The head of Societe Generale SA (GLE)’s Russian unit was charged with commercial bribery, a day after allegedly being caught in a sting operation with cash on his desk from a client seeking to modify the terms of a loan.
OAO Rosbank (ROSB) Chief Executive Officer Vladimir Golubkov faces as long as seven years in prison if convicted, his lawyer, Dmitry Kharitonov, said by phone after charges were filed in Moscow today. Golubkov denies any wrongdoing, he said.
Golubkov, one of the most senior bankers ever arrested for bribery in Russia, according to the Interior Ministry, received moral support from his former boss billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who was president of Rosbank in 2000-2001.
“I wrote a request for Vladimir Golubkov because I think people accused of financial crimes should be released on bail, not placed under arrest,” Prokhorov said on Twitter.
Prokhorov, who owns the Brooklyn Nets basketball team and ran for president against Vladimir Putin last year, told Interfax today that Golubkov “has always been an honest and professional person, and I’m sure he wouldn’t flee.” Tatiana Kosobokova, his spokeswoman, confirmed the comment.
Rosbank managers and the lawfirm where Golubkov’s lawyer works sponsored Prokhorov’s Pravoye Delo party in 2011 before the billionaire split with the group, Vedomosti newspaper reported that year.
A video on the Interior Ministry’s website shows police officers with machine guns entering Golubkov’s office as he stands by his desk with 10 stacks of 5,000 ruble notes laid out.
The CEO had 5 million rubles ($159,000) of the $1.5 million he demanded from a company to prolong a loan and reduce its interest rate, according to police. The borrower is in the automobile industry, and the loan was for about $80 million, Andrey Pilipchuk, an Interior Ministry spokesman, said yesterday.
Golubkov had a senior vice president collect the bribe from a company official who tipped off police, Pilipchuk said. The vice president was detained when she accepted the money. After agreeing to cooperate with police, she passed the cash to her boss as investigators waited nearby. Tamara Polyanitsyna has been charged as an accomplice, according to a statement on the website of Russia’s Investigative Committee.
The CEO had received $1.2 million this year from the same company official, according to Pilipchuk. The CEO was seeking the remaining amount by May 1 before traveling to Paris and may have been trying to make up for a cut in his compensation, Pilipchuk said.
Golubkov joined Rosbank in 1999 from United Card Services and became CEO in September of 2008, after Paris-based Societe Generale, France’s second-biggest lender, gained control of the lender, according to Rosbank’s website. Born in 1966, he graduated from Moscow State Technical University in 1990.
Rosbank named First Deputy CEO Igor Antonov as interim chief and is cooperating with the authorities, Dmitry Grachev, a spokesman for the lender, said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.