To say that Yevgeny Dvoskin has a checkered past would be an understatement.
Dvoskin was previously investigated by the FBI in cooperation with their Russian FSB counterparts for alleged corruption and Russian Mafia ties in 2009. A source in the Interior Ministry quoted by Sputnik News noted, "the first man the FSB agents want to locate is one Yevgeny Dvoskin, also known as Yevgeny Slusker, who emigrated to the United States in 1990. During slightly more than 10 years in the country, Dvoskin was arrested 15 times by police and served a number of short prison sentences."
In 1995, Dvoskin became the cellmate of Russian crime boss Vyacheslav Ivankov, also known as Yaponchik (Little Japanese). It is unknown what influence they might have had on each other, but sources within the FBI say that after his release, Dvoskin was involved in corrupt business practices, including illegally depreciating the shares of four large corporations, which he then bought at garage sale prices.
He was not charged for the crime, but was eventually deported for breaking immigration laws in 2001. Two years later, he was wanted by the U.S. for fraud, money laundering, and illegal wire transfers of millions of dollars from Russia.
Of course, his investigation by both American and Russian authorities was hardly Dvoskin's first run-in with the law, as Bloomberg reports.
"As he tells it, he knows the tricks of the money launderer's trade. He was deported from the U.S. after tax-fraud convictions. He has served as an aide to the man suspected by U.K. authorities of poisoning former spy Alexander Litvinenko in London. Protection from the KGB's successor helped him fend off extortion allegations in Moscow."These days, though, he is better known as one of the most prominent and successful bankers in Crimea, Russia's newest territory. A mere two weeks after Russia's 2014 annexation of the territory of Crimea from Ukraine, Dvoskin's Genbank opened its first bank just down the street from the main government offices, becoming the first Russian bank to open on the peninsula, according to the Moscow Times.
"I'll be the first to open an account," Sevastopol's acting mayor, Dmitry Belik, said to the Times.
Genbank has since expanded to 175 branches, 90 of which are in Crimea, making it the No. 2 bank in the region. Earlier this year, it was approved for a 1.4 billion ruble ($20 million) capital boost to keep up with its rapid growth. "There are opportunities in Crimea that just aren't available on the mainland," Dvoskin said in a recent interview quoted by Bloomberg, conducted in his Simferopol office, described as being "decorated with Russian Orthodox icons and a photo of President Vladimir Putin hanging above a lit candle."
Genbank moved into the infrastructure left behind when Ukrainian banks had to flee following the Russian annexation, inheriting real estate, ATMs and terminals. Dvoskin continues to insist it was pure coincidence that his bank opened in Crimea shortly before the Russian takeover via a disputed referendum.
The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OOCRP) extensively covered the rise of Dvoskin and Genbank, noting the concerns that such businesses raise for the newly Russian territory.
"Although most of these banks were small and barely known in Russia, they have grown significantly since arriving in Crimea. Their presence raises questions about Russia's commitment to eliminate money laundering, amid concerns that Crimea could become a money laundering and organized crime zone like other disputed territories on the Russian border."Dvoskin's seeming untouchable status may have a more sinister origin than good business sense, however. According to Russian authorities who have investigated him in the past, he may have "high-level" connections that protect him from charges.
Kirill Kabanov, a former Federal Security Service (FSB) officer, now the head of an anti-corruption watchdog group, alleges that Dvoskin is heavily involved in the business of "obnalichka," described by Bloomberg as, "the multibillion-dollar business of off-the-books cash that greases the country's underground economy. They say he has enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with security services tasked with cracking down on the trade. At times, they protected him from other agencies that sought to prosecute him. Crimea is the next chapter in his story."
"Obnalichka" does not only launder dirty mafia money, however -- corrupt bureaucrats, oligarchs, and corporations in Russia may also get involved in the system. Kabanov speculates this is why men like Dvoskin have so many high-level protectors.
Dvoskin has never been convicted of a crime in Russia, and continues to insist that the allegations of being involved in organized crime are untrue.
[Photo by Alexander Aksakov/Getty Images]