Stitched up like a kipper ?
The head of Societe Generale's Russian unit Rosbank faced up to seven years in jail for bribery on Thursday after Russian investigators released a film of him with cash piled on his desk in what several bankers said may have been a set up.
Reuters reports that the case could increase alarm among international investors and sheds a damaging light on business practices in Russia, where SocGen is one of the few Western banks left in a market dominated by homegrown state players.
Investigators said on Thursday they had opened an official criminal investigation against Vladimir Golubkov, who was detained on Wednesday, and his senior vice president, Tamara Polyanitsyna - a final step before formally charging them.
Golubkov, 47, worked through the ranks at Rosbank to take the helm in 2008 with the task of steering the bank into profit.
'I know him to be a good man', Garegin Tosunyan, president of the Association of Russian Banks, told Reuters. 'The accusations simply don't fit - although the law enforcement authorities are entitled to their version and to investigate'.
Bloomberg reported Wednesday that Golubkov was caught in his office counting 5 million rubles ($159,000) of the $1.5m he allegedly demanded to prolong a loan and reduce its interest rate, Andrey Pilipchuk, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry in Moscow, said.
Golubkov asked a senior vice president to receive the bribe from a company representative who tipped off police before making the final payment, the ministry said in a statement on its website, without identifying the executive by name. The vice president was detained when she accepted the money and then passed the cash to Golubkov after agreeing to cooperate with police, according to the statement.
Golubkov had already received $1.2m from the same company official, according to Pilipchuk. Investigators believe the CEO was trying to make up for a recent pay cut, Pilipchuk said.
image: © Christine McIntosh