Since the American war against Russia began in 2014, the market for Russian art has been driven by rich Russians running away, both buyers and sellers, as well as Americans making disposals. This week, in the semi-annual London auctions, there was a surge of demand for the art which American Russia-haters, not to mention the Kremlin and the Russian Church, have reviled, particularly this year. Soviet art – the celebration of the post-1917 values of secularism, republicanism, socialism, anti-imperialism — hit prices never recorded before. For the first time in the second century of the Russian republic, revolution fetched a higher price than reaction. (more…)
The arrest and indictment of Suleiman Kerimov in Nice last week on charges of tax fraud and money laundering have begun loosening the tongues of international bankers and commodity trade financiers who have done business with Kerimov in the past, and who have been guests at his Cap d’Antibes villa parties.
They say Kerimov’s wealth is illusory and exaggerated by the press, because his assets are heavily leveraged by bank loans which can be called in by material changes in borrower condition; Kerimov’s arrest may be one of them.
The sources also believe the money for Kerimov’s villa purchases in Cap d’Antibes, which are the target of the French prosecution, originated from Russian state banks. “The international banks largely dropped Kerimov’s business after 2008 when the share value securing his borrowings collapsed, and he had to sell up,” comments a source who was involved in financing for Kerimov before the crash. “Since then he’s been a dependent of Sberbank. The Sberbank officials knew he was high risk, and they treated him like a slave. Kerimov had to kiss their feet.”
Investigations in Nice, Moscow and Switzerland, where Kerimov’s asset holdings are managed, confirm that Kerimov’s chief creditors today are the state banks, Sberbank and VTB, run by German Gref and Andrei Kostin. A smaller line of credit has been extended by a third state lender, Gazprombank. The international bankers say they don’t know whether Russian state bankers are also beneficiaries of the villas at Cap d’Antibes.
In Moscow there is nervousness over what Kerimov’s telephone conversations, tapped by French prosecutors, have revealed already; and what he will admit under interrogation about who may be the owners of the real estate, if not himself. An international bank source believes the real villa owners aren’t Russian bankers. “They don’t like people like Kerimov,” the source says. “Certainly not [Sberbank chief executive German] Gref and [VTB chief executive Andrei] Kostin. They are independently rich; they don’t need guys like Kerimov. They would not put themselves into Kerimov’s hands. These houses are never worth what the papers are reporting but they are all Kerimov’s stuff. That’s been his business style. He buys assets in bagloads – bank shares, commodities, real estate. But now the market has turned like it did for his other assets. You can’t sell a house on the Cote d’Azur at the price Kerimov paid. His business is show business. That’s caught up with him now.” (more…)
Evasion of French taxes is the criminal case against Suleiman Kerimov (lead image, rear left), who was jailed in Nice on November 20; indicted two days later; then released on €5 million in bail, his passport confiscated and his freedom curtailed by French police surveillance which may last for years, before the French judicial process is complete.
If convicted on the charges, Kerimov faces a penalty of ten years in prison. If he pleads guilty, pays the back taxes, a money fine or asset forfeit, he may be released to return to Russia. There, the French evidence and Kerimov’s plea will prove he is liable to criminal violations of the Russian law on disclosing offshore assets, and of failing to pay Russian taxes on the money used to acquire them. A Russian prosecution of Kerimov would then become the basis for a criminal prosecution for money laundering in Switzerland against the entities through which Kerimov has operated, and the Studhalter family which has served as his agents for more than a decade.
For the Kremlin, the Kerimov affair represents as great a criminal case as the trial, thirteen years ago, of the oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky – except that this time the courts, prosecutors, and jailors in Kerimov’s case are all impeccably French. Not a single Russian lawyer, journalist, publication, radio or television broadcast has noticed. The silence is deafening. (more…)
Sergei Frank, a former federal transport minister and chief executive of the state shipping company Sovcomflot since 2004, is unique among Russian state officials. He is the only one to have been adjudicated by a series of UK judges to have lied, been dishonest in evidence-gathering, and vindictive in his use of the courts against business rivals.
This week in London, in a unanimous ruling by three judges of the Court of Appeal, Frank has been judged to have foolishly postponed the day of reckoning by unjustified criticism of his judges, and ordered to pay $75 million to a UK-based Russian shipowner. This puts an end to the 12-year vendetta which Frank has waged over allegations which this week’s ruling says were properly “dismissed because the transactions were not dishonest or in breach of trust”.
Frank is also unique among Russian state officials. Despite all the judgements against him, and the millions of dollars of penalties for his misjudgements which Sovcomflot has had to pay, he hasn’t been sacked. Not yet. (more…)
President Vladimir Putin is the bee’s knees. There’s noone to beat him, electionwise. But when it comes to feeding Russians the genuine article, Putin’s promise is a honey trap. Naturally, we are talking only of the business of Russian beekeeping, honey production and trade.
Eighteen months after Putin listened to a Kemerovo region beekeeper complain that adulterated and counterfeit honey products imported from abroad were driving genuine Russian honey out of the market, the president said he would order the government to investigate. The study which followed early this year has confirmed the economic damage adulteration is doing to the Russian bee business, and proposed to combat it with tighter regulations and more comprehensive testing. But the packers and retailers of fake honey have successfully lobbied Putin to sit on his hands. Nothing has happened – except that Russian production of honey is now falling. .
“The share of Russian natural honey on the domestic market used to be 94%,” says Arnold Butov, president of the Russian National Union of Beekeepers (RNSP). “ But this is decreasing. Some organizations and enterprises make honey with additives to increase the weight and sweetness of the product, making it easier to pour. These products are becoming more popular among consumers, and retailers prefer them to natural honey. We tried to appeal to the responsible governmental organizations, but were ignored. Someone there is lobbying the interests of retailers. The Bashkiria Republic government supports its honey producers very well. That can’t be said about the federal government, where control of honey production is very weak. We are writing a letter to President Putin in order to demonstrate the problems, and we hope that before 2021, when Apimondia, the international federation of beekeepers’ associations, is scheduled to convene at Ufa, in Bashkiria, some of these problems will be solved.” (more…)
President Vladimir Putin’s campaign to repatriate Russian capital from offshore havens, and to force the well-known Russian oligarchs to return their cash and assets to Russia, took a leap forward on Monday evening in Nice, France. That is when French police arrested Suleiman Kerimov (lead image), and refused to accept that the diplomatic passport he was eligible to carry, issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry in Kerimov’s capacity as a senator of the Federation Council for Dagestan, provided him with the immunity Kerimov protested that it did.
December approaches, opening the last stretch of the presidential election campaign that concludes in sixteen weeks’ time, on March 18.
What to watch for as President Vladimir Putin holds his December meetings with the oligarchs who rule Russia’s future, and the voters who will be the victims of it? As the Russian Orthodox Church has warned, beware the ruler who is pragmatic, and the 16th century Italian, Niccolo Machiavelli – Satan’s finger, according to holy sermons — who teaches rulers not simply to lower moral standards, but to abolish them entirely.
Not for the Church can the presidential election be a Machiavellian choice between greater and lesser evils, between means justifying ends, between material prosperity and spiritual poverty. “The devil is not a fairy tale,” a recent Church homily argued, “he is a brilliant strategist and psychologist, and he is supremely real. The arguments of Machiavelli [are] his most successful deception to date… Machiavelli was the inventor of hypocrisy, since he was the inventor of propaganda. He was the first philosopher who wanted to change the world by propaganda.”
Propaganda cannot be the method, the Russian Church preaches; nor hypocrisy the presidential election outcome. However, between propaganda and hypocrisy, that’s what half the Russian electorate thinks is the choice. According to the Levada Centre poll released this week, 42% of voters say the election outcome will make no difference to their lives; 45% believe it might; 13% are uncertain and so distrustful of the pollster they won’t say anything.
So how close, or how far from Machiavelli’s model ruler, is Putin the frontrunner, and what does the president himself think of Machiavelli? (more…)
The Russian state bank VTB has corroborated its role in managing a complicated set of loans, insider transfers and repurchase agreements for Oleg Deripaska’s aluminium and electricity holding, EN+, which issued global depositary receipts on the London Stock Exchange last week. Since the listing, the Russian group has lost $140 million in market capitalization. An international banker in London commented that the listing “breaks new ground, not to say exchange rules, for a share that isn’t a share and for a free float that isn’t either.” (more…)
Last week, the first week in the life of Russia’s EN+ Group on the London Stock Exchange, Oleg Deripaska (lead images), control shareholder and chief executive, took $500 million in cash for himself, then triggered a $112 million loss for the other shareholders led by the Russian state bank, VTB.
This followed an investigation by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) of EN+’s application to list and trade global depositary receipts (GDRs) instead of ordinary shares, which Deripaska will not be listing at all. Approval for the listing on the London exchange was given on condition that Deripaska published a series of investment warnings and liability disclaimers at the head of the EN+ prospectus, which was issued on November 3. In capital letters, investors were warned: INVESTMENT IN THE GDRS [of EN+] INVOLVES A HIGH DEGREE OF RISK. PROSPECTIVE INVESTORS SHOULD READ THE ENTIRE PROSPECTUS, PARTICULARLY, THE SECTION HEADED ‘‘RISK FACTORS’’, WHEN CONSIDERING AN INVESTMENT IN THE COMPANY.”
London sources say the market took this warning so seriously, there is almost no investor demand for the shares. Sold to a group of insiders at $14 before trading commenced last week, the issue of 112.1 million shares fell towards $12.80 before price support was observed. At a current price of $13 per GDR (equals one ordinary share) $112.1 million in market capitalization has already been lost. (more…)
It’s possible Donald Trump meant the little he has said about who was responsible for the destruction of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine in July 2014. If he did, he didn’t mean it for long. If he didn’t mean what he said, with the retrospect of two years that comes as no surprise.
On MH17 there’s now no difference between former President Barack Obama, defeated presidential rival Hillary Clinton, and Trump. Trump has done nothing to answer with the evidence at the disposal of the incumbent president what the US Government knows about who and what shot down the aircraft, killing all 298 people aboard. (more…)
A new group of US lawyers has advertised its services for suing the Russian state bank Sberbank, claiming they will earn large cash settlements for families of those killed when the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. The law firm is known as Motley Rice, headquartered in South Carolina, and the lawyer leading the advertisement to sue is Michael Elsner (lead image, top).
Motley Rice claims to be a specialist in aircraft crash cases and aviation liability, and two other lawyers in the firm, Mary Schiavo and James Brauchle, have advertised their expertise on the MH17 case in the US press. But they are keeping their pitch for a US court attack on Sberbank secret. (more…)
Stealing diamonds is a common crime. Stealing diamond mines is not unheard of, particularly in Africa. But the Grib diamond mine in the Arkhangelsk region of Russia is the only diamond mine to have been stolen four times in just twenty years. This is a record in the history of the diamond world, and one which four well-known Russian men and one lady can be proud of, quietly.
Alisher Usmanov (lead image, in frame), Vagit Alekperov (under fedora hat), and Vadim Belyaev (kepi) were the culprits until August of this year, when Elvira Nabiullina, Governor of the Central Bank of Russia, and Andrei Kostin, chief executive of the VTB state bank , joined in the getaway. The value of the loot is now $1.45 billion. (more…)
The Ukraine war is splitting the communist parties of Europe between those taking the US side, and those on the Russian side.
In an unusual public criticism of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) and of smaller communist parties in Europe which have endorsed the Greek criticism of Russia for waging an “imperialist” war against the Ukraine, the Russian Communist Party (KPRF) has responded this week with a 3,300-word declaration: “The military conflict in Ukraine,” the party said, “cannot be described as an imperialist war, as our comrades would argue. It is essentially a national liberation war of the people of Donbass. From Russia’s point of view it is a struggle against an external threat to national security and against Fascism.”
By contrast, the Russian communists have not bothered to send advice, or air public criticism of the Cypriot communists and their party, the Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL). On March 2, AKEL issued a communiqué “condemn[ing] Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and calls for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of the Russian troops from Ukrainian territories….[and] stresses that the Russian Federation’s action in recognising the Donetsk and Luhansk regions constitutes a violation of the principle of the territorial integrity of states.”
To the KPRF in Moscow the Cypriots are below contempt; the Greeks are a fraction above it.
A Greek-Cypriot veteran of Cypriot politics and unaffiliated academic explains: “The Cypriot communists do not allow themselves to suffer for what they profess to believe. Actually, they are a misnomer. They are the American party of the left in Cyprus, just as [President Nikos] Anastasiades is the American party of the right.” As for the Greek left, Alexis Tsipras of Syriza – with 85 seats of the Greek parliament’s 300, the leading party of the opposition – the KKE (with 15 seats), and Yanis Varoufakis of MeRA25 (9 seats), the source adds: “The communists are irrelevant in Europe and in the US, except in the very narrow context of Greek party politics.”
The war plan of the US and the European allies is destroying the Russian market for traditional French perfumes, the profits of the French and American conglomerates which own the best-known brands, the bonuses of their managers, and the dividends of their shareholders. The odour of these losses is too strong for artificial fresheners.
Givaudan, the Swiss-based world leader in production and supply of fragrances, oils and other beauty product ingredients, has long regarded the Russian market as potentially its largest in Europe; it is one of the fastest growing contributors to Givaudan’s profit worldwide. In the recovery from the pandemic of Givaudan’s Fragrance and Beauty division – it accounts for almost half the company’s total sales — the group reported “excellent double-digit growth in 2021, demonstrating strong consumer demand for these product categories.” Until this year, Givaudan reveals in its latest financial report, the growth rate for Russian demand was double-digit – much faster than the 6.3% sales growth in Europe overall; faster growth than in Germany, Belgium and Spain.
Between February 2014, when the coup in Kiev started the US war against Russia, and last December, when the Russian non-aggression treaties with the US and NATO were rejected, Givaudan’s share price jumped three and a half times – from 1,380 Swiss francs to 4,792 francs; from a company with a market capitalisation of 12.7 billion francs ($12.7 billion) to a value of 44.2 billion francs ($44.2 billion). Since the fighting began in eastern Ukraine this year until now, Givaudan has lost 24% of that value – that’s $10 billion.
The largest of Givaudan’s shareholders is Bill Gates. With his 14%, plus the 10% controlled by Black Rock of New York and MFS of Boston, the US has effective control over the company.
Now, according to the US war sanctions, trade with Russia and the required payment systems have been closed down, alongside the bans on the importation of the leading European perfumes. So in place of the French perfumers, instead of Givaudan, the Russian industry is reorganizing for its future growth with its own perfume brands manufactured from raw materials produced in Crimea and other regions, or supplied by India and China. Givaudan, L’Oréal (Lancome, Yves Saint Laurent), Kering (Balenciaga, Gucci), LVMH (Dior, Guerlain, Givenchy), Chanel, Estée Lauder, Clarins – they have all cut off their noses to spite the Russian face.
By Nikolai Storozhenko, introduced and translated by John Helmer, Moscow @bears_with
This week President Joseph Biden stopped at an Illinois farm to say he’s going to help the Ukraine ship 20 million tonnes of wheat and corn out of storage into export, thereby relieving grain shortages in the international markets and lowering bread prices around the world. Biden was trying to play a hand in which his cards have already been clipped. By Biden.
The first Washington-Kiev war plan for eastern Ukraine has already lost about 40% of the Ukrainian wheat fields, 50% of the barley, and all of the grain export ports. Their second war plan to hold the western region defence lines with mobile armour, tanks, and artillery now risks the loss of the corn and rapeseed crop as well as the export route for trucks to Romania and Moldova. What will be saved in western Ukraine will be unable to grow enough to feed its own people. They will be forced to import US wheat, as well as US guns and the money to pay for both.
Biden told his audience that on the Delaware farms he used to represent in the US Senate “there are more chickens than there are Americans.” Blaming the Russians is the other card Biden has left.
The problem with living in exile is the meaning of the word. If you’re in exile, you mean you are forever looking backwards, in geography as well as in time. You’re not only out of place; you’re out of time — yesterday’s man.
Ovid, the Roman poet who was sent into exile from Rome by Caesar Augustus, for offences neither Augustus nor Ovid revealed, never stopped looking back to Rome. His exile, as Ovid described it, was “a barbarous coast, inured to rapine/stalked ever by bloodshed, murder, war.” In such a place or state, he said, “writing a poem you can read to no one is like dancing in the dark.”
The word itself, exsilium in Roman law, was the sentence of loss of citizenship as an alternative to loss of life, capital punishment. It meant being compelled to live outside Rome at a location decided by the emperor. The penalty took several degrees of isolation and severity. In Ovid’s case, he was ordered by Augustus to be shipped to the northeastern limit of the Roman empire, the Black Sea town called Tomis; it is now Constanta, Romania. Ovid’s last books, Tristia (“Sorrows”) and Epistulae ex Ponto (“Black Sea Letters”), were written from this exile, which began when he was 50 years old, in 8 AD, and ended when he died in Tomis nine years year later, in 17 AD.
In my case I’ve been driven into exile more than once. The current one is lasting the longest. This is the one from Moscow, which began with my expulsion by the Foreign Ministry on September 28, 2010. The official sentence is Article 27(1) of the law No. 114-FZ — “necessary for the purposes of defence capability or security of the state, or public order, or protection of health of the population.” The reason, a foreign ministry official told an immigration service official when they didn’t know they were being overheard, was: “Helmer writes bad things about Russia.”
Antonio Guterres is the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), who attempted last month to arrange the escape from Russian capture of Ukrainian soldiers and NATO commanders, knowing they had committed war crimes. He was asked to explain; he refuses.
Trevor Cadieu is a Canadian lieutenant-general who was appointed the chief of staff and head of the Canadian Armed Forces last August; was stopped in September; retired from the Army this past April, and went to the Ukraine, where he is in hiding. From whom he is hiding – Canadians or Russians – where he is hiding, and what he will say to explain are questions Cadieu isn’t answering, yet.
Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, is refusing this week to answer questions on the role he played in the recent attempt by US, British, Canadian and other foreign combatants to escape the bunkers under the Azovstal plant, using the human shield of civilians trying to evacuate.
In Guterres’s meeting with President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on April 26 (lead image), Putin warned Guterres he had been “misled” in his efforts. “The simplest thing”, Putin told Guterres in the recorded part of their meeting, “for military personnel or members of the nationalist battalions is to release the civilians. It is a crime to keep civilians, if there are any there, as human shields.”
This war crime has been recognized since 1977 by the UN in Protocol 1 of the Geneva Convention. In US law for US soldiers and state officials, planning to employ or actually using human shields is a war crime to be prosecuted under 10 US Code Section 950t.
Instead, Guterres ignored the Kremlin warning and the war crime law, and authorized UN officials, together with Red Cross officials, to conceal what Guterres himself knew of the foreign military group trying to escape. Overnight from New York, Guterres has refused to say what he knew of the military escape operation, and what he had done to distinguish, or conceal the differences between the civilians and combatants in the evacuation plan over the weekend of April 30-May 1.May.
By Vlad Shlepchenko, introduced & translated by John Helmer, Moscow @bears_with
The more western politicians announce pledges of fresh weapons for the Ukraine, the more Russian military analysts explain what options their official sources are considering to destroy the arms before they reach the eastern front, and to neutralize Poland’s role as the NATO hub for resupply and reinforcement of the last-ditch holdout of western Ukraine.
“I would like to note,” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, repeated yesterday, “that any transport of the North Atlantic Alliance that arrived on the territory of the country with weapons or material means for the needs of the Ukrainian armed forces is considered by us as a legitimate target for destruction”. He means the Ukraine border is the red line.
Here’s a story the New York Times has just missed.
US politicians and media pundits are promoting the targeting of “enablers” of Russian oligarchs who stash their money in offshore accounts. A Times article of March 11 highlighted Michael Matlin, CEO of Concord Management as such an “enabler.” But the newspaper missed serious corruption Matlin was involved in. Maybe that’s because Matlin cheated Russia, and also because the Matlin story exposes the William Browder/Sergei Magnitsky hoax aimed at Russia.
In 1939 a little known writer in Moscow named Sigizmund Khrzhizhanovsky published his idea that the Americans, then the Germans would convert human hatred into a new source of energy powering everything which had been dependent until then on coal, gas, and oil.
Called yellow coal, this invention originated with Professor Leker at Harvard University. It was applied, first to running municipal trams, then to army weapons, and finally to cheap electrification of everything from domestic homes and office buildings to factory production lines. In Russian leker means a quack doctor.
The Harvard professor’s idea was to concentrate the neuro-muscular energy people produce when they hate each other. Generated as bile (yellow), accumulated and concentrated into kinetic spite in machines called myeloabsorberators, Krzhizhanovsky called this globalization process the bilificationof society.
In imperial history there is nothing new in cases of dementia in rulers attracting homicidal psychopaths to replace them. It’s as natural as honey attracts bees.
When US President Woodrow Wilson was incapacitated by a stroke on October 19, 1919, he was partially paralysed and blinded, and was no longer able to feed himself, sign his name, or speak normally; he was not demented.
While his wife and the Navy officer who was his personal physician concealed his condition, there is no evidence that either Edith Wilson or Admiral Cary Grayson were themselves clinical cases of disability, delusion, or derangement. They were simply liars driven by the ambition to hold on to the power of the president’s office and deceive everyone who got in their way.
The White House is always full of people like that. The 25th Amendment to the US Constitution is meant to put a damper on their homicidal tendencies.
What is unusual, probably exceptional in the current case of President Joseph Biden, not to mention the history of the United States, is the extent of the president’s personal incapacitation; combined with the clinical evidence of psychopathology in his Secretary of State Antony Blinken; and the delusional condition of the rivals to replace Biden, including Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Like Rome during the first century AD, Washington is now in the ailing emperor-homicidal legionary phase. But give it another century or two, and the madness, bloodshed, and lies of the characters of the moment won’t matter quite as much as their images on display in the museums of their successors craving legitimacy, or of successor powers celebrating their superiority.
Exactly this has happened to the original Caesars, as a new book by Mary Beard, a Cambridge University professor of classics, explains. The biggest point of her book, she says, is “dynastic succession” – not only of the original Romans but of those modern rulers who acquired the Roman portraits in marble and later copies in paint, and the copies of those copies, with the idea of communicating “the idea of the direct transfer of power from ancient Romans to Franks and on to later German rulers.”
In the case she narrates of the most famous English owner of a series of the “Twelve Caesars”, King Charles I — instigator of the civil war of 1642-51 and the loser of both the war and his head – the display of his Caesars was intended to demonstrate the king’s self-serving “missing link” between his one-man rule and the ancient Romans who murdered their way to rule, and then apotheosized into immortal gods in what they hoped would be a natural death on a comfortable bed.
With the American and Russian successions due to take place in Washington and Moscow in two years’ time, Beard’s “Twelve Caesars, Images of Power from the Ancient World to the Modern”, is just the ticket from now to then.