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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Prosecutors Question Ex-Central Banker

Sergei Dubinin was called into the Prosecutor General's Office on Monday to answer questions relating to the alleged misappropriation of 300 tons of silver he may have signed off on while chairman of the Central Bank in 1996.

The prosecutor's office announced Friday that they had opened a criminal case to investigate the sale of 300 tons of silver which had been allocated to the State Investment Corporation, or Gosinkor, as a non-saleable charter capital.

Guta Bank bought the silver on behalf of the Central Bank for a price of 256.3 billion rubles ($50 million at the 1996 exchange rate), while the prosecutor's office believes the market value was 276.9 billion rubles, Vedomosti reported. Guta Bank received a 2.5 billion ruble commission on the sale.

"It is not fun to communicate with the prosecutors office again," business daily Vedomosti quoted Dubinin as saying. "But if the documents have my signature, I will try to explain."

Dubinin, now a board member at United Energy Systems, said he did not remember the particular deal and wasn't sure who signed it, because both he and his first deputy Arnold Voilukov, who is still at the Central Bank, were authorized to sign such deals.

Former Gosinkor head Yury Petrov and his son Alexander Petrov, head of Guta Bank, were also summoned to the prosecutor's office, Interfax reported. Guta Bank denied the report.

No one has yet been formally charged with any wrongdoing.

Vasily Borisov, spokesman for Guta Bank, the 18th biggest Russian bank as of Jan. 1, said the silver was not misappropriated, but simply sold to the Central Bank.

He added that the silver was sold at the price then quoted on the London metals exchange.

Gosinkor was founded 10 years ago with $1.25 billion worth of precious stones, metals, real estate and cash as a guarantee fund.

Borisov said Gosinkor sold the silver to raise cash for just this purpose, to be used as collateral for a particular investment.

"The Central Bank is the only organization in Russia that was authorized to get the silver, and we brokered the deal because we had a license to deal with precious metals," Borisov said. "We received 1 percent of the deal, which is a normal practice. No one could say that our bank got the silver unless someone wants to frame us up." He refused to speculate on who might have triggered the investigation.

Dubinin said Central Bank regulations allowed it to buy precious metals only from the Finance Ministry and commercial banks, and thus could buy silver from Gosinkor only through a broker such as Guta Bank.

The Property Ministry, which supervised Gosinkor's activities over the decade, would not comment on the silver sale.

"There is no point in commenting on the case because the liquidation commission's work is in full swing and you should wait until it is completed," said Vadim Artyukhov, head of the ministry's liquidation commission, according to ministry spokesman Alexei Parshukov.