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Russia Opens Criminal Probe Into Bank Of Moscow

Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov (left) with his wife, Yelena Baturina (file photo)
Reports from Moscow say Russian law-enforcement officials have opened a criminal investigation into a top Russian bank in which the Moscow city government has a significant stake.

The "Kommersant" business daily says the probe into the Bank of Moscow is linked to a $415 million loan the bank issued to a little-known firm in 2009.

The report says the company then went on to purchase a plot of land from Yelena Baturina, the wife of the now-deposed mayor of Moscow, Yury Luzhkov, at what investigators think was an inflated price.

According to "Forbes" magazine, Baturina has risen to become Russia's richest woman as a result of Moscow real estate contracts awarded to her Inteko construction firm. But the company has been riddled with debt since the 2009 financial crisis.

The news comes amid a possible acquisition bid for Bank of Moscow by another Russian lender, VTB, in what the "Financial Times" describes as "the start of a redistribution of assets in the capital following the ousting" of Luzhkov.

compiled from media and agency reports