Russian businessman says company is clean
A Swiss-based Russian whose Tauranga "bank" has drawn the attention of New Zealand government agencies insists he is a clean businessman and he was trying to play peacemaker when he met with Saddam Hussein's government in 2001.
Gazi Luguev is the majority owner of Lakia Financial, a New Zealand-registered company incorporated and headquartered at the Tauranga home of twice-bankrupted Elvis impersonator Darryl Jensen.
The Official Assignee said last week it was investigating Jensen's role in Lakia, and would be deregistering the company if it was found not to be conducting any activity in New Zealand. The Reserve Bank has also contacted Lakia requesting it cease using the word “bank” in its advertising.
Luguev provided a lengthy statement in Russian this week outlining his strong rebuttal of media reports from his country of birth accusing him of criminal links.
He strongly denies any contact with criminals and said his sole dealing with police in Russia was for a speeding offence.
He said this week from Geneva: "I never even talked with the police [in Russia], because all the time I had special permission to drive and they couldn't stop my car because I was a big boss. I had a government job," he said.
Luguev said he struggled with bad press in Russia as the country for a time was turbulent and without legal safeguards.
"You cannot imagine. If you want to know the story of Russia? Before Yeltsin there was no government - you could write what you wanted about anyone."
Luguev said the articles published against him were politically motivated.
"I write to the regime of Putin, the regime of Yeltsin - maybe he was drunk - and then maybe someone wanted to make my name bad, that is all."
Luguev also disputed reporting about his involvement in the United Nations' oil-for-food scandal following his visit to Iraq in early 2001. Luguev had complained to the United Nations when his US$60,000 "advance payment" to secure an oil contract was not returned after the deal fell over.
Luguev said his visit to Baghdad was primarily for peaceful purposes, and he even urged Saddam Hussein to bury the hatchet with the United States.
"I have special meeting with Saddam. I told him ‘Listen, you have to be very close friends with America, with Israel'. I talked with his son [Uday]. But I never made a single business deal with Iraq. I sent an official money as part of the transaction, but never made one job with Iraq, never," he said.
Luguev said he had co-operated with a subsequent investigation into Iraq's oil-for-food scandal and it had cleared him of any criminal wrongdoing.
"I received monetary penalty, that's all. They did not litigate my company," he said.
Luguev said Lakia, was one of many businesses he ran and it had never traded.
"This finance company, we have to work, we are businesspeople. We have to work, we have to create, it's not forbidden," he said.
Lakia's director, the Paris-based Sam Zormati, said he was severing links with company formation agent Jensen.
Last week Lakia's website went offline and emails sent to Zormati at the company's address began bouncing.
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