The Moscow court arrested the vice-president of the First Czech-Russian Bank, Dmitry Merkulov. He is accused of stealing more than two billion rubles. Top manager, however, worked there only for 2 weeks, and there is a version that he was just blamed for someone else's crime. On the other hand, the manager's role is not so unambiguous. And the story has a certain special flavor due to the names of Russian businessman Gennady Timchenko and the leader of the French nationalists Marine Le Pen.
All roads lead to a jail
First Czech-Russian Bank was deprived of the license last summer. As the Central Bank said, the credit organization conducted high-risk policy, and the owners and managers did not take adequate measures to save it. The bank's financial hole amounted to 20 billion rubles. The deposits, which fall under the insurance system, were worth $3 billion less. Consequently, it was cheaper to deprive the bank of license, rather than save it, so the regulator acted accordingly. At the end of 2016, the story was continued: at the request of the Central Bank and the DIA, a criminal case was initiated. In January, former vice-president of the bank, Dmitry Merkulov, got the most unpleasant news. He became a suspect in the case of fraud, he was summoned to the Investigative Committee for questioning, and after the court sent the banker under arrest.
According to investigators, Dmitry Merkulov signed contracts for the sale of bank assets. It was the spring of 2016, shortly before it came into FCRB interim administration. The money from these transactions was never seen. So, the regulators decided that there had been a withdrawal of funds amounting more than 2 billion rubles. In other words, a common fraud, theft. This often happens when the bank survives its last days, and someone is trying to bring all that is left until the auditors appear on the crime scene. And usually the signature on such transactions is put by, say, a random person. It may be a hitherto unknown manager who was suddenly promoted to a higher positions. Or a new head, as it was with Merkulov. At first glance, it is a usual situation, when men of straw are used for such operations. But not everything is so simple.
Dmitry Merkulov says that at the time of signing the contract, he had worked in the bank only for 2 weeks, so he had no idea that the operations could be fake. And their transparency was confirmed by top managers and owners of the bank. Everything seems right: how can one understand the problems of a credit institution in two weeks? However, there is reason for doubt. After all, we are talking not about a simple clerk, but a top manager. Such people are usually well aware of what is happening in their industry. But if we assume that the vice president had no insider information, we have no other choice but to believe that the man did not even read the banking news. As reported by the media today, one of the fictitious contracts was signed the day before March 24, 2016, when the interim administration was estabished. But even 10 days before, there were publications that the bank started having problems. What normal person would put a signature on a document, knowing that the pen stroke can cost him several years in prison? However, nobody actually witnessed it.
There is another important point. Before joining the FCRB, the top manager worked in Taurus Bank. It also lost its license a year before the collapse of the First Czech-Russian. From what we can conclude: the top manager has been unlucky for quite some time. He could not find a job, until finally, managed to get into the FCRB. And if you look into the history of the bank, where he worked before, you may notice a significant detail.
As formerly reported the Interior Ministry, the bank is associated with the famous withdrawal of money through Moldova. In just a few years criminals siphoned off from Russia almost $50 billion (for comparison: this is the approximate market value of such companies as Gazprom). Some Russian companies were given fictitious foreign loans, guarantors were some Moldovans, often homeless. Loans were never paid back, Moldovan district courts were activated followed by bailiffs, money came from Russia to their accounts to be quickly transferred to tax havens. And Taurus, where Merkulov also worked as vice president, was a direct participant in the scheme. In general, he could have written of that very interesting and exciting experience in his CV.
Pretty much the same plus Timchenko and Le Pen
By the way, there's anecdotal evidence on the Internet that the First Czech-Russian Bank could also have been involved in the "Moldovan scheme." So, on one of the forums where bank employees often anonymously communicate, a user once wrote about the FCRB: "The Bank is involved in the raider and laundering schemes (Moldavian type laundromat)." Note that the word "laundromat" was used by journalists of Novaya Gazeta for the above mentioned "Moldovan scheme." However, this can only be speculation of the user, and whether to believe it is up to everybody to decide personally.
But there's a fact that the bank in due time was in a center of high-profile publications. This happened after it gave 9 million euros to the French nationalist leader Marine Le Pen, who openly supported Russia over the recent years. Other banks refused her, but the FCRB gave the money. Interestingly, the French National Front never returned the money.
At the same time, journalists noted that this bank has been historically associated with Gennady Timchenko's company Stroytransgaz. No wonder the owner FCRB, Roman Popov, was from this company. In the Czech Republic, the bank was a subsidiary of a credit institution, the European-Russian Bank. And when the bankruptcy of the FCRB started to unfold in Russia, Czech journalists named Roman Popov the representative of the interests of Gennady Timchenko. If it is truly so is, of course, unknown. But there is an official position of Stroytransgaz, which stated that it had nothing to do with the FCRB. Formally, this is true, as the company once sold shares of the credit organization tp Popov. But informally the FCRB has a reputation of the bank with a very strong position. And the amount of assets, earnings and other financial figures are something different. More importantly, the media associated the bank with Gennady Timchenko, who's close to the government. Plus, rumors that the credit was given friendly Le Pen not without Kremlin's mediation. Although we will not exaggerate the importance of these rumors.
Fakir was sober
Moreover, experience has shown that even "the most" supported by even higher-ranked persons, may one day fail. And we can only guess that was the reason. Either they didn't keep an eye on unscrupulous managers who transformed the bank into the laundomat and eventually stole the money (or helped to steal it). Or someone decided to end the game with an organization, which became too visible. Andto avoid excessive speculation and rumors, it came down to ordinary criminality. Here is the suspect, there are the documents on the missing billions. The investigation, the court, the sentence, and the case is closed. Here, it is like with a fakir in a circus: naive viewers watching the pigeons, while the box has been already carved up, and the rabbit safely tucked away.