MOSCOW, February 28 (RIA Novosti) – Russian billionaire environmentalist Gleb Fetisov, who owned a bank that lost its license last month, has been detained in Moscow on suspicion of grand fraud.
Moscow’s Basmanny court authorized Friday the arrest of the former senator for two months following a request by the Investigative Committee.
Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said earlier that Fetisov was suspected of siphoning out more than 6 billion rubles ($1.7 billion) from Moi Bank’s coffers and failing to pay off insurance compensation to clients following the bank’s closure.
A criminal investigation has been launched against Fetisov, who was listed as Russia’s 55th wealthiest businessmen in a Forbes rich list last year, and his suspected accomplices in connection with the alleged large-scale embezzlement, the spokesman said.
Markin added that investigators were looking into Fetisov’s possible involvement in similar criminal activities.
Fetisov, whose assets are believed to stand at $1.9 billion, sold Moi Bank (My Bank) in December to a group of individuals reportedly close to the lender’s chairman, Mikhail Miriskom. The sale, for an undisclosed price, took place nearly two months before the bank was stripped of its license.
Forbes magazine said, citing bankers, that Fetisov sold the bank for just 1 ruble ($0.03). A person close to the billionaire later denied the report.
A fraud investigation was launched upon request of Russia’s Central Bank to examine the activity of Fetisov and other former management at Moi Bank.
The request mentioned loan agreements that the bank had signed over the past three years with apparent dummy companies, as well as potentially irretrievable investments in assets and securities, Izvestia reported, citing sources in the Investigative Committee.
Fetisov, who is the chairman of the Green Alliance People’s Party, said earlier this month that he was considering suing the bank he formerly owned. His office said the collapse of Moi Bank has cost him more than 2 billion rubles ($57 million).
The billionaire dismissed fraud accusations against him, citing the positive results of checks launched by the Central Bank before the sale of Moi Bank to the new owners, whom he blamed for the bank collapse.
Central Bank Deputy Chairman Mikhail Sukhov has said Moi Bank’s problems were present long before Fetisov exited its owning structure.
In January, Moi Bank, which had about 9.6 billion rubles’ worth ($276 million) of retail deposits, forbade the withdrawal of money or the opening of new accounts.
Finance officials said 90 percent of the lender’s assets had been siphoned out.
Dozens of Russian banks have lost their licenses in recent months as the regulator seeks to tighten oversight of the country’s lenders and rein in shadow banking activity.
Updates with court’s ruling to arrest Fetisov for two months and minor rewrites