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Sanford rejects 'laundering' claim

By Jock Anderson

Friday 2nd May 2003

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Claims that listed fishing company Sanford and Team New Zealand trustee John Risley are linked to Russian mafia money laundering are in the hands of the police.

Details of the allegations, which name Canadian fishing millionaire Mr Risley, Sanford and several North American fishing companies, were referred to the police after being sent to Justice and Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff by Canadian businessman Richard Boraks, of Toronto-based Chianti Food Processors.

Sanford managing director Eric Barratt yesterday strenuously denied the allegations, claiming they were a "conspiracy" and had no basis.

A spokesman in Police Minister George Hawkins' office expected inquiries would be made by Interpol to establish with North American authorities the present situation.

A persistent allegation is that Canada's biggest seafood company Fishery Products International ­ partly owned by Sanford ­ may have been infiltrated for criminal money-laundering purposes.

A confidential report now with police and said to have been prepared by a former head of Russian organised crime matters with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service claims Fishery Products International received financial support from Russian-organised crime sources, specifically collapsed share fraudster YBM Magnex.

These claims have been consistently denied by Mr Risley and his fellow FPI director, Mr Barratt.

Mr Barratt said there was no evidence to support Mr Boraks' money- laundering allegations and the only reason Mr Boraks was not sued was that he had no money.

The New Zealand development came as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) laid 45 corporate fraud indictments against four men at the top of Russian-controlled crime in North America and allegedly linked to the Canadian fishing industry.

Following a five-year investigation involving tracking hidden money through 25 countries, the FBI named the four as Semion Mogilevich, also known as Simeon Mogilevitch, Semjon Mogilevcs, Shimon Makhelwitsch or Seva; Igor Fisherman; Jacob Bogatin, also known as Yakov, and Anatoly Tsoura.

Ukrainian Semion Mogilevich has long been identified as head of eastern European crime ­ the Russian mafia.

The four were charged with racketeering, securities fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering growing out of a multimillion-dollar scheme to defraud investors in the stock of YBM Magnex International, a public company incorporated in Canada but having its headquarters in Pennsylvania.

US attorney general for eastern Pennsylvania Patrick Meehan, whose investigators trailed millions of dollars through bank accounts in Nauru, Canada, Cayman Islands, Nevis, England, Hungary, Israel, Lithuania, Ukraine and Russia, said the loss to investors exceeded $US150 million.

Former YBM chief executive officer Bogatin was arrested last week but former chairman Mogilevich, former chief operating officer Fisherman, and vice-president of finance Tsoura ­ all considered armed and dangerous ­ remained at large "as international fugitives believed to be residing in Russia."

In an earlier interview Mr Risley reacted angrily to claims that he or his companies had done business with or received crime money laundered through YBM Magnex and said he told the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) there was nothing to investigate.

Mr Risley ­ who was introduced to Team New Zealand by Russell Coutts and Brad Butterworth ­ owns Nova Scotia-based Clearwater Foods group.

Mr Risley has defended Clearwater against claims it received money through YBM Magnex.

After initially denying it, Mr Risley last year admitted his Clearwater group was under investigation for alleged price-fixing in the crab industry, an investigation Canada's Competition Bureau confirmed in March was still active.

Mr Boraks, a fishing industry competitor and Mr Risley's former landlord, urged New Zealand authorities to join forces to investigate Russian criminal involvement in the seafood industry.

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