacturer of titanium, a substance used in airplanes.
The document says that this scheme involved selling titanium at a low price to TMC, a shell company, which resold the product at a higher price on the international market. This practice, called transfer pricing, is widely used internationally to cheat tax authorities and minority shareholders. It said, “Barclays Bank opened secret accounts for TMC, Valmet and other connected companies in tax havens such as the Isle of Man, Ireland, Cyprus and Switzerland.” It noted that a Valmet subsidiary in Switzerland was used as a nominee owner of the raked-off profits while the shareholders of Bank Menatep SA were designated as its beneficial owner.
Finally, it cites the testimony of Elena Collongues-Popova “that more than $300 million were transferred in 1998 by several companies related to Alexei Golubovich, director of Menatep SA, mainly to accounts in Switzerland at the Bank Leu, Geneva.”
Detailing a case of apparent insider trading, it looks at a Bank Leu account in the name of Solin AG which Collongues-Popova says she set up for Golubovich. It notes that the account shows credits of $9,511.912 from Creditanstalt Bank and $22,978,000 from CIS Emerging Growth fund, both on December 2, 1997, and transfers of the same total, $15,956,735 to Transworld Holding Comp. Ltd. and $16,240,00 to Hannaville Ltd., the very next day. It notes that all were offshore companies controlled by Khodorkovsy, Lebedev, and Golubovich and it says that “securities purchase agreements” indicate the transfers from Hannaville and Transworld were for purchase of Avisma stocks that the three owners were actually buying from themselves, with money paid to the Menatep account at the National Republic Bank of New York. If proven, the transactions, according to Swiss law experts could be seen as money laundering.
The complaint remarks that “the American billionaire Kenneth Dart and two other American citizens on September 17, 1997 bought the stocks of Avisma for the sum of $85,640,000 of which $74 million was then transferred to the Leu Bank on the accounts managed by Elena Collongues-Popova.” It would appear that the December trades could have affected the value of the Americans‘ stocks.
As The Russia Journal reported earlier this month, Collongues-Popova is a key witness in the case against Mentape and Yukos.
Strebel said the suit was filed because, “This activity by Lebedev and Khodorkovsky must be stopped. There are thousands of Lebedevs and Khodorkovskys. If we stop them, maybe the other 900 Khodorkovskys will think a little about it. If we don‘t start with one or two or three, there is no reason to do anything.”
Why Khodorkovsky? Strebel explained, “Because he is one of the significant examples of this criminal activity, because he was able to make $8 billion in three years. He was the perfect example.”
Strebel said he expected that a Swiss government seizure of records from Menatep and the related companies would show that “there was illegal activity, money laundering and tax evasion.”- notes The Komisar Scoop in the article “Criminal complaint filed against Khodorkovsky, Lebedev, and Golubovich in Switzerland”.