понедельник, 26 августа 2013 г.

MDM Bank: theft is legal

A recent ruling by St. Petersburg City Court undermines one of the major tenets of the market economy in the country, that is, citizens' confidence in the banking system. In Russia the fate of any multi-million dollar bank account now depends on the mood of clerks with a salary of $ 700. Judicial system and MDM Bank seam to tolerate careless and untrammelled dispose of fortunes, entrusted to the bank.

No clerical mistake
When after the New Year holidays on 11 January 2011  Tamara Kostomarova, CEO at TVK legal consulting company in St. Petersburg, logged on to the online service system of MDM bank, she saw that her money was gone from her account. Or, to be more precise, she saw that not only the money but the whole account was gone, as if she never had one.
She could not believe her eyes. She then thought it was an internal clerical mistake in the system and called the bank to find out when their IT people would fix the problem.
Talking to the clerks made it even worse. Tamara Kostomarova was told that her account was closed by her trustee. The woman was shocked. That account had over 11 million rubles meant for paying for surgery in a French hospital for her diseased son.
She contacted a man with a very influential position in this major credit institution, Konstantin Khaitovich, head of St. Petersburg branch in MDM bank. She wrote an eloquent and detailed claim, which ended as follows:
«When I contacted bank employees, I learnt that my deposit account was closed… on proxy I never gave to anyone. I am therefore asking you to take relevant measures to return my money and to clarify the situation…»
We cannot be sure as to the measures taken by MDM bank staff and their ST. Petersburg branch head, but Tamara Kostomarova developed an opinion that claims and negotiations are worth nothing in this situation. So, she had no choice but to take the bank to court. In June 2011 she filed a lawsuit to Vyborgsky district court of St. Petersburg in charge of the district she lives in.
Claims Tamara Kostomarova put forward were quite impressive: she demanded to recover the deposited amount with interest as of the moment of filing the lawsuit amounting to  11 863 627 rubles, a fine of 11 863 627 rubles, losses amounting to 1 000 000 and punitive damage worth 300 000 rubles. In total, her financial claims to MDM Bank reached 25 027 255 rubles, which anyone would call just as the bank must never treat their clients with such utter disregard.

«Bank statement certifying withdrawal of money from Tamara Kostomarova's account by the con artists»

So what exactly was it that happened in MDM bank in January 2011 causing Tamara Kostomarova to lose such a significant amount of money?

All at once
On 6 January 2011 a man walked into Kamennoostrovsky office of MDM bank. According to the passport he presented to the bank employees, his name was Mikhail Aleksandrovich Kobyakov. The man also had a proxy letter that gave him the right to manage deposit agreement and the attached account safeguarding some 11 359 316 rubles with interest that was property of Tamara Kostomarova.

«Proxy letter issued to fraudster Kobyakov»

Pseudo-Kobyakov (later it turned out the passport was forged) tried to withdraw all the money but failed due to operational reasons. Kamennoostrovsky office of the branch simply did not have that much money in cash. The man only managed to take out 2 000 000 rubles. The rest of the money he transferred to Tamara's checking account and closed the one with the deposit.
One little nuance: the agreement between the bank and Tamara Kostomarova stipulates that «Withdrawal orders of the client received by the bank are carried out on the next working day».

«Contract between Tamara Kostomarova and MDM Bank»

Why in this case did the bank employees give such an amount to a person acting on a strangle-looking proxy letter? Its ambiguity was striking and stood out like a sore thumb: signature on the letter allegedly signed by Tamara Kostomarova was not at all like her signature that any bank employee could easily see on the deposit agreement she had signed with the bank. Why did the clerk who handed the 2 million rubles to the criminal neglected such a fact?
Moreover, the agreement was terminated prematurely, causing loss of interest amounting to about a million rubles or about 30 thousand dollars. This as well did not strike anyone as suspicious!
No doubt, bank employees must be held liable for all the above mentioned irregularities, liable to law enforcers, not to journalists.
On 11 January 2013 Kamennoostrovsky MDM office saw another visitor, a man who presented a passport issued on the name of Pavel Vyacheslavovich Krylov and another proxy letter empowering the man to manage Tamara Kostomarova's checking account, the one where on 6 January the remaining 9 359 316 rubles from her bank deposit were transferred by the fraudulent proxy holder due to the lack of cash in the office that day.

«Proxy letter issued to fraudster Krylov»

Later it turned out that this new passport was also a forged document, so as the proxy letter. Meanwhile, the signature on the second proxy letter was a different one, still not matching the woman's signature on the agreement with the bank.

«Register if notary public Ashkalunina confirming the act of issuance of the fraudulent proxy letter to fraudster Krylov»

«Register if notary public Chistyakova confirming the act of issuance of the fraudulent proxy letter to fraudster Kobyakov»

Apart from that, scanned copies of the documents show that even the signatures of Krylov differ from one another: the one in his passport does not match the one on the bank order. It is obvious that the one on the bank order is a forged one. According to the banking rules, the cashier must check the signatures on the order and in the passport, but this was not done.

«Passport presented by fraudster Krylov»

«Bank order for the cash to be given to Krylov»

Yet, MDM clerks could care less about this fact and they boldly gave the 9 359 316 rubles in cash to the fake Krylov.
In both cases MDM bank employees violated paragraph 2.4.2 of the agreement the bank had signed with Tamara Kostomarova which reads as follows: «The client has the right to empower a third party to manage the checking account by proxy. Proxy letter must come with a supplement of a card containing specimen signature of the entrusted person…» In fact, the bank employees could have at least called the client to make sure if she had had the proxy letters issued to Krylov and Kobyakov to manage such a sensitive amount of money. For some reason they neglected to do even this little thing, and we believe that law enforcement agencies must look into this part of the incident as well.
In fact, this outrageous situation make the Russian realities transparent and shows that cashiers and clerk who earn some 15-20 thousand rubles a month can easily do whatever they want with loads of money with no consequences.
A further twist to this story is that both proxy letters had on them correct information on Tamara Kostomarova passport details. This means that notary public was visited by a woman with a fake passport manufactured especially for this particular case. Usually criminals put personal info they need to use as IDs in passports with random numbers. The tricksters also knew the account numbers; information that is very hard to get except cases when the bank is involved.
Later during litigations witnesses at the notary public testified that indeed a woman came to them and presented a passport with Tamara Kostomarova's personal information in it, but the woman looked nothing like the real Tamara present in court that day. Neither mistakes in family names spelling, nor mistakes in the very name of the entrusting person (they spelled Tomara instead of Tamara)  looked suspicious to the notaries. Moreover, in the framework of proceedings initiated after Tamara Kostomarova filed her lawsuit, investigators at Vyborgsky district court of St. Petersburg questioned notary public Krasnova on 28 March 2012. She claims that the way clients sign their name is no concern of hers and the clients «can draw a castle or a bat» for a signature, if they please. And even this would not make the notary concerned and doubtful.
Following the principle of «know your heroes» so to say, we publicise the names of notaries who registered proxy letters involved in this story. The two people involved are Snezhana Praulova, acting notary temporarily replacing Elena Chistyakova, and Natalia Krasnova, acting notary temporarily replacing Olga Ashkaulina. In fact, both Snezhana Praulova and Natalia Krasnova supported MDM bank in litigations between MDM bank and Tamara Kostomarova.
However, the notaries, bank staff and the criminals who received the money belonging to Tamara Kostomarova faced no charges. Investigation proceedings initiated over the criminal activity was quickly terminated due to the failure of St. Petersburg police to point out the people who should be held liable.

Tomas Gordon, especially for Rumafia.com

вторник, 13 ноября 2012 г.

No-owner bank


The People’s Bank of the Republic of Tuva announced last Tuesday the board’s decision to issue new shares, Kommersant daily reports. The bank has only 2 weeks to outline and implement recapitalization plan that implies raising the bank’s authorized stock from 97 million roubles ($ 3.1 million) to 180 million roubles ($ 5.7 million) by 1 January 2012. Taking into consideration the time that the recapitalization usually takes, that is 3-6 months, it is likely that the bank, in the past owned by former Tuva representative in the RF parliament Sergei Pugachev, will lose its operating license.

The bank’s shareholders have not yet agreed on the recapitalization terms. “The sides agreed that the recapitalization should be implemented by the side which is on the shareholders’ register [at the moment of recapitalization]”, said a source close to the bank.

The bank has been in the center of the conflict of interests ever since previous controlling shareholders sold their stake.

One of the bank’s shareholders - government of Tuva, a Russia’s region on the boarder with Mongolia - said it had no plans to sell their shares. “We do not even consider selling our shares,” said local state property minister Orlan Dugur-Syuryun. “We want to get control of the bank”. He added that the ministry would file a lawsuit against a firm called Tsentr Realizatsii that hold e-auction for a controlling stake in the bank and would seek reauctioning of the bank.

The analysts say it is very unlikely that the sides will reach an agreement until the New Year, which means the bank will lose the license. A corporate conflict that hinders additional issue of shares is a rare case for Russian banking system. State participation in the bank’s capital worsens the situation, the experts say. “It is easier for private shareholders to agree on the recapitalization. For them it is important to not lose the bank, while the state will never buy additional shares for unprofitable price,” says Evgeny Trusov, head of bank consulting and buying and selling banks department in NEO Tsentr advisory firm. 


Nemtsov apologizes, asks for probe into his phone taps


Marginal opposition group PARNAS flamboyant leader Boris Nemtsov was embroiled in a scandal yesterday after a Russian on-line outlet published his private telephone conversations.

Nemtov has apologized for offensive remarks and profanity today. “I apologize to Zhenya Chirikova, Bozhena Rynska and all those who were affected or insulted in my private telephone conversations. I think, what I did was wrong. One has to hold back emotions and mind every word even when talking with relatives and friends over the phone,” he wrote in his blog.

He also promised to take the case to court, asking Russia’s Investigative Committee to probe into the phone-hacking scandal.

The Life News internet publication, famous for delivering scoops, published the the PARNAS leader’s telephone calls, presumably made in advance to the 10 December rally. Nemtsov derided his supporters saying they were “chemical internet types” and labeled fragmentized opposition leaders “scoundrels”, “bitches” and “prostitutes”.

The publication of Nemtsov’s talks got backlash among Russian pro-liberal bloggers - they condemned phone hacking. In fact, they were even more indignant at the fact of Nemtsov’s telephone having been hacked than at what he really said.

“Methods are sometimes more compromising than the result reached”, twitted Evgeniya Chirikova, leader of For the Khimki Forest movement.

Pro-liberal Ekho Moskvi radio station editor-in-chief Aleksei Venediktov said that the publication of Nemtsov’s telephone talks would attract more people to the 24 December rally. “I think, more people will come, because everyone can put himself in Boris Nemtsov’s shoes and understand that their phone could be tapped and leaked to the media. Everyone feels humiliated by this violation of Constitution,” said Venediktov.


Navalny on the loose


Famous blogger Aleksei Navalny was released from jail last night after a court sentenced him to 15 days in prison for obstructing police at the 4 December protest march, which was held without advanced notification of Moscow police.

Before Navalny left jail the only available information about his release had been its exact time - 2.30 a.m. Russian parliament MP Ilya Ponomarev whose status stipulates free access to any police station began searching for Navalny. He founded Navalny in Maryinsky Park police station. An hour before Ponomarev arrived in his car, Mrs Navalnaya had been told at the same station that her husband had been to a different place. By half past two, a few people gathered outside the station. On the door there was a sign: “Wait! You will be invited!” Navalny, accompanied by Ponomarev, came out at quarter to three. He asked photographers to let him first greet his wife, saying that a family reunion photo would be very romantic. But no one yielded to a point, and Navalny began to speak. His words contained nothing new and were laced with his famous “crooks and thieves” catch phrase.

“We got into jail in one country, 15 days after we get out in another country,” he said. Deprived of reliable information, Navalny looked as if he were afraid to say something in a wrong way. He made it clear that he saw the situation change in the country.

“Putin will not be legitimate president,” the blogger and anti-corruption whistle-blower said.

“It would be illegitimate act of succession to the throne. One crook hand over power to the other crook. Free presidential election is among our claims. In those elections lots of people will take part, me possibly”.

Navalny said nothing else about his plans for political future. 

“To avoid provocations”, Ponomarev undertook to see Navalny home.

On Wednesday, leader of minor opposition group Ilya Yashin has left the jail where he served the same term for the same offenses. Rumafia.com reported, that he refused to have a crime prevention talk.


Kremlin HR body wants court to acquit Khodorkovsky


Presidential council on human rights and civil society development has published a report, containing analysis of the second case of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev.

Tamara Morshchakova, former judge of the RF Constitutional Court and a member of the panel, told local media, that in experts’ view Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev’s verdict was a “mistake”. Morshchakova added that the council had studied only court documents: text of the verdict, typescript of the hearings and other publicly available documents.

The experts arrived at the conclusion, she said, that former Yukos CEOs had been “punished for carrying out legal activities”: vertical integration of the company with centralized management, agreements to transfer assets from one subsidiary to another, and general agreements. According to the founding of criminal law experts, the RF Criminal Code and Russian criminal procedural law does not contain legal provision to “consider them criminals”. The verdict, the experts believe, violates Russian Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights.

The council urged the Prosecutor General to conduct a retrial, and recommended Russia’s Investigative Committee’s reinvestigating the case, “given newly obtained evidence”.

Rumafia.com reported earlier, that the council in July had called for general amnesty for economic crimes. The council also called for “liquidation of negative consequences of the similar cases”. It recommended that the jury trial should be applied if a defendant wants it. Another recommendation was to forbid the police to open criminal investigation without written request from an aggrieved party, and to change the procedure of submitting appeals for pardon or suspended sentences.     



Russia insists on Bout’s return


The Southern District Court of New York denied Viktor Bout's motion to overturn the guilty verdict, passed by a jury in November. Lawyers for Bout claimed that a juror had been tainted by the Hollywood film Lord of War, depicting Bout as an anti-hero and illegal arms dealer.

  It seemed lawyers were not disappointed with the first motion denial. They filed another motion, asking judge to set aside all or part of the conviction on the grounds that the indictment against Bout was poorly prepared.

 The indictment says that Bout “conspired to kill US citizens”. Lawyers for Bout argue that the word “to kill” is inappropriate, because it does not imply “deliberate action”. What the jury in Bout’s trial deliberated on was Bout’s alleged deliberate murder, whereas the indictment contains different charges. Lawyers argue that the court sentenced Bout for charges that the jury had not, in fact, considered.

Another count of indictment is “conspiracy to kill US military personnel and officials”. The defence claim that the US citizens fighting on the side of the Colombian government against Farc are not necessarily US military personnel. It is not clear whether helicopters and other equipment used by US citizens in Colombia is a part of US armed forces. “US armed forces in Colombia de facto and probably de jure are Colombian armed forces”. “Viktor Bout’s trial serves Colombian military interest, not the interests of the US,” lawyers claim.

 Russian side has already hinted that Moscow would not wait until the end of the debate in court. Konstantin Dolgov, Russia'a foreign ministry plenipotentiary on human rights issues, said Monday that Moscow would seek Viktor Bout's return to Russia in the nearest future. Kommersant daily quotes an unnamed source in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as saying that the preparatory work had already began. Russia has confirmed that the country considers asking US authorities to transfer Bout to Russia where he will serve the sentence. Such possibility is stipulated by the 1983 European Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons.

Rumafia.com expects Russian authorities to file a transfer request after the judge will pronounce Bout's sentence on the 8 February 2012. Bout may faces a prison term from 25 years to life imprisonment.


Deripaska is again ready to leave entire city without work


Oleg Deripaska is embroiled in the scandal over the bankruptcy of Bogoslovskiy Aluminium Plant (BAZ), which is a part of his RusAl Group. The plant is the only company of the city of Krasnoturynsk, Sverdlovsk Region. It employs about 3,500 people, almost all labour force of the city.

As of the first half of 2011, BAZ incurred losses of 180 million roubles ($2.9 million). BAZ officials allege that the losses were due to high prices of electricity.

Deripaska’s decision is to close down the unprofitable enterprise. In April 2011, for the same reason Deripaska shut down Zaporozhsky Aluminium Plant, offering workers to move to any of RusAl plants, say, in Siberia.

BAZ plans to stop producing alumina bricks and dismiss half of its employees. The situation, surrounding BAZ, resembles that of the city of Pikalevo, Leningrad Region, back in 2009, when prime minister Vladimir Putin intervened to prevent closure of a main plant in so called one-company city.

With aluminium prices going down, Deripaska loses millions of dollars every year. It was rumoured that RusAl had already approached its key creditors asking to restructure the company’s debt. The company asked for postponing the due dates for interests on loans until 2012. At first RusAl denied allegations. Later on in a statement the company said that “it began negotiations with Russian and foreign creditors on the issue of changing credit agreements in accordance with the current market situation”.

The company will cut expenses by redundancies and lowering administrative costs. The analysts say that the company may pay dividends this year, the first time since 2009. According to the shareholders’ agreement, the company has policy of paying dividend at a rate of no less than 50% of net profit after tax.

Novye Izvestiya