TALLINN - Andrei Kozlov, the Russian Central Bank vice president who was killed by unknown assailants in September, had warned Estonian authorities against a local money laundering scheme, the Eesti Ekspress weekly newspaper reported on Oct. 5. According to the newspaper, Kozlov paid a secret visit to Estonia a few months prior to his murder. He reportedly demanded that Estonian authorities close several accounts in SEB Eesti Uhispank and Sampo Pank.
Kozlov claimed that very large amounts of money had been moving west via Estonian banks since the beginning of 2006. Billions of rubles were exchanged for dollars and euros, which were then put into the accounts of offshore companies with unknown names, the Eesti Ekspress reported Kozlov as saying.
The former banker added that the money represented proceeds from tax evasion and money laundering, warning that this may be only the beginning of a larger cash flow.
As the presidential elections in Russia are scheduled to take place in late 2007, massive capital outflows from Russia come as little surprise. This is mostly due to political instability and fear of a power change.
Kozlov died in a Moscow hospital in the early hours of Sept. 14 after receiving gunshot wounds in what investigators described as "a contract assassination" the night before. Kozlov, 41, had been first deputy chairman of the Central Bank since 2002. He held the same position in 1997-1999.
Kozlov's department at the Russian Central Bank was trying to clean the nation of banks engaged in money laundering and other illicit practices.