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Russia Judge Demands Swifter Bank of NY Mellon Suit

Reuters
Tuesday, 13 May 2008 | 7:51 AM ET

The judge presiding over Russia's $22.5 billion lawsuit against the Bank of New York Mellon insisted on Tuesday the case move toward a quick conclusion after more than a year of procedural delays.

Russia's Federal Customs Service filed the case in May 2007, claiming $22.5 billion in damages related to a money-laundering case in the United States against a Bank of New York vice-president in 2000.

"This case just can't seem to move away from this dead end ... we've been working for a year and I insist we get moving toward some kind of conclusion," said Judge Lyudmila Pulova.

The case in the United States ended in 2006 after the rogue vice-president, Lucy Edwards, admitted helping launder $7 billion from Russia in the late 1990s through dummy companies and Bank of New York accounts set up by her husband.

The Russian government says it was never compensated for the massive flight of capital, but its claim, which the bank says is without merit, has been bogged down in legal complexity and procedural wrangling.

Most of the delays have resulted from the fact the Russian court has been asked to apply an unfamiliar law -- the U.S. Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Act, or RICO, which was passed by U.S. Congress in 1970 to combat the mafia.

Pulova expressed frustration that lawyers in the case were giving conflicting interpretations of RICO, and gave each side a package of RICO precedents.

"The court has also done some work. We found these cases on the Internet," Pulova said.

Lawyers for both sides asked for two to three weeks to review these and other documents before the next hearing.

But the judge gave them only three working days -- until May 19.

"You will have to concentrate your efforts and work at the weekend ... we cannot have this case dragging on any longer."

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