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Friday, August 20, 1999 Published at 12:38 GMT 13:38 UK

Business: The Company File

Bank helps inquiry into Mafia

Russian gangsters are keen to turn dirty roubles into clean dollars

Two senior Bank of New York officers, including one believed to be based in London, have been suspended as the bank co-operates with a police investigation into Russian Mafia money-laundering operations.

The officers will be on leave of absence until the US federal authorities complete their probe into an alleged scheme to launder billions of dollars from organised crime in the former Soviet Union through an account at the bank.

The investigation is believed to have started after a tip-off by British authorities, and one of those suspended is thought to be a senior London-based banker.

Organised crime

A bank official said: "Bank of New York has been co-operating with the office of the US attorney for the Southern District of New York in the confidential investigation of the use of bank facilities to transfer funds from Russia to other countries."

"There are no allegations of wrong-doing by the bank."

The spokesman refused to confirm reports in the New York Times that one of the bankers on leave of absence was London-based Lucy Edwards, a Russian-born bank vice-president.

An aide to Mrs Edwards said she was travelling.

The accounts under scrutiny are believed to have been linked to Semyon Yukovich Mogilevich, who is alleged to be a major figure in Russian organised crime.

The New York Times said more than $4.2bn passed through one account in more than 10,000 transactions between October and March.

Investigators were quoted in the paper as saying the transactions seem to add up to one of the largest money-laundering operations ever uncovered in the US.

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