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Tuesday, September 14, 1999 Published at 20:42 GMT 21:42 UK

Business: The Economy

US, Russia meet over laundering claims

Billions of roubles have passed through foreign accounts

US Justice Department officials and FBI officers have met a Russian government delegation to discuss alleged money-laundering in American banks.

The Justice Department investigation centres on the Bank of New York.

As much as $10bn of Russian mafia money is alleged to have passed through the bank.

Leading figures in Russia politics and the underworld are suspected of having used US banks to launder billions of dollars obtained illegally, including allegations that some came from funds provided by the International Monetary Fund.

New York meeting

The meeting, in New York, centred on cooperation between US law inforcement agencies and Russia on the investigation.

Assistant Attorney General Jim Robinson, who heads the Justice Department's criminal division, joined FBI officers and Justice Department officials from New York in the meeting.

A Justice Department official said: "We'll be talking with the Russians about how we can cooperate, consistent with our respective needs in investigating this matter".

The Bank of New York, which has not been accused of any illegal activity, has fired two employees and suspended another in connection with the probe.

Austrian investigation

Meanwhile, Austrian security officials are investigating "suspect transactions" through Bank Austria.

A spokesman for the bank, who declined to be named, said the transactions which might conceal laundering of Russian money.

"The purpose of the investigation is to find out what lies behind these transactions," he said.

Austrian television has reported that Bank Austria might have transferred 2.18m euros, ($2.26m) to the Bank of New York.

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