Russia dismisses report of Putin ally in US money-laundering probe
Russia on Thursday dismissed a report saying US authorities are investigating a member of President Vladimir Putin's inner circle for money-laundering.
In a politically thorny tightening of screws on Putin's billionaire allies, the US Justice Department and New York state prosecutors are looking into whether Gennady Timchenko transferred funds linked to allegedly corrupt deals in Russia through the US financial system, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing a number of unnamed people familiar with the case.
"The prosecutors are probing transactions in which the Geneva-based commodities firm Mr.
Timchenko founded, Gunvor Group, purchased oil from Russia's OAO Rosneft and later sold it to third parties," the report said.
"Investigators have in recent months requested information about the prices Gunvor charged," it added.
While the transactions took place before the US imposed sanctions over Russia's action in Ukraine, the fund transfers could be money laundering if they originated in irregular sales of state assets including oil, the report said.
Timchenko's holding company Volga Group on Thursday dismissed the report.
"Unfortunately, or fortunately, the material alleged in the Wall Street Journal does not contain any concrete evidence to support any of the charges and is merely an act of provocation," a spokesman said in a statement.
The spokesman said Timchenko was not aware of the alleged investigation.
"He has received no formal notification about its existence," he said.
"The business activities of Gennady Timchenko have always been conducted in strict compliance with the law," the statement said, adding that the businessman has not been affiliated with Gunvor since March.
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov for his part said he did not know whether the information in the report was reliable.
"We simply do not know whether this is true or not," Russian news agencies quoted Peskov as saying.
He suggested that the report was ultimately aimed at undermining the Russian strongman.
Timchenko was among the first Russian business heavyweights the United States hit with sanctions after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March and subsequently supported separatists in the east of the ex-Soviet country.
Over 4,000 people -- most of them civilians -- have been killed in the conflict in eastern Ukraine since April, according to the United Nations.
© 2014 AFP