US citizen a key player in alleged Italian telecom fraud

A Rome judge has issued an arrest warrant for Eugene Gourevitch for his alleged role in a US$2.7 billion scam

By Philip Willan, IDG News Service |  Legal

The accusations lost all credibility when one considered that "well-known and ethically spotless people" such as former U.S. senators Bob Dole and John Bennett Johnston had accepted seats on the AUB board, Gourevitch wrote in his reply. Gourevitch is listed as contributing $4,600 for the unsuccessful re-election campaign of Dole's wife, Elisabeth, in 2008.

Writing as CEO of MGN Group, an international investment bank based in the Kyrgyz Republic, Gourevitch acknowledged that the country needed to improve corporate governance and transparency. "We have an educational role," he wrote in an article published in a special advertising section of BusinessWeek magazine.

A 2008 article in The Times of Central Asia pointed out MGN's role as advisor to a consortium that participated in the privatization of Kyrgyzstan's national telecom operator Kyrgyztelecom and praised the bank for its "comprehensive AML (Anti-Money Laundering) Program".

According to the Turin daily La Stampa, the Bank of Italy was alerted by the Central Bank of Cyprus to allegations that two of Gourevitch's companies, Wolstin Ltd and Crown Era Investments Ltd, had been "used to launder money derived from carousel frauds and the smuggling of tobacco and drugs, perpetrated presumably in Italy and the United Kingdom".

Police reportedly succeeded in penetrating the activities of Gourevitch and his associates after intercepting a package posted by him at Milan airport and addressed to a company in Rome. The package contained 10 English mobile phone SIM cards that the alleged conspirators believed could not be intercepted by Italian police, according to a report published Friday by the weekly magazine Panorama. The investigators noted the numbers of the cards, six for Vodafone and four for Orange, and then resealed the envelope and sent them on their way.

Perhaps the most colourful of Gourevitch's alleged associates, among the 55 others for whom Judge Morgigni issued arrest warrants two weeks ago, is Gennaro Mokbel, the son of an Egyptian military officer and Italian mother. Mokbel is alleged to have used contacts in the Calabrian mafia, known as the 'ndrangheta, to get a friend fraudulently elected to the Senate.

With alleged connections to right-wing extremists, including two terrorists convicted for the 1980 bombing of a Bologna railway station, and allegedly protected by corrupt officers in the finance police, Mokbel reportedly invested some of his illegal profits in African diamonds and works of art by major modern Italian artists. His collection reportedly included photographs and memorabilia of wartime leaders Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler.

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