MOSCOW, June 19 (RAPSI) - A network of shell companies withdrew 760 billion rubles ($24 billion) from the Russian economy in 2010-2012,  the chairman of the Central Bank Sergei Ignatyev, said at a session of the State Duma on Wednesday.

"In May this year, we received an official request from the Interior Ministry concerning several companies that were used for illegal financial transactions by suspects in a criminal case," Ignatyev said. "The Central Bank has studied the direct and indirect payment relations of the organization involved. We have found that the companies mentioned are a small part of a large network of 1,173 shell firms that were used to withdraw 760 billion rubles in violation of tax and currency legislation."

Ignatyev said another 21 billion rubles ($659 million), at the very least, were converted into cash in violation of Russian law.

He said the Central Bank only scrutinized shell companies that were part of a chain of no more than three payments organizations. 

A study of firms that are part of a longer chain would greatly increase the number of shell companies involved and the volume of illegal financial transactions, he said. 

Ignatyev said these illegal transactions were mostly carried out in 2010-2012, although some operations date back to 2009 and 2008. 

The sum of such suspect transactions amounted to $38.1 billion in 2012 compared to $25.9 billion in 2010 and $33.3 billion in 2011. 

According to the Central Bank's audited data, the net capital outflow in 2012 slowed to $54.1 billion from $80.5 billion the year before.