Western lawmen have long suspected that when the old Soviet Army rolled out of eastern Europe a decade ago, some of their tanks and weapons didn't follow, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart.
Some of the gear, investigators believe, was sold instead to middlemen who then made a fortune peddling it in places like Iraq and Iran. Now it seems the suspicions were well founded. On Thursday, one of those Russian middlemen, Semyon Mogilevich, emerged at the center of a money-laundering scheme that threatens a major U.S. bank.
The New York Times reports as much as $10 billion in Russian mob money may have been washed through the Bank of New York in recent months, and that two senior officers in the bank who are married to Russian men have been suspended.
In a statement the bank acknowledged it is "cooperatingÂ… in the confidential investigation of the use of [the] bankÂ… to transfer funds from Russia." but pointed out there are "no allegations of wrongdoing" by the Bank of New York.
In a country increasingly rocked by mob violence, federal and international investigators say Mogilevich stands out. "They tend to be brutal," says former CIA analyst Rick Palmer. "They have no qualms about that, they like to make examples."
One report says Mogilevich employed Russian veterans who became infamous for their torture of extortion victims. Other reports link him to ongoing efforts to sell off part of Russia's aging nuclear arsenal. Palmer says, "Certainly the nuclear program in Iran wouldn't even exist, not nearly at the level it is, without the Russian existence. It's out there."
What bothers federal authorities most about this case is the sheer scope of it all. In one six-month period, the Russians reportedly flooded the Bank of New York with 10,000 transactions totaling more than $4 billion -- and apparently have a great deal more where that came from.