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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Geneva Judge Seeks U.S. Aid in IMF Probe

GENEVA — Just days after Swiss law enforcers raided two banks as part of a probe into whether a $4.8 billion IMF credit tranche to Russia was diverted via secret Swiss bank accounts, a leading Swiss magistrate flew to the United States on Tuesday on a mission to further the investigation

Geneva magistrate Laurent Kasper-Ansermet is seeking U.S. cooperation in his probe into possible Swiss links to a money-laundering case involving the Bank of New York.

As part of his investigation, Kasper-Ansermet sent a letter to banks in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino in July asking for information and documents on whether they had handled diverted IMF cash.

During the raids last week at two banks in Ticino, which Kasper-Ansermet declined to name, the judge said he seized bank documents that may help his probe, but didn’t give details.

Kasper-Ansermet, who has already frozen just under $20 million at a dozen Swiss banks as part of his investigation into the Bank of New York affair, said he had some evidence on possible Swiss connections to the multibillion dollar scam.

Switzerland in January formally asked the United States for judicial assistance with its own probe into the Bank of New York case. But Kasper-Ansermet said formal Swiss requests to U.S. investigators to hand over documents had gone unanswered.

"U.S. investigators have not cooperated with us on this case so far. But now our investigation is widening and their cooperation is really necessary. That is why I am going to the United States," said the judge. "I am hoping to obtain a response."

Nikolai Volkov, an investigator from the Prosecutor General’s Office, visited Switzerland last month and asked his agency to investigate whether some of the 1998 IMF loan was diverted through Swiss banks.

But prosecutor’s office spokeswoman Natalya Vishnyakova said Russia has not received an official request from Swiss investigators for help in the probe. She said the Swiss had not yet shared any information.

Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said Tuesday he could not understand why the Swiss were still following the case because checks conducted by the Audit Chamber, the prosecutor general and international auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers had not uncovered any misuse of the funds.

"Everything has been said about this already. And I have no idea who and what can be being investigated now," Kudrin said, Interfax reported.

He said IMF head Horst Koehler had expressed doubts about the necessity of further investigations into the use of the loan in a recent speech.

(Reuters, MT)