According to the transparency group Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, the “laundromat” was the largest money-laundering scheme, according to OCCRP, uncovered in post-Soviet Russia. The scheme involved 19 Russian banks, a bank in Moldova and another bank in Latvia. The perpetrators of the fraud created fake loans and contracts, and over three years more than $20 billion was sent from Russia to Moldova and finally to Latvia. The laundromat system utilized corrupt Moldovan judges to legitimize the transfers. The Moldovan authorities are currently “investigating” the possible role of the judges in the plot.
Igor Putin and Alexander Grigoriev at the center of the laundromat web
It turns out the Russian Land Bank was a key player in this huge fraud. A Moldovan law enforcement report obtained by OCCRP shows that the Moscow-based bank sent 152.5 billion rubles, around $5 billion, to the Moldovan bank Moldindconbank between 2012 and 2014.
The Moldovan report on the money-laundering schemer notes Moldinconbank received most of the funds from Russian banks and then sen the cash through the Latvian-based Trasta Komercbanka, and from there to Europe.
The Russian land Bank was owned by Elena Baturina, the wife of the politically powerful former mayor of Moscow, Yury Luzhkov until 2011. However, Luzhkov got on the wrong side of Putin in 2010 and was removed. New shareholders, led by Alexander Grigoriev, a 43-year-old St. Petersburg businessman, bought out Baturina in 2011.
Moldovan authorities say it was shortly after the change of board and shareholders that the Russian bank opened correspondent accounts in Moldindconbank and began the series of suspicious transactions.
Of note, the new shareholders were actually half a dozen Cyprus companies. One of the companies was owned by Grigoriev, who became the chairman of the bank board.
The investigators point out that Grigoriev brought his own team of managers when he came on board, including Igor Putin, the president’s cousin, who served on the Russian Land Bank board until 2014.
Laundromat: Statement from Grigoriev
OCCRP had great difficulty tracking down Grigoriev. His employees in a firm he owns in Montenegro, where he is building a luxury resort, claimed to not know him. Former business partners in Russia commented that Grigoriev had left the country.
Grigoriev’s background is murky, although it is known that he was once the vice-president of the Moscow boxing federation. Well-placed Russian sources told OCCRP that Grigoriev has connections with the FSB, but the Federal Security Service told OCCRP that he had never worked there.
OCCRP reporters eventually managed to speak with Grigoriev by phone. “I came to the banking business a couple of years ago,” he said. “The construction company SU-888, where I am a shareholder, participated in many public tenders and we had to ask banks for their guarantees. Besides…we took loans.”
He added: “When Elena Baturina started to sell her assets, we received an offer to buy a share in the Russian Land Bank. We decided that a bank and a construction company could combine well. And we bought a minority share.”
Grigoriev would only explain his departure from the bank in general terms. “In the end I came to a disagreement with other shareholders regarding the future of the bank and in May 2013 decided to quit this business.”