1 Feb 2019 11:34

Russia's first sentence on 'illegal bankers' given in Irkutsk

IRKUTSK. Feb 1 (Interfax) - The Sverdlovsk District Court in Irkutsk has given suspended sentences and fined three members of the gang of "illegal bankers" that transferred over 100 million rubles abroad, the regional branch of the Russian Interior Ministry said on Friday.

"The accomplices operated in Irkutsk without a license in the period from October 2015 till November 2017 and conducted banking operations, such as cash services, encashment, and transfers of clients' money for a commission via businesses registered to front parties," the branch said.

The police estimated the illegal earnings of the convicts at over 9 million rubles.

"More than 600 million rubles have passed through accounts of illegal companies affiliated to the organized group, and more than 100 million rubles were transferred abroad," it said.

The three men were found guilty of illegal banking and forex operations using falsified documents.

"The Sverdlovsk District Court in Irkutsk upheld the prosecutor's request and gave a five-year suspended sentence and a fine of 500,000 rubles to the organizer of illegal banking activity, and 4.5-year suspended sentences and big fines to each of his accomplices," the branch said.

This is the first sentence given to "illegal bankers" in Russia on counts of conspiring to transfer money abroad, the branch said.

"This is the first time that persons who transferred money abroad have been sentenced under Article 172 of the Russian Criminal Code (illegal banking). This is also the first time in the country that a gang has been convicted of transferring money abroad under Article 193.1 of the Russian Criminal Code (forex operations involving transfer of money to accounts of non-residents using falsified documents)," it said.

The men were detained in December 2017 in the course of a joint operation of the Interior Ministry and the Federal Security Service. Ten searches were simultaneously conducted at their offices and residences. More than 200 bank cards, 60 seals, and 50 cell phones were seized.

"The group had a clear structure and acted in secrecy. Communication between the group head and the operators was conducted solely via messenger services, such as WhatsApp, Viber, and Telegram, and names of contacts were reduced to one letter. The illegal activity was carried on under the disguise of a big accounting company. The money was transferred abroad in U.S. dollars and yuan allegedly in payment for the delivery of equipment, plumbing supplies, and clothes," the branch said.

According to the Irkutsk regional prosecution service, all defendants pleaded guilty, and one of them cooperated with the investigators.