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Charges In Russian Money Scheme

Updated:
NEW YORK (AP) -- Federal prosecutors have charged three people
and three firms with illegally moving $7 billion from Russia
through the Bank of New York, the first charges in what could be
one of the largest money laundering cases in U.S. history.
U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White said more charges were expected, and
the worldwide investigation was likely to be a long one. The case
has raised the question of whether Russian businesses, individuals
and organized crime groups used the nation's 15th largest bank to
launder billions of dollars.
An indictment unsealed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in
Manhattan charges Peter Berlin, 44, Lucy Edwards, 41, and Aleksey
Volkov, 34.
It also names Benex International Co. Inc., Becs International
L.L.C. and Torfinex Corp. The Bank of New York, which is
cooperating in the probe, was not charged.
Berlin was the president of both Benex and Becs and was married
to Ms. Edwards, a former vice president at the Bank of New York and
also an officer of Benex and Becs, prosecutors said.
Volkov was the president of Torfinex, which allegedly handled
the illegal money transfers.
Barry Kingham, a lawyer for Berlin and Ms. Edwards, said the
couple will "appear in whatever court they're required to appear
in." He declined further comment. His clients are living in
London.
Prosecutors said they suspect Volkov is also out of the country.
His attorney, Michael Davies, said in today's New York Times that
Volkov denies "any wrongdoing." He would not disclose Volkov's
whereabouts.
Lewis Schiliro, an FBI assistant director in charge of the New
York office, said the agency is trying to determine the origin of
the funds and trace the path of transactions through accounts at
the Bank of New York.
"As this investigation has progressed, cooperation from the
Russian authorities has been forthcoming and has been helpful," he
said.
The indictment does not contain any charges of money laundering.
But it says the defendants conspired from 1996 to August 1999 to
illegally transmit funds and receive deposits through Benex and
Becs accounts at the bank.
The defendants were charged because they allegedly engaged in an
illegal banking operation by receiving deposits without obtaining
authorization from any federal or state banking agency, according
to prosecutors.
The indictment also seeks the forfeiture of bank and brokerage
accounts, including the Benex and Becs accounts as well as accounts
held by Torfinex at the Bank of New York.
The indictment alleged that the defendants continued to send
money illegally through the Benex and Becs accounts even after
Torfinex was ordered to stop by the New York State Department of
Banking in October 1997.
If convicted of all the charges against them, Berlin and Volkov
could face up to 15 years in prison and a fine of $175,000 or twice
the gain or loss resulting from the crime.
If convicted of the lone conspiracy charge against her, Ms.
Edwards would face up to five years behind bars and a fine of
$250,000.
Ms. Edwards was dismissed last month for gross misconduct,
violation of the bank's internal policies, falsification of bank
records and failure to cooperate with the bank's investigation. She
has denied any wrongdoing.
If convicted, the corporate defendants could face maximum fines
of $1.5 million and the forfeiture of accounts that collectively
hold about $6.2 million.
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