April 15, 2016 / 5:52 PM / 2 years ago

Russian security service says searches of tycoon's office related to rescued bank

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Searches by Russian law enforcement officials in offices of Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov on Thursday were related to an investigation over a bank bailed out by one of his firms, the Federal Security Service said on Friday.

A man looks out of the Onexim group office building in Moscow, Russia, April 14, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev

The Kremlin earlier denied the searches were retribution for revelations about people close to President Vladimir Putin that were published by a newspaper controlled by Prokhorov.

The searches of the offices of Onexim, which manages Prokhorov’s assets, were conducted together with the tax service as part of a criminal investigation related to Tavrichesky Bank in St. Petersburg, the Federal Security Service said on Friday.

A year ago, the central bank selected IFC bank (International Financial Club), in which Onexim has a stake, to rescue Tavrichesky Bank and granted a 10-year loan of 28 billion rubles ($422 million) to Tavrichesky for the procedure. Tavrichesky is supposed to merge with IFC Bank in 2022, the Central bank has said.

Onexim and IFC bank, which was one of the Onexim’s businesses at which searches were conducted, were not available for immediate comment on Friday evening.

The Federal Security Service said it had obtained data on tax law violations at “a number of commercial structures” after the searches and handed over the documentation to specialists for further investigation.

The Service did not say whether these unnamed commercial structures were part of Onexim and did not say how the rescue program could be related to tax violations. It is also not clear which criminal investigation the service means.

RBK newspaper, controlled by Prokhorov, has in the past few weeks published reports about the commercial interests of Putin’s son-in-law, and about associates of Putin implicated in the “Panama Papers” leaks about offshore assets.

Reporting by Polina Devitt; additional reporting by Oksana Kobzeva; editing by Dominic Evans and Mark Potter

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