In U.S. Money-Laundering Case, Shades Of Russian Corruption
Arvamus 18 Jan 2016  EWR
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Mike Eckel, RFE/RL January 18, 2016
WASHINGTON -- At first glance, it’s a case that could easily be misconstrued as a humdrum allegation of ill-gotten foreign money being laundered through dealings in American real estate.

Peel away a couple layers of The United States Of America vs. Prevezon Holdings Ltd., however, and you'll find all the makings of a modern international spy thriller.

The mind-boggling case currently making its way through U.S. District Court in Manhattan centers on money, power, and strange plot twists. The most eye-opening particulars of the case, however, aren't even officially on the docket: an audacious $230 million tax-fraud scheme, allegedly carried out with the complicity of Russian government officials, followed by the posthumous conviction of а whistle-blowing tax auditor and the trial in absentia of a crusading British-American financier.

But when U.S. vs. Prevezon opens as a "civil-asset forfeiture trial" on January 27, it will be the first case stemming from the original tax-fraud scheme -- which unfolded eight years ago in Russia -- to make it to trial in U.S. courts.

That means there may be more plot twists to come.

Shell Game

The skirmishing between lawyers and prosecutors -- documented in a case file totaling more than 14,000 pages -- provides a rare glimpse into the universe of international money laundering. Perhaps more revealing, however, is the window it offers into corruption in Russian society -- possibly at the highest levels.

"The total scale, the full scale, of these crimes that were happening in Russia for a number of years is incomprehensible because we don't have any idea," said Andrei Illarionov, who served as President Vladimir Putin's top economic adviser between 2000 and 2005.

How long the graft went on, how many companies were involved, and the amount that was stolen is simply unknown, Illarionov told RFE/RL.

(http://www.rferl.org/content/u... )
 
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