Societe Generale sacks Russian unit head who was arrested for accepting a bribe

PARIS (AFP) - French bank Societe Generale said on Wednesday that it had sacked the head of its Russian unit Rosbank, who was arrested last week in Moscow for accepting a US$1.5 million (S$1.9 million) bribe.

"The board of directors of Rosbank has initiated the process of dismissal of Vladimir Golubkov as CEO of Rosbank," said Societe Generale, which owns a controlling stake in the Russian bank.

Golubkov and his subordinate, Rosbank vice-president Tamara Polyanitsyna have both been charged with soliciting a bribe after being detained by the police last Wednesday in a dramatic sting operation that found stacks of bank notes laid out on Golubkov's desk.

Societe Generale said the arrest has not affected the normal operation of Rosbank, which is now being managed by an acting chief executive under the supervision of the French bank's top executive in Russia.

It said Rosbank was fully cooperating with the Russian authorities, and it had appointed the independent audit firm Deloitte to conduct a review as well.

Golubkov, who according to his lawyer has not admitted his guilt, faces up to seven years in jail if convicted on the bribe charges.

The police and investigators said he had demanded US$1.5 million from a businessman in return for extending the maturity and reducing the interest rate on a major loan.

The businessman turned to the police, who set up a sting, with Golubkov allegedly arrested while accepting part of the bribe.

However, a senior Western banker has told Agence France-Presse that Golubkov's arrest appeared to be a coordinated move against Societe Generale, which owns an estimated 82 per cent stake in Rosbank.

Rosbank has more than three million customers in 340 cities and towns in Russia.

It is Russia's 10th-largest bank by assets and the third largest among commercial banks, according to independent Moscow-based rating agency Rus Rating.