Today's Papers

Dirty Laundry

The Washington Post leads with the Bank of New York’s dismissal of an executive who worked with the bank’s Eastern European accounts. The New York Times stuffs this story, and fronts an interview with a Russian industrialist who supports the conventional wisdom that both Russian politicians and mobsters illegally laundered money through the bank. The Los Angeles Times leads with the indictment of a former Mexican deputy attorney general on 25 counts relating to drug trafficking and money laundering. (The NYT fronts the story). The NYT leads with talks held among the states regarding pollution. Northeastern states are now reluctantly considering much smaller reductions in nitrogen oxide emissions than they had proposed. All three papers front the abandonment of space station Mir, after 13 years in orbit. The WP fronts political unrest in Venezuela, a story the other papers stuff.

All the papers give the Bank of New York’s reasons for Lucy Edwards’ dismissal: She falsified bank records, refused to cooperate with an internal investigation, and violated bank policies. NYT sources suggest what these violations might be: She used the bank’s name in dealings unrelated to her job and she endorsed her husband’s application for several accounts without mentioning that they were married. Edwards’ husband is Peter Berlin, who used accounts at the bank to move over $4 billion out of Russia for Benex, a Russian company with alleged mob ties. The papers delightedly mention the topic of a speech Edwards gave at a recent conference: money laundering. International Monetary Fund officials continue to deny that funds were skimmed off IMF accounts but admit that they’ve had accountability problems with Russia’s central bank in the past. The House Banking Committee plans to hold hearings on Russian money laundering in Western banks.

Mikhail Khodorkovksy tells the NYT that politicians pumped billions of dollars out of Russia when insider information suggested that currency devaluation was imminent. He also supports the conventional investigation wisdom that Semyon Mogilevich, a Russian crime don, used the Benex corporation to launder money through the Bank of New York. Khodorkovsky is the chairman of one of Russia’s largest oil companies, and former chairman of Menatep, an insolvent Russian bank. Menatep’s business relationship with and personal connections to the Bank of New York have brought it under scrutiny. Konstantin Kagalovsky, former vice chairman of Menatep and current vice chairman of Khodorkovsky’s oil company, is married to a (currently suspended) Bank of New York executive who handled Eastern European accounts.

Mario Ruiz Massieu is accused of using his office to extract bribes from drug traffickers. He has laundered over $9 million dollars into banks in Houston and was arrested in 1995 for attempting to smuggle currency out of the U.S. Alternating attempts to indict and extradite Ruiz Massieu have strained U.S.-Mexican relations for years, but the case for indictment has grown so strong, says the NYT, that the Mexican government now supports the proceedings.

All the papers cite the same reasons for Mir’s demise: failed attempts to privatize the station, the apathy of the Russian public, and pressure from the U.S. and others to devote scarce funds to a proposed multinational space station. A crew will be sent to knock the station out of orbit to burn up in the atmosphere early next year. The NYT notes that no money has yet been earmarked for this elimination mission.

According to the NYT, New York’s leadership helped persuade northeastern states to consider smaller levels of nitrogen oxide emission reductions. Nitrogen oxides, a cause of acid rain, blow into the Northeast from the South and Midwest, making it especially difficult for northeastern cities in the region to comply with the air quality standards of the Clean Air Act. Environmentalists believe that New York Gov. George Pataki endorsed the shift in stance to curry favor with other Republican governors in hopes of a GOP vice presidential nod.

The NYT and WP describe the conflict between the constitutional assembly of populist President Hugo Chavez and Venezuela’s Congress, which consists mainly of an old guard of political and social elites. After the assembly passed orders to prevent the Congress from making new laws, the Congress attempted yesterday to enter the locked Capitol building in defiance of the order. A scuffle ensued, injuring several of the 200-odd participants. Chavez says he and his supporters are merely discarding a corrupt governing body. His opponents say he’s short-circuiting democracy. The NYT adds that intervention of Venezuela’s Catholic Church was helpful in defusing the situation, which ended with the Congress retreating. Everyone notes that the White House is “deeply concerned” about the assembly’s efforts to undermine the Congress.

High and dry: The WP reveals an unexpected effect of the area’s recent droughts. With flora everywhere withering and browning, carefully tended, thriving marijuana plants stick out like sore green thumbs. Maryland law enforcement officials, using low flying planes to detect the devil weed, have seized twice as many plants this year as they had at this time last year. But the heat has taken its toll on the crop’s quality: “This isn’t good weed,” bummed-out insiders report.