EBRD bribery middleman was 'expensive post box,' London court hears

Image Credit

4 May 2017. By Martin Coyle.

A former senior banker at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development "corruptly" introduced a US-based consultant to oil and gas companies to receive kickbacks once bank loans were agreed, a London court heard today.

Former EBRD banker Andrey Ryjenko and his sister Tatjana Sanderson face charges for conspiring with middleman Dmitrij Harder to accept corrupt payments to secure loans for energy companies. The siblings are also accused of concealing $3.5 million in payments through Sanderson's bank accounts. They deny the charges.

Harder isn't on trial.

Moving their case forward, prosecutors today said Ryjenko "corruptly introduced" Harder to six eastern European companies seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in EBRD funding for oil, gas and mining projects between 2007 and 2010.

Harder then acted as an "expensive post box," having received millions of dollars in fees for sending a few e-mails to the EBRD on behalf of companies he represented, the London's Central Criminal Court heard.

The consultant received $5.2 million from Vostok Energy after it signed an agreement with the EBRD in May 2009, the court heard. "It's difficult to see what Harder did to earn his fee, apart from sending on a few e-mails. It's not much for $5 million," prosecuting lawyer Tom Little said.

Harder was a middleman who rewarded Ryjenko with $3.5 million in "corrupt kickbacks" that came from "success fees" paid by the companies for their loans being approved, the court heard. Little said that was the only sensible way to explain Harder's involvement with six companies — Irkutsk Oil, Hawkley Oil and Gas, Gastransit, Azerbaijan Methanol, Vostok Energy and Itera Group.

While Harder entered into agreements with five of these companies, only two got loans from the EBRD, the court heard.

Harder had a "conspiratorial umbilical" tie with Ryjenko, Little said. The pair were in Moscow, Kiev and London while Ryjenko met with the six companies on EBRD business, he said.

The fact that Harder and Ryjenko were in the same places at the same time was more than an "unlikely coincidence," Little said. "It's a tale of three cities with these meetings."

Ryjenko denies playing any part in the consultancy agreements that Harder signed with the companies.

Unexplained funds

Little today said Sanderson had trouble explaining the origins of the money she received from Harder via his company Chestnut Consulting.

She had a Citibank account but couldn't give a credible explanation for where the money came from, said Little, so the bank closed her account. This money came from "corrupt kickbacks," and Sanderson "couldn't tell them that," he added.

Sanderson then "hawked" herself around "nearly all" the private banks in London, trying to deposit millions of dollars, Little said. She forged documents, told "lies and lies" to the banks and was "cunning and manipulative" with bank staff, he said.

When arrested in 2010, Sanderson and Ryjenko told police they didn't know they both knew Harder independently.

"It must have been a moment of revelation that Harder had played a prominent part in their lives without each of them knowing. These claims have to be lies," Little said.

Sanderson isn't fit to stand trial for health reasons. Jurors won't have to reach a verdict on her, but simply decide whether she committed the acts or not.

The EBRD was set up in 1990 with the aim of promoting entrepreneurship in eastern Europe. It is taxpayer-funded by 61 states, including the UK.

The case continues.

	Eliot Gao