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Russian central banker gunned down

Stephen Beard Sep 14, 2006

BOB MOON: We talk about the actions of the Federal Reserve all the time. Some of them are controversial. But, fortunately, policymakers for this country’s central bank have never had to fear for their lives.

Unfortunately, things are different over in Russia. Andre Kozlov made plenty of enemies aggressively tackling that country’s corrupt banking system. He was gunned down and died today in Moscow. And the murder raises serious questions about Russia’s attempts to improve its image as a clean place to do business.

From the European Desk in London, Stephen Beard reports:

STEPHEN BEARD: The 41-year-old central banker died in the hospital after being shot by two unidentified gunmen. They ambushed him as he left a soccer match. Moscow police say there’s little doubt that this was contract killing.

Kozlov had been cleaning up the Russian banking system and closing down crooked banks at the rate of two or three a week. He’d had his work cut out, says Andrew Hilton of the CSFI think tank:

ANDREW HILTON: There are a thousand banks in Russia. And the top fifteen are probably reasonably clean. The bottom 985 are to a greater or lesser extent suspect.

Many are believed to launder money for the Russian mafia. Some are thought to be a front for the drug trade, or for illicit arms dealing.

Koslov’s assassination is a blow for President Putin. Especially now as he holds the rotating presidency of the G8 group of leading economic powers. Putin is determined that Russia shed its reputation for gangster capitalism. He will want to avenge Kozov’s death, says Nick Redman of the Economist Intelligence Unit:

NICK REDMAN: Certainly, this cannot go unanswered. The authorities are going to have to respond to this. There will have to be some sort of clampdown on all the banks and all the business interest that are in the frame.

Foreign investors seem unlikely to be ruffled. The contract killing of a central banker in any other G8 country would have caused mayhem in that country’s financial markets. But Russia’s made of sterner stuff.

The Moscow stockmarket shrugged off the murder, closing slightly higher. And the rouble strengthened too.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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