Lack of Staff to Fight Money Launderers

BloombergThe country's money-laundering watchdog needs to fill vacancies, U.S. and European experts said in a recent report.
The government's money-laundering watchdog must fill a gaping hole in its ranks, U.S. and European experts said in a report released Wednesday, suggesting that the service's oversight might not be tight enough.

"The number of ... vacancies at Rosfinmonitoring is somewhat high, and all vacancies should be filled as a priority matter," the report said, referring to the Federal Financial Monitoring Service.

The Third Round Evaluation Report on Russia -- compiled by experts from the Council of Europe, the Financial Action Task Force and Eurasian Group -- examined the country's progress on fighting money laundering and the financing of terrorism. The group interviewed bankers, casino representatives and government officials, including First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov, who led the watchdog until last year.

A source at the monitoring service said vacancies had not affected its operations because they are in supporting departments. "These aren't the people who work with information," the source said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

The service's web site has listed just five vacancies since April, excluding those for a cleaning lady and a plumber. Notwithstanding this, calls to the service's hotline for tips on the financing of terrorism went unanswered Wednesday.

If the group's recommendations were followed, the country's bureaucracy could grow substantially. It said the Federal Customs Service should increase hiring to help deter illegal cross-border currency movements. Calls to the customs service's headquarters also went unanswered Wednesday.

The report also recommended "substantially" expanding staff at the Federal Service for Financial Markets, the Federal Insurance Supervision Service and the Federal Communications Agency.

Other recommended measures include preventing criminals from owning large stakes in banks and other financial institutions. The report said holders with a stake of 10 percent or more should be subject to checks, instead of the current 20 percent. Russia should also criminalize insider trading and market manipulation, the report said.