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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Investigators Raid Promsvyazbank

MTPromsvyazbank's office on Smirnovskaya Ulitsa was searched Wednesday.
Interior Ministry investigators on Wednesday raided Promsvyazbank, which is controlled by the Ananyev brothers, in the latest of a series of high-profile raids on banks.

Promsvyazbank, the country's 13th-largest bank by assets, confirmed that searches were carried out at its two main offices, while Interfax later reported that the offices of the bank's real estate subsidiary were also searched.

"The [search] was connected with the activities of one of our clients," a bank spokeswoman said by telephone. "The bank is continuing to operate normally."

As of lunchtime Wednesday, there was no sign that the investigators were still at the bank, and employees refused to comment. Security guards referred all questions to the bank's press office.

Nobody from the Interior Ministry could be reached for comment Wednesday, but Interfax cited a ministry source as saying the search was related to a real estate dispute involving a senior manager at Promsvyazbank and that the bank itself was not directly implicated in the criminal investigation.

"The bank in this case was probably only a financial tool," the source said, Interfax reported.

Brothers Alexei and Dmitry Ananyev, estimated by Forbes magazine to each have a personal fortune of $1.7 billion, hold controlling stakes in Promsvyazbank, while Germany's Commerzbank has a minority stake. Dmitry Ananyev is one of the Yamal-Nenets autonomous district's two representatives in the Federation Council.

Dmitry Latypov, an aide to Dmitry Ananyev in the Federation Council, said the senator was unavailable for comment.

Beate Schlosser, spokeswoman for Commerzbank in Germany, said they were not aware of the searches.

The search is the latest in a series of recent high-profile raids on banks. In September, Interior Ministry investigators accompanied by OMON troops swooped on leading private lender Alfa Bank, seizing documents relating to one of its former clients, Sodbiznesbank. Master Bank, Lefko Bank and Project Finance Bank have also recently been raided.

"A full raid on a bank to obtain information about one of its clients seems to be an excessive use of force," said Richard Hainsworth, CEO of rating agency RusRating, which covers Russian banks.

By law, the authorities can request information from a bank relevant to ongoing investigations. If the bank does not comply, a court order is required to authorize a search of the bank's premises.

"There are adequate protections in Russia to provide information to the authorities, but it is a question of due process," Hainsworth said. "[This case] implies that either the due process has [been followed] and the bank has not complied or that due process has not been fulfilled."

Vladimir Pribylovsky, a political analyst at the Panorama think tank, said Dmitry Ananyev was known to have close ties to Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov, who leads A Just Russia, a pro-Kremlin political party. But analysts dismissed suggestions that the raid on the bank was in any way connected with the Ananyevs' political connections.

Earlier this week, Dmitry Ananyev was appointed head of the Federation Council's Committee on Financial Markets and Monetary Policy.

Meanwhile, Vedomosti reported Wednesday that Promsvyazbank was planning to raise $1 billion in an initial public offering in the second half of 2008.

Staff writer Tai Adelaja contributed to this report.