2016-08-23newyorker.com

The counterparties were not owned by Russian oligarchs. They were brokerages run by Russian middlemen who took commissions for initiating mirror trades on behalf of rich people and businesses eager to send their money offshore. A businessman who wanted to expatriate money in this way would invest in a Russian fund like Westminster, which would then use mirror trades to move that money into an offshore fund like Cherryfield. The offshore fund then wired the money, in dollars, into the businessman's private offshore account. A middleman who formed one of the Russian counterparty funds told me that the cost of his services depended upon the Russian authorities' desire to stop the export of capital. In 2011, when controls were lax, the fee was 0.2 per cent. In 2015, when sanctions were strong, and Putin was determined to retain as much wealth as he could in Russia, the fee rose to more than five per cent.

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Deutsche Bank has not commented on whose money was expatriated through the mirror trades, although John Cryan, the C.E.O., has said that the bank has not knowingly assisted Russians on the sanctions list. In the deadening argot of finance, Deutsche Bank's Russian fiasco has frequently been called a "failure of controls." In an interview in March, 2016, Cryan said, "To our knowledge, the individual transaction steps in themselves were innocuous. However, the case raises questions about how effective our systems and controls were, especially with regard to the onboarding of new clients, an area where we experienced difficulties in collecting sufficient information."

This passive language is hard to square with the blatant nature of the scheme. Roman Borisovich, a former investment banker at Deutsche Bank in London, who focussed on Russian businesses, told me, " `Fucking Obvious' is the middle name of Russian corruption."



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