MOSCOW, October 25 (RIA Novosti)
Police have detained nine citizens of Nigeria and Cameroon suspected of using the names of major Russian state companies to steal at least 900 million rubles ($28.8 million) from several hundred foreign firms, the Russian Interior Ministry reported.
“To commit the fraud, the group’s members used fake national passports with names and surnames somehow consonant with the names of big Russian companies, for example, Gazprom, Murmansk Shipping Company, Rosneft and others,” the ministry said.
The West Africans, who reside in Russia, were detained in a special operation conducted by investigators and police officers. The companies they are suspected of having stolen the funds from operate in the European Union, the United States and Southeast Asia, the ministry said.
During searches in the suspects’ apartments in different Moscow districts, forged legal entity seals, fake documents, computers and office equipment were seized.
The investigation started when Russian Railways filed a complaint to police upon receiving a letter from Chinese entrepreneurs who said the Russian side “failed to fulfill its commitments to transport coal.” The rail monopoly denied having concluded any agreements with Chinese businessmen.
It turned out that the Chinese company in question contacted fraudsters instead of Russian Railways after a commercial offer was placed on a website in 2010. It provided the details of a bank account registered for an individual whose name and surname read like JSC Railways. A prepayment was made in 2011, but the coal never reached the client.
Investigators said the suspects had used the scheme for a long time. They usually disappeared after receiving advance payments. The funds were later legalized through money transfers to West Africa.
Russia’s law enforcement agencies said harm was inflicted on Russia’s reputation as a participant in international trade relations.
The suspects face up to 10 years in prison and large fines if found guilty.
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