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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Crime Group Suspected of Laundering $2.4Bln Busted

Authorities have arrested members of an organized crime group suspected of laundering more than $2.4 billion through dozens of fly-by-night companies, city police said Tuesday.

The head of one of the shell firms, Fyodor Pilipenko, was arrested and convicted of bribery after offering 1 million rubles ($40,000) to police to drop the case, according to a statement issued by city police. Pilipenko was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison, the statement said, though it did not say when he was arrested or convicted.

The companies were created especially to launder money from people seeking to avoid paying taxes, police said. The companies would siphon the money into those individuals' bank accounts, from which they would withdraw the laundered cash.

"Dozens of companies and more than 40 people participated in the laundering of funds that entered accounts in dozens of banks," the statement said. "These firms did not conduct real financial transactions, but large sums of money -- which were later transferred to the accounts of individuals -- regularly appeared in their accounts."

Neither the companies nor the banks they purportedly laundered money into were identified in the statement.

Over several years, more than 7,000 illegal banking operations were conducted involving the transfer of more than 60 billion rubles, the statement said.

Filipp Zolotnitsky, spokesman for the city police's economic crimes department, could not be reached for comment Tuesday, and calls to the two agencies went unanswered.

Several fake stamps from government and law enforcement agencies were also confiscated, police said.

Police had been tracking the group's activities for more than a year, the statement said. So far, one commercial bank has had its license revoked, while several members have been arrested on suspicion of illegal banking activity, illegal business activity, money laundering and forging documents, it said.

The investigation is continuing, police said.