The Russian Banker Who Knew Too Much

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November 20, 2017

The pounding on the door begins at about 6 a.m. on a wintry Moscow day in March 2016. Insistent knocking at that hour usually means just one thing: police.  Inside the apartment on tony Kutuzovsky Prospekt, Alexei Kulikov’s partner, Maria Plyushkina, 23, cares for their infant son. She begs Kulikov not to open the door. The 40-year-old banker, stunned by the possibility of arrest, knows better than to consider that option. Ignoring the appeals from the men outside but desperately seeking help, he starts making calls—first to his lawyer, then to any and every friend who might have some pull with law enforcement. It’s all for nothing. He’s alone.Despite appearances, Promsberbank was, according to the central bank, a “crucial link” in one of the biggest money laundering schemes ever exposed in Russia. Kulikov wasn’t charged with laundering funds, but from its unprepossessing office on Kirov Street, his bank helped pump more than $10 billion out of Russia, the regulator says. Promsberbank was a key conduit into a channel that used stock transactions called “mirror trades.”