Investigators link Colonel Zakharchenko case with Moldovan money-laundering scheme 

Investigators link Colonel Zakharchenko case with Moldovan money-laundering scheme
Dmitry Zakharchenko

According to the investigators, the billionaire colonel could have been covering up for the 1520 Group beneficiaries when they siphoned off $250 million through the Moldovan Laundromat.

The ICR is investigating the involvement of billionaire colonel Dmitry Zakharchenko in the siphoning off of money from Russia through the “Moldovan Laundromat,” RBC reports citing three sources close to the investigation. The former co-owners of the Russian Railways contractor, 1520 Group, siphoned off more than $ 250 million from Russia to Moldovan banks and then to Switzerland.

The Moldovan businessman and politician Renato Usatii is suspected of involvement in the scheme and is currently named as witness in the case. The investigators believe that he “worked on the operation in the interests of the 1520 Group beneficiaries”.

The 1520 beneficiaries are accused of paying bribes to Zakharchenko in the amount of at least 2 billion rubles ($30.900.000). According to investigators, the former colonel of the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ Economic Security and Anti-Corruption Department was effectively the security service leader at the group. In October 2018, 1520 ex-co-owner, Valery Markelov, was detained, and another co-owner, Boris Usherovich, was arrested in absentia in March. The co-owners of the company, which designed and built railways, withdrew money from Russia to Moldova.

The CrimeRussia sources reported that Usatii worked closely with the 1520 co-owners.

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Here is what the money-laundering scheme looked like: a false debt of Russian companies to counterparties in Moldova was made in Moldovan courts, so the bailiff service ensured the debt recovery. The money came primarily to the accounts of Moldindconbank S.A. associated with Plahotniuc and businessman Vyacheslav Platon, after which it was transferred to accounts in Swiss banks.

An RBC interlocutor familiar with the investigation noted that Andrei Krapivin (died in 2015), the adviser to the former Russian Railways head Vladimir Yakunin, was one of the largest beneficiaries of the schemes. His son Aleksey Krapivin is the main beneficiary and the head of 1520. According to the sources of the publication, a total of $ 99.3 million and $ 155.9 million has been transferred to the Swiss accounts of Krapivin’s companies, Redstone Financial Ltd and Telford Trading S.A. The companies were registered in Belize and Panama respectively.

Another source close to the investigation confirmed that Usatii and Krapivin were being checked for the involvement in the money-laundering scheme. Zakharchenko oversaw 1520’s activities. “All the affairs on the site that served as a subcontractor for cashing out the funds were falling apart,” the source said.

The investigators began working on Markelov, Usherovich and Usatii in connection with the Zakharchenko case in 2018, the source said, noting that during Markelov’s arrest in the fall of 2018, Usatii was nearby. His house was searched in November 2018.

In 2016, the Moldovan authorities opened a criminal case against Usatii, after which he left for Moscow. After Markelov’s arrest, he left for Germany allegedly to undergo some treatment, and then moved on to Romania, saying that Moldovan President Igor Dodon was persecuting him. He returned to the country in June. Parliamentary elections will be held in Moldova in October and Usatii’s party will be running.

In June, the Investigative Department of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs charged Vladimir Plahotniuc in absentia with leading a criminal community and participating therein (part 1.2 of Art. 210 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). Plahotniuc was also charged with 28 counts of drug smuggling and drug trafficking on an especially large scale. He faces life imprisonment. In August, the Tverskoy court of Moscow authorized the absentee arrest of Vyacheslav Platon in the Plahotniuc case on the withdrawal of more than 37 billion rubles ($570.000.000) from Russia.

Dmitry Zakharchenko was sentenced to 13 years in prison and a 117-million-ruble fine ($1,800,000) in the case of bribery and obstruction of justice in June. On October 15, the Moscow City Court went back to considering the appeal of the former colonel against the verdict.

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