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The Russian customs authorities are ready to drop their $22.5 billion
The Russian customs authorities are ready to drop their $22.5 billion lawsuit against the Bank of New York Mellon in exchange for an $800 million compensation settlement, a business paper reported on Tuesday.

Russia's Federal Customs Service on May 17, 2007, filed a damages lawsuit after accusing the bank of laundering funds, received from exports to Russia, through its accounts in the late 1990s.

"For the purpose of settling the dispute, the Federal Customs Service of Russia suggests holding a working meeting to discuss the issue of reaching an amicable agreement on the matter," Kommersant quoted Konstantin Chaika, deputy head of the Federal Customs Service, as saying in a letter obtained by the paper.

According to Kommersant's source in the Russian government, the Federal Customs Service has been forced to take this step at the insistence of Sergei Sobyanin, deputy prime minister and head of the government's office, who Prime Minister Vladimir Putin personally put in charge of the matter.

"This is a political decision, quite logical in the period of the global financial crisis. Moreover, BNY Mellon does not have any accounts on the territory of Russia that can be seized if the Federal Customs Service wins in a court," Kommersant said, referring to the government source.

Neither party has made any comment on the information, Kommersant said.

According to Steven Marx, a U.S. lawyer acting for the Russian customs service, under U.S. law the plaintiff can demand compensation of up to three times the laundered sum. He said the bank's management has acknowledged its involvement in the laundering of around $7.5 billion.

In the early 2000's several countries accused employees at the Bank of New York of involvement in organizing tax evasion and money laundering schemes, primarily with the use of the shadow economy. The bank fired several staff responsible for the Russian money transfers.

The main case in Russia related to the bank's management of U.S. correspondent accounts at Incombank, formerly Russia's second-largest bank, which was declared bankrupt in the late 1990s.


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