U.S. Lawyer Says BoNY Case Baseless

Former U.S. Attorney General Richard Thornburgh has advised a Russian court to dismiss a $22.5 billion lawsuit that the Bank of New York Mellon is facing in Moscow.

Since last May, the Russian government has been seeking compensation after a former vice president at the bank, Lucy Edwards, helped launder more than $7 billion from Russia in the late 1990s through Bank of New York accounts and dummy companies.

Reviving the decade-old case, lawyers for the Federal Customs Service have based their claim on a U.S. law known as RICO, which was passed in 1970 to combat the mafia.

Thornburgh, known for fighting organized and white-collar crime in the Justice Department under five U.S. presidents, confirmed on Thursday that he had told the Russian court that its use of the law was invalid.

"There is no basis on which to conclude that Congress intended to vest in foreign courts power to entertain suits for damages under RICO," he said in the 24-page witness statement. "Accordingly, Russian courts may not adjudicate a RICO claim."

Steven Marks, who helped design the case for the customs service, rejected Thornburgh's comments Thursday.

"His conclusions are not based upon direct legal precedence and are contrary to any logical interpretation of the relevant statutes," Marks said.

Edwards and her husband, Peter Berlin pled guilty to involvement in the money-laundering ring.