The Swiss Federal Prosecutor’s Office has opened a money-laundering investigation against Russia's former Deputy Agriculture Minister Alexei Bazhanov. He is accused by Russia of having embezzled state funds, part of which allegedly ended up in Swiss banks.
A spokesman from the Federal Prosecutor’s Office confirmed it had opened the investigation at the beginning of 2013, following an article published by the Tages-Anzeiger and Der Bund newspapers on Wednesday.
Bazhanov is accused by the Russian authorities of having embezzled one billion roubles (CHF15 million) in 2008-2009 together with accomplices from the Russian state company Rosagroleasing, which is at the centre of a financial scandal, the prosecutor’s office said.
According to the two German-language newspapers, Russian investigators accuse the former minister of having used false documents to request money to purchase a facility intended to produce sunflower oil. The facility never existed. Bazhanov denies the accusations, which his lawyer told the newspapers were “politically motivated”.
Part of the embezzled funds allegedly ended up in Swiss banks. The accused split the money between several accounts, the prosecutor’s office claimed. According to the papers, Bazhanov and his family used to live in Switzerland for a number of years.
A Swiss bank alerted the Money Laundering Reporting Office in Bern. Afterwards the prosecutor’s office examined the suspect transactions on these accounts and the results were sent to the Russian authorities who are following the case.
In October 2013 Russia reportedly asked Switzerland to freeze Bazhanov’s Swiss bank accounts and to send it the related documents. Bazhanov failed to oppose this request, first before the Federal Criminal Court and again before the Federal Court in February 2015.
Information requested was then sent to the Russian authorities, the prosecutor’s office confirmed. A request for mutual legal assistance from the Russian prosecuting authorities asking for all banking data collected in Switzerland is still pending.
In connection with the Rosagroleasing affair, the prosecutor’s office is also investigating two other officials from the state company and has requested mutual legal assistance from the Russian authorities.
swissinfo.ch with agencies