In August 1999, a year and four days after Moscow's $40 billion default, the New York Times reported a $15 billion money laundering operation which involved, inter alia, the Bank of New York and Russia's first Representative to the IMF.
The Russian Central Bank invested billions of dollars (through an offshore entity) in the infamous Russian GKO (dollar-denominated bonds) market, thus helping to drive yields to a vertiginous 290%.
Staff members and collaborators of the now dismantled brainchild of Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, HIID (Harvard Institute of International Development) - the architect of Russian "privatization" - were caught in potentially criminal conflicts of interest.
Are we to believe that such gargantuan transgressions have been transformed into new-found market discipline and virtuous dealings?
Putin doesn't. Last year, riding the tidal wave of the fight against terror, he formed the Financial Monitoring Committee (KFM). Ostensibly, its role is to fight money laundering and other financial crimes, aided by brand new laws and a small army of trained and tenacious accountants under the aegis of the Ministry of Finance.
Really, it is intended to circumvent irredeemably compromised extant structures in the Ministry of Interior and the FSB and to stem capital flight (if possible, by reversing the annual hemorrhage of $15-20 billion). Non-cooperative banks may lose their licenses. Banks have been transferring 5 daily Mb of encoded reports regarding suspicious financial dealings (and all transactions above 600,000 rubles - equal to $20,000) since February 1 - when the KFM opened for business. So much for Russian bank secrecy ("Did we really have it?" - mused President Putin a few weeks ago).
Last month, Mikhail Fradkov, the Federal Tax Police Chief confirmed to Interfax the financial sector's continued involvement in bleeding Russia white: "...fly-by-night firms usually play a key role in illegal money transfers abroad. Fradkov recalled that 20 Moscow banks inspected by the tax police alone transferred about $5 billion abroad through such firms." ITAR-TASS, the Russian news agency, reports a drop of 60% in the cash flow of Russian banks since anti-money laundering measures took effect, a fortnight ago.