IMF funds: Geneva judge steps up probe into Ticino banks

The Geneva judge leading the Swiss investigation into the possible laundering of International Monetary Fund loans to Russia has personally gone to the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino to conduct the probe.

This content was published on August 14, 2000 - 15:39

"It is a very complicated matter," Laurent Kasper-Ansermet was quoted as saying. He added that two banks in Ticino had been searched.

"The evidence we have to piece together is of a very complex nature. It was easier for me to check it in person," he said.

Last month, Kasper-Ansermet ordered police to search and seize documents at a number of important Ticino banks. The magistrate is still refusing to go into detail about what has been found.

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, which apparently came to Switzerland from New York via a German subsidiary of the Russian central bank, was deposited in Sydney and London.

Kasper-Ansermet is focusing his attention on a sum of $1.4 billion which was transferred back to New York from an unnamed bank in Ticino.

A former Bank of New York official, Lucy Edwards, has admitted to United States federal investigators that she helped the Russian mafia to launder money. But despite these advances in the American investigation, Kasper-Ansermet says he has been hampered by a lack of cooperation from the US authorities.

"I am very surprised that the Americans have not sent me any information in reply to my request for legal assistance, which dates from the end of January. I had hoped to get certain information which I still do not have," he told swissinfo last month.

He said he was still waiting for a reply from a similar request sent to the Russia authorities at the start of June. In May, he also asked Russian prosecutors if he could question officials of the Russian central bank.

by Roy Probert

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