Former EBRD Russia director charged with conspiracy to take bribe

MOSCOW – Russian authorities Tuesday charged a former Russia director at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development with conspiracy to take a $1.4 million bribe.

The Interior Ministry said in a statement that Yelena Kotova and a Russian banker combined their “powers as well as links in the business community” to negotiate the bribe from an unnamed Canadian oil and gas company in exchange for vetting a $95 million loan.

The London-based EBRD was set up at the end of the Cold War to foster economic development in impoverished Eastern Europe and the crumbling Soviet Union. It invested nearly €3 billion ($4 billion) in Russia in 2011 and a combined €21 billion in the past 20 years.

Kotova sat on the EBRD’s board of directors as Russia’s representative between 2005 and 2010, when she was dismissed to allow the investigation to proceed. The bank then asked authorities in Russia and the UK to lift her immunity and that of three other EBRD officials.

EBRD spokesman Jonathan Charles on Tuesday said the bank has been co-operating with Russian authorities and is following the case.

According to Kotova’s personal website, she left her banking career for creative writing. Kotova, who has published three novels since her retirement in 2011, describes herself as a “writer” and “feature columnist.”

Kotova has not replied to emails seeking comment. In a 2011 interview she described the probe into her work as a smear campaign and said she fell victim to infighting at the bank.