Bank Menatep

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Bank "MENATEP", Bank "MENATEP SPb" (Russian: Банк "МЕНАТЕП Санкт-Петербург" / Банк «МЕНАТЕП СПб») and "Group Menatep Limited" were financial companies, created by Russian businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The companies were involved in a huge money laundering scandal that unfolded from the mid 1990s onwards. "Group Menatep Limited", the US$29 billion holding company that had indirect controlling interest in Yukos Oil Company, was later renamed, and now still exists as holding company GML with Leonid Nevzlin as principal shareholder holding a stake of around 70 percent. The other four ultimate beneficial owners who own an equal stake each are Platon Lebedev, Mikhail Brudno, Vladimir Dubov and Vasily Shakhnovsky.[1][2][3]

History[edit]

Bank "Menatep"[edit]

In 1986, the Center for Scientific and Technical Creativity for Youth - TSMNTP (Russian: Межотраслевой Центр Научно-технических программ — ЦМНТП) was created in Moscow by Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Center Menatep was attached to the Komsomol committee in Moscow's Frunzensky District. In 1987, Leonid Nevzlin, a software engineer, met Khodorkovsky and became a Deputy Director at the Center.

Later on, in December 1988, Khodorkovsky established one of the first private banks in Russia, the Commercial Innovation Bank of Scientific-Technical Progress, headquartered in Moscow and renamed in 1990 "MENATEPinvest".[4][5]

In May 1990, Interbank Association "MENATEP" was registered, subsequently renamed by Khodorkovsky as International Financial Association "MENATEP" (Russian: Международное финансовое объединение МЕНАТЕП / МФО МЕНАТЕП) in 1991.[6][7] Alexey Golubovich joined MFO MENATEP as the principal economist in 1992. He also served as head of the investment department and the vice-president of the bank MENATEP from 1992 till 1996.[8] In 1997 MFO Menatep became a subsidiary of Khodorkovsky's newly created, Gibraltar-registered holding company Group Menatep Limited.[9][10]

From 1989 to 1991, Leonid Nevzlin served as president of Bank Menatep (Investment Commercial Bank of Scientific and Technical progress), after which he held other high-ranking positions, including Vice Chairman of the Board (1993-1996) and Head of Public Relations (1994-1996). Nevzlin also worked at Group Menatep, focusing on corporate communications, government relations, and human resources. Nevzlin became in April 1996 Vice President of Yukos, in which Menatep had acquired a 78% share in December 1995.[11]

From May, 1989 to 1990, Khodorkovski held the position of Chairman of the board of "Commercial Innovation Bank of Scientific-Technical Progress", renamed in 1990 "MENATEPinvest".[12] In August, 1991, Khodorkovski also became Chairman of board of directors of credit-financial enterprises association MENATEP. From 1992 to 1993, Andrei Loginov,[13] was Deputy Head of the Board of the Commercial Innovation MENATEP (Bank of Scientific-Technical Progress). From 1991 to April 1996, Vladislav Surkov held key managerial positions in advertisement and PR departments of Bank Menatep.[14]

In November 1994, Konstantin Kagalovsky became deputy chairman of Bank Menatep. Kagalovsky was Russia's representative to the International Monetary Fund between 1992 and 1995. He is married to Natasha Gurfinkel-Kagalovsky (aka Nataliya Gurfinkel-Kagalovskaya[15]), a former senior vice president of the Bank of New York (B.O.N.Y.). The Bank of New York was involved in the tax evasion scandal with billions of dollars channeled out of Russia from 1996 to 1999.[16] (See also: Clearstream scandal) In 1999, both were accused of money laundering, however denied any wrongdoing.[17][18] Natasha Gurfinkel-Kagalovsky who headed the bank's Eastern European division, decided to resign after being suspended by the bank following the yearlong federal probe of suspicious transfers of $7.5 billion or more through a series of related accounts.[19][20] However, in early 2000, she filed a suit against her former employer claiming $270 million in compensation for damage to her reputation.[21]

In November 1995, Bank Menatep took part in a mortgage auction, which resulted in its takeover of the oil company Yukos.

Alexander Zurabov served as President of Bank MENATEP from 1996 until 1997 and as Chairman of the Board of Directors from 1997 until 1999.[22] Since 1996, Ilya Yurov has been serving as the Head of Treasury at the MENATEP Bank in Moscow.[23] In February 1997, Yuri Milner became deputy chairman and head of the investment division of Menatep Bank. [24]

Following the financial meltdown in August 1998 when Menatep defaulted on obligations and suspended operations, the bulk of operations were shifted to Bank Menatep SPb and Trust & Investment Bank. In the course of asset distribution Bank Menatep SPb grabbed the lender’s branch network and card business, while Trust & Investment Bank gained the right to deal with most of Yukos’ financial flows.[25]

The Moscow-based Bank Menatep lost its banking license in May 1999 and was declared bankrupt in September of the same year.[26][27]

Bank "Menatep SPb"[edit]

In 1995, a subsidiary in St. Petersburg was founded by the Moscow Bank "Menatep" under the name of "Menatep St. Petersburg".[28] The commercial bank was registered by the Central Bank of the Russian Federation on November 27, 1995.[29] It had a general license of the Central Bank of Russia to conduct banking operations.[30] In 1997, Bank "Menatep SPb" was ranked among the 50 fastest growing banks in Russia. In 2000, the Bank, acting as a company, was transformed into a joint-stock company.[31] with YUKOS Oil Company as one of the main shareholders.[32]

At the end of 2000, Bank "Menatep SPb" got permission to establish a subsidiary in Switzerland - "Menatep Finance SA", located in Geneva, in order to get better access to the international capital market.[33]

As of 2001, the branch network of Bank "Menatep SPb" comprised 57 branches all over Russia.[34]

In 2001, the bank opened a branch in Ulan Bator, capital of Mongolia. In 2002, Bank "Menatep SPb" was among the 20 largest Russian banks by all key financial indicators and the largest bank in St. Petersburg.[35]

Vitaly Saveliev, Director General of Aeroflot since 2009, served as chief executive officer (Председатель правления) and as First Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors of Bank "Menatep SPb" from November 1995 until 2001.[36] Dmitri Lebedev served from 2000 until 2001 as executive officer (Заместитель председателя правления) of Bank "Menatep SPb" and from 2001 until 2003 as CEO of the bank.[37] Since November 1998, the Deputy Chairman of the Management Board of Gazprom, Pyotr Rodionov, served as Chairman of the Board of Directors (Председатель совета) of Bank "Menatep SPb".[38][39]

As of 2003, the management of Bank "Menatep SPb" consisted of the following:

  • Bank's Council: Platon L. Lebedev, President of the Council. Dmitry A. Lebedev and Ilya S. Yurov, Vice-Presidents of the Council. Igor D.Antoshin, Francois Buclez, Aleksandr E. Kabanovsky, Michael B. Kislyakov, Bruce K. Misamore, and Pyotr G. Semenenko, Members of the Council.
  • Executive Committee of MENATEP SPb: Dmitry A. Lebedev, Chairman of the Executive Committee. Vladimir A. Vasiliev, Sergey A. Khabarov and Andrey I. Khorobrov , Deputy Chairmen of the Executive Committee. Olga V. Fomina, Chief Account Officer. Maksim E. Frolov, Branch Manager. Sergey L. Arseniev, Director of Regional Management.[40]

As of 2003, the principal shareholders of Bank "Menatep SPb" were MFO MENATEP, YUKOS Oil, Kirov Plants, Baltika Brewery and Kontakt Manufacturing & Trading.[41]

From "Menatep" to "Trust"

In 2004, OJSC Bank "MENATEP SPb" was acquired by its own management team renaming it as National Bank "TRUST" (ОАО) (Russian: Национальный банк "ТРАСТ") later that same year.[42][43] The decision to change the name of the bank was made by the general meeting of shareholders of the Bank "Menatep SPb" on October 11, 2004.[44] Ilya Yurov, since October 2003 Chairman of the Board of Directors, announced that the new bank planned to continue activities of Corporate Banking service and services for private clients. Yurov served as the Head of Treasury at the MENATEP Bank in Moscow since 1996. Since October 2003, he had been the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the TRUST Investment Bank (TIB)[45] and National Bank TRUST (formerly TRUST National Bank).[46]

As of April 1, 2006, Trust Bank was the No. 34 among Russia’s banks in equity (5.4 billion rubles), according to the rating compiled by Kommersant Dengi (Kommersant Money). It was scored the No. 54 in net asset total (21.5 billion rubles). The holders are five individuals with Ilya Yurov owning the biggest stake of 35.94 percent.[47]

In November 2006, National Bank "Trust" (NB "Trust") moved from St. Petersburg to Moscow.[48]

Group Menatep Limited[edit]

On September 5, 1997, a company called "Flaymon Limited" was registered in Gibraltar.[49] As of October 27, 1997 the total share capital of «Flaymon Limited» comprised 5 million shares, of which Mikhail Khodorkovsky held 10.5%, Leonid Nevzlin 9%, Mikhail Brudno 7.75%, Platon Lebedev 7.75%, Vladimir Dubov 7.75%, and Alexey Golubovich 5%.[50][51][52] The remaining 50% stake was held by trust management company "Palmus Foundation" in Liechtenstein.[53][54]

On December 29, 1997 «Flaymon Limited» was renamed as "Group MENATEP Limited", with a registered capital of 20 million pounds.[55] As of June 19, 2002 the total share capital of "Group MENATEP Limited" was distributed as follows: Mikhail Khodorkovsky held 9.5%, Leonid Nevzlin 8%, Mikhail Brudno 7%, Platon Lebedev 7%, Vladimir Dubov 7%, Vasily Shakhnovsky 7%, and others 4.5%.[56][57][58] The remaining 50% stake was held by a trust fund "Special Trust Arrangement".[59] The sole beneficiary of the trust fund "Special Trust Arrangement" on June 19, 2002 was Mikhail Khodorkovsky.[60]

Group MENATEP Limited was the owner of 100% shares of the company "Yukos Universal Limited", registered in the Isle of Man.[61] The company "Yukos Universal Limited" in turn owned 100% of the shares of the company "Hulley Enterprises Limited", registered in Cyprus. As of April 2000, the company "Hulley Enterprises Limited" owned more than 52% of shares of JSC "NC" YUKOS.[62]

As of June 10, 2002, Group MENATEP Limited owned 100% share capital of Yukos Universal Limited, the Isle of Man offshore vehicle which held and controlled 1,364,904,402 shares or 61.01% stake in Yukos. Yukos Universal Limited directly held 79,288,881 shares or 3.54%, while another offshore vehicle, Hulley Enterprises Ltd., a Cyprus-registered wholly owned subsidiary of Yukos Universal Ltd., held 1,285,615,521 shares or 57.47% of the aggregate number of shares of the Company.[63][64]

Also, Group MENATEP Ltd. controlled Bank Menatep SPb and the Trust and Investment Bank (Доверительный и инвестиционный банк).[65][66] However, the group's 61% stake in Yukos was reduced to 44.1 percent following a share issue in 2003.[67][68][69]

Following the arrest of Yukos' former chief executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky in October 2003, Stephen Curtis, a British lawyer, was appointed managing director of Group Menatep Ltd. in November 2003.[70] However, just a couple of months later, Curtis died in a helicopter crash in Bournemouth on March 3, 2004.[71][72][73][74]

On February 11, 2004, Anton Drel, the lawyer of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, announced his client was no longer a shareholder of Group Menatep and that Khodorkovsky had pulled out of the company on October 20, 2003, several days before he was arrested. At the time of his arrest, Khodorkovsky held 59.5 percent of Group Menatep equaling roughly 26 percent of Yukos, worth $7.8 billion. Shortly after Khodorkovsky's arrest, Group Menatep pulled its shareholder list off its web site and revealed that Khodorkovsky had handed over control of a special trust that owned 50 percent of Menatep. Drel however said that Khodorkovsky had relinquished all his shares in the holding. The lawyer pointed out that the prosecutors' step of freezing 44 percent of Yukos' shares could be unlawful as Khodorkovsky did not own any shares in Menatep any longer. Menatep owned the frozen stake via two offshore vehicles, Yukos Universal and Hulley Enterprises. Drel further added that he could not disclose the name of the new holder of the shares. Analysts complained Yukos' ownership structure was getting murkier and murkier.[75]

Following the death of Stephen Curtis in March 2004, Group MENATEP announced the appointment of three new managing directors in May 2004: Kevin Bromley, Director of IFG International Limited an Isle of Man trust company; Nicholas Keeling, a Gibraltar-based solicitor representing a corporate director; and Tim Osborne, senior partner of Wiggin Osborne Fullerlove, an English law firm specialising in international tax. The three directors were supposed to jointly manage the operations of the company.[76]

As of mid 2004, holding company Group MENATEP Limited was the 100% owner of the following subsidiary companies:[77]

  • Yukos Universal Ltd (Yukos Universal Ltd was the majority shareholder in YUKOS Oil Company: Structure of Yukos Universal Ltd)
  • MENATEP Ltd (MENATEP Ltd was a substantial stakeholder in:
    • MENATEP International Financial Alliance
    • Bank MENATEP St. Petersburg
    • TRUST Investment Bank
    • Progress Insurance Company)
  • GM Investment & Co Ltd
  • Pecunia Universal Ltd
  • Antel Holdings Ltd
  • Chemical & Mining Universal Ltd

See also: Group MENATEP structure[78]

As of February 9, 2005, the holding company Group MENATEP Limited was the 100% owner of YUKOS Universal Limited and Hulley Enterprises Limited which together owned 51% of YUKOS Oil Company.[79]

On 23 May 2005, the Gibraltar-registered company Group Menatep Limited issued in London a press release announcing that former EU Commissioner Frits Bolkestein had joined the Advisory Board of Group Menatep. Before starting his political career, Bolkestein worked for Royal Dutch Shell oil company for 16 years.[80] Fellow members of the Advisory Board were former US Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Stuart Eizenstat, former Executive Editor of The Economist Dudley Fishburn, former German Federal Minister of Economics Otto Graf Lambsdorff and Margery Kraus, founder and CEO of APCO Worldwide.[81]

In March 2006, a syndicate of Western banks, led by France's Societe Generale, filed a petition in the Moscow Arbitration Court for Yukos to be declared bankrupt.[82] On August 1, 2006, the Moscow Arbitration Court declared Yukos oil company bankrupt after being hit with claims for $30bn in disputed taxes. Two weeks later, the Russian prosecutor general’s office said that it was pursuing a criminal investigation against four executives who managed the Yukos oil company from outside Russia before it was declared bankrupt. Among those executives was British lawyer Tim Osborne, director of the holding company GML, formerly Menatep, which owned a majority of Yukos stock.[83]

At the time of the Yukos bankruptcy, GML controlled 51% of Yukos shares through Yukos Universal and Hulley Enterprises. Veteran Petroleum, the Yukos pension fund, and Millhouse Capital, owned 10% and 8.8% each. Three hedge funds also held a 24% stake in Yukos.[84]

Valmet, a Geneva-based global trust business, founded by Christian Michel, agreed in early 1989 to advise Khodorkovsky's group of young businessmen. Valmet later held the key to the Group Menatep fortune, holding shares via nominee ownership schemes and organizing the transfer of vast sums of money via its network.[85]

Clearstream Scandal[edit]

Further information: Clearstream § Bank_Menatep

The financial condition of the Moscow-based Bank "Menatep" was seriously damaged during the 1998 financial crisis due to a requirement by the Russian Central Bank that all commercial banks keep an economically untenable[editorializing] proportion of their reserve requirements in Russian treasury bills known as GKO, which subsequently collapsed, causing a default which led to the crisis and Bank Menatep's bankruptcy. The Central Bank revoked Menatep's licence in May 1999.[86]

The bankruptcy was finalized by February 2001. In an unprecedented move[peacock term], the core shareholders of the bank, the financial holding Group Menatep of which Khodorkovsky was a principal, decided to share their own money with the 15,000 Bank Menatep small depositors whose savings had been wiped out by the collapse. A new Bank Menatep Saint Petersburg was created[when?] from a Saint Petersburg division of Bank Menatep. It accumulated the assets, but not the liabilities of the original bank.[citation needed]

According to Ernest Backes, former #3 of Clearstream, a clearing-house which has been qualified as a "bank of banks", Menatep maintained an unpublished secret account at Clearstream until at least 2000.[87][88][89]

In 2001, investigative reporter Denis Robert and ex-banker Ernest Backes, an executive at Cedel (now Clearstream) until May 1983, had published a book, "Revelation$" in which Backes disclosed internal information from Cedel.[90] After Backes had made his revelations the German foreign intelligence agency BND became interested.

In late 2002, Ernest Backes gave the BND insight into a dossier on Yukos and the principal shareholder of the Russian company, Group Menatep, containing incriminating evidence against Khodorkovsky. The intelligence agency was thrilled. In early 2003 Backes handed over a copy of his dossier on Yukos and Menatep to the BND who finally sent it in February 2003 from Pullach to the Federal Chancellery in Berlin. Meanwhile, Putin traveled to Berlin to open the Russian Culture Days on February 9 and meet with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. On February 26, the German Chancellor went surprisingly to an "extraordinary meeting" with the Russian President in Moscow. [91] When asked by the German magazine STERN in 2007, Schroeder denied having handed over the Backes dossier to Vladimir Putin during his visit to Berlin in February 2003.[92]

The German foreign intelligence agency subsequently invited Backes and another ex-banker, Swiss citizen André Strebel to further talks. In June 2003, Backes and Strebel met with two agents from BND Department 5 ("Organized Crime - International Terrorism") in the Munich Maritim Hotel. They agreed a deal: The BND would finance the establishment of an institute. This was on condition that the BND would get access to the extensive archives, which Backes and Strebel had built up in the course of their work for various banking and clearing systems.[93]

The BND financed the establishment of the "Institute for Economic Research Ltd." (Institut für Wirtschaftsrecherchen GmbH (IWR), located in Saarbrücken and the ex-bankers started working on their dossier. To outsiders, the BND background was not recognizable.[94]

On July 2, 2003, Khodorkovsky’s business associate Platon Lebedev was arrested and Mikhail Khodorkovsky himself was arrested on October 25, 2003. A month later, on November 26, 2003, Backes and his partner Strebel filed through the BND sham institute in Saarbrücken a criminal complaint with the Swiss attorney general against Khodorkovsky and his colleagues Platon Lebedev and Alexei Golubovich, accusing them of money-laundering and supporting a criminal organization. They requested an investigation and a search of records of the Swiss office of Menatep SA, Menatep Finances SA, Valmet. and of Bank Leu in Geneva, related to claims of fraud against the Russian company Avisma and money-laundering by Menatep in Switzerland.[95][96]

Clearstream denied "the existence of parallel accounts" and of "personal accounts" (in response, Denis Robert published a list of several personal accounts on his blog).[97] However, the company did recognize that "a banking establishment may request an unpublished account, that is, an account only known by the establishments concerned by the transaction, control authorities, and the auditors of the firm". Clearstream also indicated that it had "spent 15 million euros on various audits without finding anything," Denis Robert's accusations.[98]

Refusal of the European Commission to open an investigation[edit]

On April 26, 2006, 20 Minutes revealed that "in May 2005, MEP Paul Van Buitenen was shocked by Frits Bolkestein's presence on Menatep's international consultative council, a Russian banking establishment, and by his work for Shell, a British-Dutch petrol company, two firms 'maintaining secret accounts in Clearstream'... Van Buitenen, also Dutch, then asked for 'clarification' to the European Commission and the opening of a parliamentary investigation. The Commission's president, José Manuel Barroso, replied that these facts 'do not bring up any new question' and that it is not known 'if Menatep made contact with Bolkestein while he was in these positions'. No investigation therefore took place."

The free daily points out that "in 2001, it was Bolkestein himself who announced the Commission's refusal to open up a parliamentary investigation on Clearstream", following Harlem Désir's requests and accusations that Menatep had an "undeclared account" at Clearstream. Bolkestein refused to answer any questions by the newspaper.[99]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

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  84. ^ What the Russian papers say, sputniknews.com, 31.07.2006
  85. ^ Khodorkovsky's High Stakes Gamble, May. 16 2005
  86. ^ МФО МЕНАТЕП Company profile, kommersant.ru, 02.11.2011
  87. ^ Commentary: Europe Needs an Independent Settlement System businessweek.com, JUNE 4, 2001. Website archived on Feb 14, 2012; web.archive.org.
  88. ^ "Clearstream’s dealings with Russian banks are another area of concern. Menatep Bank, which had been bought in a rigged auction of Soviet assets and has been linked to numerous international scams, opened its Cedel account (No. 81738) on May 15, 1997, after Lussi visited the bank’s president in Moscow and invited him to use the system. It was a non-published account that didn’t correspond to any published account, a breach of Clearstream’s rules. Menatep further violated the rules because many transfers were of cash, not for settlement of securities. “For the three months in 1997 for which I hold microfiches,” Backes says, “only cash transfers were channeled through the Menatep account.” “There were a lot of transfers between Menatep and the Bank of New York,” Backes adds. Natasha Gurfinkel Kagalovsky, a former Bank of New York official and the wife of a Menatep vice president, was accused of helping launder at least $7 billion from Russia.": Explosive Revelation$ (cont’d), inthesetimes.com, March 15, 2002. Lucy Komisar on "Revelation$" by Denis Robert and Ernest Backes, former #3 of Clearstream.
  89. ^ Offshore Banking: The Secret Threat To America, By Lucy Komisar Hound-Dogs, March 2004. Lucy Komisar on "Revelation$" by Denis Robert and Ernest Backes, former #3 of Clearstream.
  90. ^ Luxembourg, blanchiment d'argent, ina.fr
  91. ^ Gerichtsentscheid bringt Ölkonzern Yukos schwer in die Bredouille
  92. ^ Spione am Scanner, stern.de, 14. April 2007
  93. ^ Spione am Scanner, stern.de, 14. April 2007
  94. ^ IWR Institut für Wirtschaftsrecherchen GmbH, Saarbrücken
  95. ^ "2003 ging bei der Bundesanwaltschaft eine Anzeige gegen Chodorkowski wegen Geldwäscherei ein. Diese hatte einen undurchsichtigen Hintergrund, der in der Schweiz bis heute unbemerkt blieb: Anzeigeerstatter waren der Genfer Banker André Strebel und der Luxemburger Financier Ernest Backes. Schweizer Medien berichteten über die Anzeige und über das Institut für Wirtschaftsrecherchen (IWR) in Saarbrücken, das Strebel und Backes damals betrieben. Eines blieb unbemerkt: Das Institut war eine Tarnfirma des deutschen Auslandgeheimdiensts BND. Dies haben Strebel und Backes diese Woche gegenüber dem TA bestätigt. 2007 war die Tarnung aufgeflogen. Der «Stern» berichtete über Streit zwischen Strebel und dem BND und über einen Prozess wegen ausgebliebener Gehaltszahlungen. Dem Arbeitsgericht Saarbrücken bestätigte der Nachrichtendienst: «Der BND hat die Gründung des IWR finanziell (auf ein Jahr begrenzt) unterstützt.» Dies sei unter der Bedingung geschehen, dass der Nachrichtendienst Zugang zu den Archiven der beiden Ex-Banker erhalte. Gemäss Strebel und Backes sollte ihr Institut auch den Schweizer Finanzplatz durchleuchten – wobei man auf Dokumente zu Chodorkowskis Firmen gestossen sei. Laut eigenen Angaben überreichten die beiden dem BND ein 500-seitiges Dossier mit Geldwäscherei-Vorwürfen gegen Chodorkowskis Bank Menatep. Von dort soll es laut dem Branchendienst Intelligence online kurz vor Chodorkowskis Verhaftung zu Putin gelangt sein." Chodorkowskis Spuren in der Schweiz, tagesanzeiger.ch, 11.01.2014. About Khodorkovsky's traces in Switzerland.
  96. ^ Von Clearstream bis Yukos: Der kalte russisch-amerikanische Ölkrieg, wallstreet-online.de, 31.01.05
  97. ^ Comptes... "Clearstream dément avoir des comptes au nom de personnes physiques...? vérification sur preuve ici, édifiant! ...."
  98. ^ "Concernant ses liens avec la Menatep, Clearstream répond que si « la Menatep peut avoir des comptes bizarres, elle n'a pas été fermée pour cause de blanchiment ». ": Pour Clearstream, «il n'y a pas de comptes parallèles», 20minutes.fr, 26.04.06. Arvhived May 12, 2006
  99. ^ Révélation 20 Minutes: Quand la Commission européenne refusait d'enquêter sur Clearstream, 20minutes.fr, 26.04.06