Police investigate violent death of Russia banker

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Investigators are probing the death of a top manager at Russia’s second largest bank VTB, who was found with his arms and legs bound in a swimming pool, police and law enforcement sources said on Friday.

“We have just started a file on this case and have passed it on to one of our top investigators,” a source in the Investigative Committee of the Central Federal District said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Oleg Zhukovsky, who headed state-run VTB’s lending operations in Russia’s lucrative $19 billion a year logging industry, was found dead on Thursday in a pool near his luxury home with his limbs bound, said police officer Oleg Krasnoshyokov.

“It looked like he was drowned,” said Krasnoshyokov, who serves in the town of Odyntsovo near Moscow where Zhukovsky owned a house in a gated community.

But Russian television said police were also probing a possible suicide.

In Zhukovsky’s home, police found a note which said “I am very tired of life. It is nobody’s fault,” Kommersant reported. Handwriting experts were examining the note to determine who had written it, the state-run RIA agency said.

Analysts said Russia’s logging industry is going through a tumultuous period that has made it a magnet for criminals.

All of Russia’s forest leasing contracts must be annulled and rewritten by the end of next year in accordance with new regulations that came into effect at the start of this year.

“The regulations themselves are very murky, and all this is being done at least partially outside the law,” said Alexei Yaroshchenko, forestry analyst at Greenpeace Russia.

“This has indeed helped to make it a very criminalized business as groups compete over these leases,” Yaroshchenko said.

Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov on Wednesday told an industry conference that the logging business was going through a difficult time and needed to be “renewed from the roots”.

VTB board member Vasily Titov said it was too early to speculate on the cause of Zhukovsky’s death.

“Police officials are doing their work. We have no evidence of aggravated murder,” Titov said.

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