The Moscow office of White & Case was raided today by Russian authorities conducting a criminal investigation.
The Economic Safety Department (ESD) of the Russian Federation Ministry of the Interior confirmed to Russian newspaper Kommersantearlier today that searches and seizure of documents were underway at two business centres – Romanov Dvor and Daev Plaza – in Moscow.
White & Case’s Moscow office is based in the Romanov Dvor business complex. In a statement, the firm said: “White & Case is cooperating fully with Moscow authorities, as appropriate. White & Case and its personnel are not accused of any wrong doing. However, as this is an ongoing investigation, we cannot comment further.”
One lawyer familiar with the situation said that the raid would leave White & Case’s Moscow office “effectively closed down”.
“The problem is that they can often seize all of the computer equipment and hard drives and so on, so you’re effectively closed down,” said the source.
Another lawyer told The Lawyer that White & Case’s lawyers were now, “working from the local coffee bar, the Kafe Mania”.
However, a spokesman for White & Case said that the office was “fully functional and our business operations are unaffected”.
The government investigation is thought to centre on an $85.5m fraud related to the redevelopment of the Moscow Hotel. The criminal action was initiated by the Investigating Committee at the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation (SKP) on 1 June this year.
According to the investigators, $87.5m was stolen by unidentified people from the Moscow city government, one of the owners of the property.
The Moscow office of DLA Piper was also raided today in connection with the investigation. A spokesperson from DLA Piper confirmed:
“On Tuesday 16 June our Moscow office was the subject of a search by the Russian authorities in connection with their investigation of the affairs of a former client. The investigation does not concern DLA Piper or any of its employees and our office is operating normally. In the circumstances, we are unable to make any further comment.”