MOSCOW, November 21. /ITAR-TASS/.The Russian newspapers’ headlines on Thursday focus on the withdrawal of the licence of Master Bank that has been involved in “large- scale dubious operations” by the Central Bank of Russia (CBR).
It is a mid-sized bank with the assets of 75.2 billion rubles (2.3 billion U.S. dollars) that ranked 72nd among Russian banks. It was a leading retail bank of the Moscow region: it attracted more than half of its funds from depositors, its ATM network is the third largest in Russia, and more than three million people were holders of Master Bank cards.
Law enforcement agencies and bankers called it a major player on the cash withdrawal market, the Vedomosti newspaper writes, stressing that it was no secret for the market.
“Master Bank was one of the largest and at the same time lowest-cost laundering sites,” a company employee that had been a customer of Master bank three days ago, told the Vedomosti daily. “Now the cash withdrawal tariffs have shot up,” says a person providing such kind of services. If previously it had been possible to find a deal at 5 percent of the laundered sum, then now it is impossible to find anything less than 7 percent.
“The bank, in which Russian president’s cousin Igor Putin was member of the Board of Directors, has managed to repel all attacks,” Vedomosti writes. “In autumn 2010 be became vice president of Master Bank, but at the end of the year he left the bank. In March 2011 he returned to the Board of Directors.”
“The clearing of the banking market, announced by the CBR in September, has turned out to be not an idle threat,” the Kommersant daily writes. “A player from the untouchables had its licence revoked yesterday. The Interior Ministry had asked for its licence revocation back in 2012, but the CBR has revoked it only now with reference to “dubious operations” worth 200 billion rubles. Neither the enormous number of depositors nor connections “at the top” could save the bank.
“Just yesterday (November 19) I came round to the bank, everything was all right... “I was just a member of the Board of Directors, I wasn’t involved in the bank operations,” Igor Putin told Kommersant.
“The revocation of licences of dubious banks, regardless of their business scale and the number of the affected parties is a new trend in the CBR supervisory activities that started with Elvira Nabiullina who took the helm in the Bank of Russia in summer 2013,” the newspaper writes. “Bankers interviewed by Kommersant believe that such a large-scale market cleansing is impossible without political support.”
The Deposit Insurance Agency (DIA) is to pay the affected depositors about 30 billion roubles, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper reports. “It’s the largest insured event over the past 10 years,” the daily stresses. “Yet again the economists’ forecasts about a soon start of a system bank crisis in Russia have been confirmed. Some bankers do not exclude that the CBR is consciously driving customers into state-run banks for federal budget replenishment.”
“Yes, the bank could have operated for some more time. However, in case of its failure then it would have far less live assets needed for payments to the creditors and depositors. The CBR might have acted based on the logic that it was necessary not to wait until the bank gets to the end of its tether, to prevent the withdrawal of hard cash from the bank by its owners,” the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper quotes Chairwoman of the Board of FlexBank Marina Mishuris.
The Vechernyaya Moskva newspaper notes that the Trade House TSUM, the Yeliseyev Grocery Store and Shamil Tarpishchev International Children Tennis Academy were among the bank’s most high profile customers.
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