German prosecutors indicted five men, including four German banking executives, on charges of laundering $150 million for a former Russian telecommunications minister in one of the highest-level criminal probes of a Russian official outside Russia.
The indictments follow a six-year investigation into allegations that four current or former Commerzbank AG executives and a Danish lawyer assisted former Russian telecommunications minister Leonid Reiman in selling telecommunications assets he allegedly controlled in offshore companies, while concealing who the true owner was.
From 1996 to 2001, the German bank held the telecom assets in trust for a Danish lawyer, Jeffrey Galmond. Prosecutors contend Galmond acted as a front for Reiman, who, they say, had converted telecom businesses from state ownership to that of a number of foreign companies that Reiman allegedly set up and controlled after the collapse of communism in the 1990s.
The probe has continued for years. In 2006, prosecutors closed a parallel investigation against then-Commerzbank CEO Klaus-Peter Müller, saying they didn't find evidence of criminal behavior on his part. In January 2008, Commerzbank accepted a Frankfurt civil-court verdict that ordered the bank to pay €7.3 million ($9.6 million).
None of the indicted present or former Commerzbank officials responded to requests to comment.
Prosecutors said in a statement that they are continuing a parallel investigation into Reiman, one of the highest-level Russian officials to face a criminal probe outside of Russia. The former minister has repeatedly denied allegations of money laundering and said he didn't own the stakes in telecommunication assets under investigation.