Author of RICO Sees Use in Russia

The author of a U.S. anti-racketeering law told a Moscow judge Monday that Russian courts have the right to hear a lawsuit seeking $22.5 billion from Bank of New York Mellon, the world's biggest custodian of financial assets.

G. Robert Blakely, the law professor who drafted the U.S. Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, said the suit could be tried in the Moscow Arbitration Court as long as Russian customs authorities do not use the law to seek criminal penalties. The case stems from claims that the bank failed to stop a money-laundering scheme in the 1990s.

"They're not asking for criminal sanctions," Blakely, a professor at the University of Notre Dame, told the court. "If they were asking for criminal sanctions, they couldn't get them."

BoNY spokesman Kevin Heine said the claim was "invalid under U.S. and Russian law." Blakely has said in the past that foreign application of RICO was not appropriate, Heine said.