It is not difficult to guess who Putin was referring to: in the early 2000s, there was a lawsuit in the United States over illegal private investment by employees of an American government organization in the Russian economy. But the persons involved in the process had nothing to do with the CIA and, in general, with the special services.
In 2000, the Boston attorney filed on behalf of the United States, a civil action – not a criminal one – against Harvard University, its collaborators Andrei Schleifer and Jonathan Hay, and their wives Nancy Zimmerman and Elizabeth Hebert. Schleifer and Haye participated in the work of the Institute for International Development at Harvard University. The institute’s Russian program, aimed at assisting the Russian government in economic reform and privatization, involved the investment of US public funds in the Russian economy. As part of this program, Shleifer and Hay became advisers to Anatoly Chubais, then the head of the State Property Committee.
It turned out that Shleifer and Hay, in their personal interests, invested their own funds in Russian companies and state debt in the amount of several hundred thousand dollars and became owners of small stakes in Russian oil companies. The court dropped the claims against the university, but found in the actions of Schleifer and Haye signs of a conflict of interest, since the Harvard Russian program was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) – therefore, they could be considered as civil servants. Shleifer argued that he was not an employee, but a consultant for the program, but the court did not take this into account, since he received a salary from USAID.
In 2005, the case was settled. Shleifer and Hay agreed pay multimillion-dollar fines, most of the cost being borne by Harvard University.
There was never any mention of Schleifer and Haye’s ties to the CIA in the process. At the same time, no materials of the trial were classified; nothing indicates an attempt to hide from the public the fact that Harvard scientists work for the intelligence services.
Moreover, economics professor Schleifer is a well-known figure in the scientific world. In the Hirsch citation index, he takes first place among all economists. In 1999, his awarded the John Bates Clark Medal, which is awarded to young (under 40) American economists for their significant contributions to science. In 2012, despite the already passed trial, the Russian Leontief Center, established by the Nobel laureate Vasily Leontiev and Anatoly Sobchak, awarded Shleifer International Leontief Medal with the wording “for outstanding services in the development of economic theory and assistance to market reforms in Russia.” In the same year, the Higher School of Economics named one of Schleifer’s scientific works – a study of how financial trust reduces the efficiency of the entire financial system – is among the 12 most interesting economic studies of the year. It is extremely unlikely that a scientist with such a reputation could turn out to be a career intelligence officer.
This is not the first time Putin has mentioned “CIA officers” in the Russian government; said about this on the “direct line” in April 2013:
“Surrounded by Anatoly Borisovich, as it turned out today, staff members of the US CIA worked as advisers. But the funnier thing is that upon returning to the United States, they were brought to trial for the fact that they, in violation of the laws of their country, enriched themselves in the course of privatization in the Russian Federation. And they did not have the right to do so as acting intelligence officers. Under the law, they were prohibited from engaging in any kind of commercial activity within the United States, but they could not resist – corruption, you know. But we must pay tribute to the American judicial system, they did not look at anything, even revealed the fact that CIA personnel worked in Chubais’s entourage. “
Soon after this statement, RIA Novosti reportedthat, according to an anonymous source who worked in Chubais’s team in the 1990s, Putin had in mind exactly Shleifer and Hay. But the American court did not reveal any facts of their work for the CIA.