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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kozlov Link Seen in Vienna Bank Probe

Austrian prosecutors are examining a money-laundering case involving a Russian bank that had its license revoked by central banker Andrei Kozlov two weeks before he was killed.

The prosecutors said Thursday that they were looking into a suspect $4 million transfer originating from Moscow-based Diskont Bank.

A report about the Austrian investigation was published Monday by The New Times, which speculated that the Sept. 13 killing of Kozlov, the Central Bank's first deputy chairman, could be linked to the revoking of Diskont Bank's license. This occurred on Aug. 31, the Russian-language magazine said.

While investigating suspected money laundering at Diskont, Russian investigators uncovered a scheme in which senior officials were allegedly funneling more than $1.5 billion in illegal profits abroad, the magazine reported, citing sources close to the Interior Ministry.

Calls to the Interior Ministry went unanswered late Thursday. The Central Bank asked for questions to be faxed.

The possibility of a link to Diskont Bank comes as Russian prosecutors prepare to put banker Alexei Frenkel, the former CEO of VIP-Bank and Sodbiznesbank, two banks also closed down by Kozlov, on trial for his murder.

Kozlov's contract-style killing sent shock waves through the country's business community and prompted President Vladimir Putin to call for an intensified crackdown on money laundering.

On Tuesday, the Prosecutor General's Office said it had wrapped up its investigation of the case and that Frenkel, who has been detained since Jan. 11, would soon stand trial with six other suspects. Frenkel has denied any involvement in Kozlov's murder.

Gerhard Jarosch, a spokesman for the Vienna prosecutor's office, said a money-laundering investigation had been opened "against unknown suspects." He said $4 million, meant to be forwarded by Raiffeisen Zentralbank in Vienna in an international transfer operation, had been frozen.

Raiffeisen spokesman Andreas Ecker-Nakamura said his bank took care to prevent money laundering. "Our precautions to prevent money laundering are exemplary by global standards," he said in an e-mailed statement.

Raiffeisen received a warning that some transactions from Russia might contain illegal funds, Ecker-Nakamura said Thursday by telephone from Vienna. "We informed authorities in Austria and Russia shortly after receiving the warning in mid-2006," he said.

Ecker-Nakamura would not name the bank where the money came from and stated that Raiffeisen had a "business relation to a reputable bank in Russia" and that this was not Diskont. But he did not rule out that the funds might have originated from a third bank.

Three days after Kozlov's shooting, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said that the assassination could be linked to the revocation of some banks' licenses, and named Diskont as one of the banks that Kozlov had ordered closed down.

The bank's staff continued sending money abroad even after the bank had lost its license and Interpol was investigating, Kudrin said, Itar-Tass reported.

No one answered calls to the Prosecutor General's Office on Thursday.