RUSSIA TO CRACK DOWN ON FALSIFIED IMPORT DATA

RUSSIA TO CRACK DOWN ON FALSIFIED IMPORT DATA

Russian officials said Friday they would clamp down on illegal flows of cash abroad with new measures to catch companies that fudge import data to stockpile tax-free fortunes.

Commercial bankers say the breach of import rules costs Russia up to $400 million each month. Importers use falsified documents to transfer money abroad, but the goods listed in the invoices never reach the Russian consumer."The rules have been designed to shut the main channel of capital flight - namely, money transfers under fake import deals," Tatyana Paramonova, acting central bank governor, told a news conference.

She said Russia planned new import controls from Nov. 1 to close the floodgates.

"But we realize it will only be possible to halt and reverse capital flight when the overall economic climate in the country improves," she added.

Central bank officials have put overall capital flight from Russia at $30 billion since the start of 1990. They said it peaked in 1992 and 1993 when a total of $25 billion left the country illegally.

Under the new rules, an importer would have to give the bank a customs declaration certifying that goods had been delivered or an authorized notification that they had been dispatched before making a money transfer at a bank.

She said a bank would need "convincing guarantees" that goods would be delivered in case of advance payment, most widely used for illegal money transfers.

"This form of payment is the most difficult to control, but banks will be given broad rights . . . They will be able to refuse to transfer money abroad if they are not convinced that the goods will be delivered," she said.

Yevgeny Ivanov, deputy head of central bank currency control department, told the news conference that most banks welcomed the move, although some complained it put more strain on them.