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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bankers Defy Report Listing Ruble Culprits

Bankers denounced a new government report Tuesday placing blame on several Russian banks for the ruble's "Black Tuesday" crash last month, saying that the alleged culprits were only acting in their clients' interests.


The report, prepared by a specially appointed state commission and delivered Saturday to the Security Council, names Most Bank, Neftekhimbank, Alpha Bank, International Moscow Bank and Mezhkombank as having profited most from the ruble's 845-point crash on Oct. 11.


It said that they boosted the ruble-dollar rate artificially while creating a situation that threatened national security, according to Itar-Tass.


The Security Council in turn ordered the Central Bank to investigate the banks' activities up to and including the crash, to determine whether or not they had broken the law and should lose their licenses to trade in foreign exchange.


But bankers speaking at a press conference organized by the Association of Russian Banks on Tuesday expressed amazement at the report's accusations, and questioned that they had violated any rules.


"What do we need a market for if the participants are being accused of conspiracy and everything else?" said Sergei Yegorov, chairman of the powerful Association of Russian Banks.


Boris Fyodorov, head of the State Duma subcommittee on banking and finance, issued a statement Tuesday calling the report's findings "laughable" and "similar to the Communist Party wrangling of the stagnation period."


He said that the report failed to make a serious assessment of government economic policy, "which is the main reason for the ruble's plunge," or to recognize that the government had also profited from the ruble's fall.He added that the state commission report was not signed by the majority of its members -- which included top officials from the Federal Counterintelligence Service, the Interior Ministry, the Central Bank, the Finance Ministry and the State Property Committee -- and so could not be considered legally binding.


Most Bank spokeswoman, Tatiana Prilyakova, said that all the banks named disagreed with the report, and denied that Most Bank had acted illegally.


Reading a statement from Most Bank President Vladimir Gusinsky, she said: "The banks working on the currency exchange are fulfilling their clients' instructions."


Banks that trade on the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange are supposed to buy or sell hard currency according to their clients' export and import contracts. Each bank, however, can trade a small percentage of hard currency for profit over and above the trades it makes for clients.


The report to the Security Council also blamed "unprofessional and irresponsible" officials in the Finance Ministry, Economics Ministry and the Central Bank, who it said could have foreseen and avoided the ruble's plunge.


The Central Bank did not ask the Finance or Economics ministries to replenish its hard currency resources, which were seriously depleted after Sept. 20, and thereby gave up its control of the market, the report said.


"The Central Bank and the Finance Ministry carried out such work only after the ruble had plummeted," the report said, adding "the Economics Ministry has of late virtually evaded pursuing an active state policy in hard currency market matters."


Among those officials named as responsible were former Central Bank chairman Viktor Gerashchenko, acting Finance Minister Sergei Dubinin and former Economics Minister Alexander Shokhin, all of whom have since left their jobs.


Others who came in for criticism were First Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Vavilov, the former head of the Federal Service for Foreign Currency and Export Control Viktor Krunya and the director of the Central Bank's international operations department Alexander Potemkin.