Russian money-laundering details remain in the dark as US settles fraud case

New York (CNN) A major US investigation into Russian money laundering has come to an abrupt end.

The case aimed to expose how Russian mobsters allegedly stole $230 million and hid some of the cash in New York City real estate. Also sure to come up was the suspicious death of the Russian lawyer who exposed the alleged fraud, though US prosecutors weren't alleging that the defendants were behind it.

 

The trial was set to start on Monday, but late Friday night, federal prosecutors in New York announced they settled the case with Prevezon, the company accused of buying up "high-end commercial space and luxury apartments" with laundered money.

 

The abrupt conclusion has some involved in the trial wondering why this Russian investigation had been cut short.

 

"What most concerns me is: Has there been any political pressure applied in this?" asked Louise Shelley, an illicit finance expert who was set to testify in support of the US government on Tuesday.

 

Shelley — who founded George Mason University's Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center — said the alleged money launderers got off easy.

"I think they won something. There's no recognition of wrongdoing," she said.

 

The US Attorney's office did not respond to CNN's request for comment.

 

In the settlement, Prevezon and its business associates did not acknowledge any wrongdoing, and the government agreed to "release" them all from any future lawsuits in connection with this case.

The case against Prevezon was a civil matter, so the federal government's inherent goal was to recover money. That it did.

 

The $5.9 million settlement is three times the value of the $1.9 million in supposedly laundered money tied to funds stolen from the Russian state coffers. But it's far less than the value of Prevezon's real estate in Manhattan -- which Shelley estimates at $17 million -- that had been partially acquired with those allegedly laundered funds.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/13/world/prevezon-settlement/index.html

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