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Geneva judge holds talks in US in Russian embezzlement probe

The Geneva judge investigating possible Swiss involvement in the alleged embezzlement of International Monetary Fund loans by Russia is meeting the United States authorities to urge them to release vital documents after he arrived there on Tuesday.

This content was published on August 15, 2000 - 21:12

In New York, Kasper-Ansermet is talking to the Federal Attorneys charged with responding to his request for legal assistance, as well as officials from the state of New York's banking supervisory commission.

"I sent an official request for information to the US authorities in January and I am still waiting for a reply," Laurent Kasper-Ansermet told swissinfo, before meeting the officials.

The Swiss magistrate will then travel to Washington, where he will hold talks with members of the House Banking Committee, who have conducted an investigation into the funds distributed by the IMF.

He declined to say whether he would have talks with IMF officials. They have so far rejected accusations that their money was misused.

The investigation centres on some $7 billion of Russian money, including $4.8 billion in IMF funds, which passed through the Bank of New York.

Some of this money is alleged to have been sent to Switzerland, via a German subsidiary of the Russian central bank, before being deposited in Sydney and London.

Kasper-Ansermet has frozen just under $20 million in a dozen Swiss banks as part of his probe into the affair.

His visit comes a week after he travelled to the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino to personally supervise the investigation there. He confirmed that two banks in Ticino had been raided as part of the probe, but was reluctant to say what was found.

"The inquiries I conducted in Ticino were simply to check information," Kasper-Ansermet told swissinfo. "The dossier contained information suggesting that funds did pass through banks in Ticino, and I had to check the validity of these documents in person."

"I can't give any further details. All I can say is that my investigation is continuing," he said.

The two banks have been identified as the Ticino Cantonal Bank and the Banca del Gottardo. Both confirmed they had been searched but denied any wrongdoing.

The Ticino Cantonal Bank said the judge had been able to see that it had never handled IMF funds destined for Russia. The Lugano-based Banco Gottardo also insisted it had no links with missing billions.

Kasper-Ansermet's frustration with the US authorities stems from the fact that, in February, a former Bank of New York executive, Lucy Edwards, and her husband admitted to US federal investigators that they helped the Russian mafia to launder $7 billion. Yet the Geneva magistrate is still waiting for a response to his request for help.

He said: "Now our investigation is widening and their cooperation is really necessary."

Kasper-Ansermet is also waiting for Russia to reply to a similar request for information, which was lodged at the beginning of June.

by Roy Probert

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