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Sunday, October 31, 1999 Published at 09:48 GMT

World: Americas

US seeks money-laundering suspects

An international investigation has begun into the money-laundering allegations

The authorities in the United States have issued arrest warrants for three suspects in the biggest money-laundering investigation in American history.

They are accused of involvement in illegal transactions through the Bank of New York totalling almost $7bn.

The exact whereabouts of the suspects, two of whom are of Russian origin, are not known.

[ image: Finance ministers want tighter controls over loans to Russia]
Finance ministers want tighter controls over loans to Russia
They are a former executive of the the Bank of New York , Lucy Edwards, her husband Peter Berlin, and one of his associates, Alexei Volkov.

The Russian mafia is said to have illegally channelled billions of dollars through accounts at the Bank of New York.

Some reports suggest that money may have been siphoned from international loans to Russia - allegations that have been rejected by Moscow.

International investigation

United States prosecutors are embarking on a worldwide probe into the money-laundering allegations.

The Russian Interior Minister,Vladimir Rushaylo , on a visit to Washington, said FBI agents would visit Moscow next month as part of the investigation.

But he said the United States had made no "official requests" for Russia's assistance in detaining the suspects.

A federal grand jury in Manhattan has already indicted the three on charges of conspiring to transmit funds and receive deposits illegally.

The US authorities also named three companies - Benex International Co. Inc., Becs International LLC, both of New Jersey, and New York-based Torfinex Corp - in their indictment, but not the Bank of New York itself.

Lawyers for Ms Edwards and Mr Berlin have said the couple - who live in London - will "appear in whatever court they're required to appear in."

US prosecutors believe Mr Volkov is not in the country.

Russia under pressure

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have meanwhile been attempting to account for all their funds which have headed to Moscow.

They have said there is no evidence so far that any went missing.

Finance ministers of the leading industrialised countries warned last month that Russia would only get the next tranche of its loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) , if it enforced stronger safeguards against corruption.

Swiss banks have frozen nearly $17m of funds held by the Bank of New York, and have ordered investigators in Geneva to look into the affair.

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