SOVCOMFLOT SURFS ON A WAVE OF CASH

By John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Sovcomflot, Russia’s dominant shipping company and (next to the Chinese) the world’s most valuable energy tanker fleet, announced yesterday that in 2020 its earnings had risen almost 10%, and its profit jumped by over 18%.

However, the stock market is decidedly unimpressed. On the Moscow Stock Exchange, where Sovcomflot shares have been listed since last October, the share price moved up by less than half of one percent on a tiny volume of transactions.   

At its new price of Rb91.12 ($1.24), the market is telling the shipping company it is worth 13% less than the company claimed six months ago, when it issued its share prospectus at Rb105.

Worse yet may materialise in April, when the lock-up period expires for the anchor shareholders; they committed themselves to buying at Rb105 on October 7 and to waiting six months before selling out. At least one of them won’t do that, though. That’s OOO SCF Arctic, a Sovcomflot subsidiary holding part of the tanker fleet. In order to support the planned privatisation of Sovcomflot shares at the target share price, SCF Arctic promised to buy a block of shares from the share-sale bankers if they didn’t want them; that cost the shipping company $47.2 million.

In other words, Sovcomflot was an anchor investor in itself. The state sovereign investor, Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), was the biggest of the other anchors. With state support like this, Moscow market analysts say they aren’t surprised at the lack of commercial investor demand.  “The privatisation was a propaganda exercise”, comments a London shipping expert. “There is a problem in the reporting of Russian companies – the truthful part disguises lots of faking.”

The initial public offering (IPO) last October failed, says Pavel Gavrilov, a stock analyst with BCS Express in Moscow. “Technical difficulties, lack of information, the speculative component, and other factors” were to blame.

Yesterday, Sovcomflot’s chief executive Igor Tonkovidov said that “with swings in global oil demand causing extreme volatility across energy markets, SCF [Sovcomflot] Group has demonstrated resilience to such turbulence and has produced further increase in its key operational and financial metrics.”

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END OF STRING FOR RUSSIAN YO-YO LOAN FRAUD — ILYA YUROV CONVICTED IN LONDON COURT OF STEALING $1.1 BILLION FROM NATIONAL BANK TRUST

by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The English read detective stories for the pleasure of unravelling the crime,  proving that even if there are perfect crimes, in the majority of cases the perpetrators don’t get away with them because the detectives are usually cleverer. That’s fiction.

In real life,  Russian crimes are different. In the majority of cases, including less than perfect crimes involving vast sums of money, the majority of the perps get away with them; live richly  in the UK, Tuscany, or on the Cote d’Azur; and enjoy promotional publicity in the Financial Times. In the cases of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and William Browder they have become so famous for their lying, it’s a devil of a job for the truth to prevail against their fictions.

In the minority of Russian cases, the judgements of the High Court in London are thrillers, though complicated in the reading. In the majority of these judgements, the guilty are convicted, and the innocent vindicated.  But that’s a majority of a minority. A rarity in the library of true Russian crimes.

There have been many Russian yo-yo loan schemes since commercial banking began in Moscow just under thirty years ago. The modus operandi is that the controlling shareholder arranges for his bank to make large loans to offshore companies he invents and controls; passes the money from these fronts on to other fronts,  and then into his pockets. His plan from the start is not to repay the loans; the borrowing fronts have no security for their loans when the bank demands repayment, and there’s no cash. That’s the big crime.

The scheme requires dozens of fake entities, thousands of transactions, more than a handful of banks, and accomplices to manage the operations. Because they are in the know, they have to be paid well. They, too,  grow rich.  They commit the smaller crimes and compound the big one. Even if the big criminal is caught, and his underlings at the Russian end sent to prison until they inculpate their bosses, the offshore managers and fixers – those who keep the yo-yo revolving and the string from breaking – usually get away.

In the case of National Bank Trust versus Ilya Yurov (lead image), his partners and their wives, the High Court published its whodunit last week. The story can be followed from the start in 2015 in this archive;  Khodorkovsky makes several crooked cameo appearances. A British national named Benedict Worsley, the most important of Yurov’s managers,  changed sides when the yo-yo turned into a boomerang. To save himself, he agreed to take more money from the bank to assemble the evidence in the court case against the defendants. In the new court judgement, he reportedly switched sides again before the trial opened on October 1, 2018.  Neither side wanted to call him to testify because they all agreed he was a liar. The Worsley tale can be followed here. In the High Court judgement, Worsley is named 733 times. “It would appear that he was something of a fantasist and prone to exaggerate,” the judge ruled, “and that he was prepared to act dishonestly…”

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SERGEI FRANK LOSES HIS FOOTING AT STATE TANKER COMPANY SOVCOMFLOT

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Sergei Frank (lead image, right) is being removed from control of Sovcomflot, the Russian state tanker company and one of the largest oil and gas transporters in the world.  Frank is the only senior Russian state official to have been judged by the British courts to be dishonest and vindictive in litigation; to have perjured himself in courtroom testimony; and to have obstructed justice by a scheme of evidence fabrication against former Sovcomflot executives and partners.

Frank’s removal has yet to be confirmed officially; Sovcomflot is making no comments. The chief executive who has dominated the company for almost fifteen years appeared to be fully in charge at the July 24 board meeting. (more…)

GLEB FRANK HAS A BAD CASE OF THE CRABS – FATHER SERGEI FRANK, FATHER-IN-LAW GENNADY TIMCHENKO TOO

By John Helmer, Moscow

In crowded city life, crabs – plural – meant an invasion of lice into warm body parts covered by hair. For readers who are virgins or who have had Brazilian waxing and can’t imagine running into the crabs, the illustration shows the little fellows in the hair of the head. In fact, a case of the crabs usually meant the pubic hair. Rubbing intimately was the way you got the crabs.

Gleb Frank (lead image, left), owner of the Russian Fishery Company, his father Sergei Frank (centre), chief executive of the state shipping company Sovcomflot, and Gennady Timchenko (right), Gleb’s father-in-law, financier of his businesses, and candidate to take over Sovcomflot when it’s privatized, have been rubbing each other intimately. They know where the crabs are and how to catch them.  That’s because they are planning to create an oligopoly of the Russian crab industry, and dominate the Russian crab trade with the United States. That is, if the US Government, in defence of its crab fishermen, doesn’t  hit the two Franks with the same sanctions as have already been imposed on Timchenko because of Timchenko’s other association; that’s with President Vladimir Putin. He discussed the Frank crab-catching plan in a Kremlin meeting on December 14 last year.   

In the newest version of the US sanctions law against Russia, introduced in the US Senate on February 13,  Gleb Frank, Sergei Frank and Sovcomflot are potential targets, not only because they are “family members of persons [“political figures, oligarchs, and other persons that facilitate illicit and corrupt activities, directly or indirectly, on behalf of the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin”] that derive significant benefits from such illicit and corrupt activities”;  but also because they are “entities operating in the shipbuilding sector of the Russian Federation.” (more…)

PUTIN’S TEA CEREMONY FOR THE OLIGARCHS TURNS TOXIC

By John Helmer, Moscow

In the US war for regime change in Russia, the Christmas dinner for the oligarchs was President Vladimir Putin’s idea in 2014 for demonstrating that he was in command of their loyalty for a price  the oligarchs were afraid to test.

Late last month, the dinner was turned into an afternoon tea ceremony in which the oligarchs confirmed for Putin the price he must pay if he isn’t to lose them to the other side. Mikhail Fridman and his Alfa Bank, Vimpelcom and X5 supermarket group demonstrated which side they believe to be strongest in this war by not attending. Their absence shows they calculate the risk of Kremlin sanctions for their business is now zero.

The absence of Arkady Volozh, controlling shareholder of Yandex, the internet services company, reveals the same calculation.

The presence of Anatoly Chubais, head of Rusnano, the state’s high-technology holding, the most pro-American of the oligarchs and one of the most hated of political names in the country,   reflects the calculation  on Putin’s side that there is now no oligarch price the President can risk not to pay.  (more…)

DWARFS ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS — ALEXANDER VINOKUROV RAIDS MAGNIT SUPERMARKET WITH HELP FROM SERGEI LAVROV AND OTHERS

By John Helmer, Moscow

The collapse of stock market confidence in Magnit, the largest and most valuable Russian retailer in the domestic and London stock markets, has triggered widespread speculation that Sergei Galitsky, 50, the founder and control shareholder of Magnit since 1998, was attacked by corporate raiders led by Andrei Kostin, head of the state VTB Bank, and Alexander Vinokurov (lead image, above), son-in-law of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (below) and business associate of Mikhail Fridman, owner of X5, the second supermarket retailer in Russia and Magnit’s biggest competitor.

As a two-step plan of takeover, the exit of Galitsky (born Arutyunian) and the takeover by VTB and Vinokurov, have been reported in the Russian press as the business deal of the year. But they are  unable to agree on why it has happened. A half-dozen reporters from Russia’s leading business media, who have covered the deal, and sixteen of the analysts they have quoted in their coverage, were asked to say if they knew of business conflicts Galitsky had been having; whether there was reason to believe that Kostin and Vinokurov had been acting in concert to oust Galitsky, drive the share price of Magnit down, and re-sell the asset to a potential competitor in the Russian retail market. Had there had been non-market reasons – asset raid in Russian — they were asked?

More than twenty sources in all, but not one of them agreed to answer the questions on the telephone or by email, notwithstanding promises of strict confidentiality. Their fear is infectious; their reaction is the strongest confirmation so far that Magnit is the target of an ongoing asset raid, which will hold down the value of the company’s shares no matter how much Russian consumer income and  market demand recover to lift Magnit’s financial results.   (more…)

SERGEI FRANK’S LOCKJAW CAUSES $113 MILLION IN RECORD LOSSES AT SOVCOMFLOT

By John Helmer, Moscow

Sovcomflot (SCF), the Russian state shipping company, has been obliged by its accountants Ernst & Young to declare $75.5 million in costs and expenses from court orders by British judges over a series of lawsuits initiated by Sovcomflot’s chief executive, Sergei Frank (lead image, left) thirteen years ago.  The money must be paid to Yury Nikitin,  a former chartering partner of Sovcomflot.  

The figure was released last week in Sovcomflot’s financial report for 2017. It does not include between $30 million and $50 million, which London sources estimate to have been Sovcomflot’s legal expenses and costs of compensating two other victims of Frank’s London litigation —  Dmitry Skarga, Sovcomflot’s chief executive before Frank’s takeover in 2004; and Tagir Izmaylov (Izmailov), chief executive of Novorossiysk Shipping Company (Novoship) before Frank forced a merger between Sovcomflot and Novoship. The charges,compensation and penalties which Sovcomflot has been ordered to pay stem from the rulings by High Court, Court of Appeal, and Supreme Court  judges that Frank was dishonest and vindictive in his claims against Nikitin, Skarga and Izmaylov.

Maritime analyst for Uralsib Bank in Moscow, Denis Vorchik, reported to clients this week the new financial accounting for the London litigation was the main reason for Sovcomflot to report a loss of  $113 million for 2017. (more…)

US GOVERNMENT RIDDLE: WHY ARE SO MANY DOGS NOT BARKING? BECAUSE THE CAATSA GOT THEIR TONGUES

By John Helmer, Moscow

As midnight tolled in Washington, DC, and January 29 slid into January 30, the deadline for the US Government to produce a report to the Congress listing Russian oligarchs close to President Vladimir Putin slipped by in the darkness. No dog barked.*

Required by the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), enacted with President Donald Trump’s signature last August, the oligarch report was not produced on time. Nor were three other reports – one on sanctions for Russian sovereign debt issues, one on sanctions for business with the Russian defense sector, and one on the extent to which Russian state banks and state asset holdings have re-nationalized key sectors of the Russian economy, such as banking, insurance, real estate, and ports.     

There was no press release from the White House, the US Treasury, or the State Department. The  House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which are responsible for administering CAATSA, made no announcement of  what had happened, and  not happened. Despite a media blitz in advance of the deadline, anticipating the release of dozens of Russian oligarch names as potential targets for fresh US sanctions, not a single mainstream US newspaper or broadcaster reported the failure of the list to materialize.

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WE ARE BACK, AGAIN – JUST TWO YEARS TO GO BEFORE THE PROFESSION OF JOURNALISM DISAPPEARS, BUT WILL THE RUSSIAN OLIGARCHS GO FIRST?

By John Helmer, Moscow

Four years ago almost precisely, on January 12, 2014 – just before the Anglo-American war against Russia began in earnest — we reported that the Moscow School of Management at Skolkovo was publishing what it called  a market atlas of the jobs and professions which will be newly needed by the year 2020, and those to be needed no longer.

One of the new ones was what the Skolkovo atlas called a cyber-cleaner (кибердворник). This is a specialist in removing from the internet and all digital data archives whatever information someone pays to have cleaned or deleted entirely, and its substitution with what the specialist is paid to put there – fake news, kompromat, disinformation, PR, advertising, fraud.  One of the professions the cyber-cleaners will replace, according to the atlas, is journalism. (more…)

SANCTION FOR SERGEI FRANK – UK APPEALS COURT APPROVES $75 MILLION PENALTY FOR FAILURE OF 12-YEAR VENDETTA LAWSUIT

By John Helmer, Moscow

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…)

US SENATE STRIKES FOR RUSSIAN EQUALITY – THE OLIGARCHS TARGETED IN NEW SANCTIONS BILL

By John Helmer, Moscow

Not since the German government arranged for Vladimir Lenin to return to Russia, crossing German territory in a sealed train on April 16, 1917, has a foreign state at war with Russia done something as revolutionary as the US Senate did on June 15, 2017.  That is when, by a vote of 98 to 2, the senators  began the process of attacking the Russian oligarchs. They are the men who have dominated the Russian economy for more than twenty years, concentrating more national wealth in their  hands than can be found in any other major state in the world today. 

Unremarked by the senators themselves;  unreported by the American press;  and unnoticed, almost, in Russia, the new measure —  if adopted by the full Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump —  will target the oligarchs’ lines of credit to international banks; the brokers,  repositories and clearinghouses of  their shares and bonds; their trade with the US and Europe; their US companies, bank accounts, boats on the high seas and homes abroad. If targeting the oligarchs is followed by formal sanctions, the aim will be to destroy their power at home and abroad. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation hasn’t contemplated this much. (more…)

THE CRIMINAL CASE OF SERGEI MASLOV – PROTÉGÉ OF GENNADY TIMCHENKO, BAD DEBTOR, OR FALL GUY?

By John Helmer, Moscow

When it happened eight months ago, the arrest of little known public works contractor Sergei Vladimirovich Maslov (lead image, right) made a sensational bang. The outcome, eight months later, is a silent ringing one; that’s ringing as in Russian telephone justice.  

At his palatial home at Arkhangelskoye, outside Moscow, on October 19, Maslov refused to let the police in, so they used sledge hammers on his front door before they took him away. A commercial television company chartered a helicopter to fly slowly over the mansion to film its tennis court, guest house, banya, servants’ quarters, garages and gardens. The cameras were invited in to film Maslov’s rooms and make an inventory of his closets, shoes, safes, as well as the objets d’art on the walls. His garage was opened to reveal several luxury autos. Pictures of Maslov’s motor yacht, berthed somewhere in Italy, surfaced in print

The message was that Maslov was very rich.  But the charge against him was that he was only slightly  crooked. He has been charged with defrauding a bank which had gone bust two years earlier of Rb1 billion ($16 million). Also arrested and charged was an accomplice, Vladimir Karamanov. He let the police into his home when they knocked; his face and possessions haven’t been displayed on television. The two men were flown by police to Rostov-on-Don; held on remand for a month; and then released in November to go home, purportedly under house arrest.

This week the Leninsky District Court of Rostov-on-Don  refuses to say if there is a continuing arrest order for either Maslov or his property; if a new hearing has been scheduled;  or if the prosecutors have dropped the case.  Lawyers for Maslov refuse to say what the status of the charges against Maslov are, or if there remains any case for him to answer. These are signals that whoever ordered the police into action last October has decided enough is enough.

Sources who know the players and their businesses agree Maslov was targeted by someone much richer and more powerful, who also sponsored the press coverage. The sources say Maslov’s recent business has been tied to Gennady Timchenko (lead image, left); so the sources are divided in their suspicion between Timchenko and his rival in the gas business, Igor Sechin, chief executive of Rosneft. According to one source, “either it was a pressure from Timchenko & Co. to extract money from Maslov, who pretended to be a Timchenko man and grabbed more than he was entitled to. Or it’s one of the battle fronts of the silent war between Sechin and Timchenko over new gas production and Novatek. To me, it looks like the first scenario. Timchenko initiated the arrest. Under pressure Maslov agreed to return money. Charges have been softened or dropped.”

This morning in Moscow Timchenko categorically denies both. (more…)

AFTER PRIVATIZATION, ALROSA INTRODUCES PIRATIZATION

By John Helmer, Moscow

Alrosa, the largest diamond miner in the world, and a public shareholding company listed on the Moscow Stock Exchange, has replaced its chief executive, Andrei Zharkov (lead image, left) , twelve months before his contract was due to expire.  On Monday the company refused to announce the change, or explain the reason. It refused even to disclose that Zharkov’s contract, which commenced on April 23, 2015, is for a three-year term ending in 2018. Nor has the company confirmed that Zharkov’s replacement is Sergei Ivanov Junior (right side, 1st) the 37-year old son of former Kremlin chief of staff, Sergei Ivanov (right side, 3rd).  

The official announcement of the switch was made by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, when he called Ivanov Junior into his office on Monday afternoon. Medvedev told Ivanov “the Alrosa company is the world’s largest [in diamond mining] and has backbone value for our country, in particular for development of the Far East. Therefore, I would ask you to concentrate on this.  It is necessary to work actively according to all production and economic programs with the [federal] Government, with the Ministry of Finance, to build up a fully fledged relationship with the regional authorities because the company has unconditional value for the Republic of Sakha-Yakutia. You should put all these factors into the set of your priorities as the company’s chief executive.”

Even after the ceremony at the prime ministry and the signing of the government’s appointment paper for Ivanov, Alrosa management was in denial. By the next day the company website had not removed Zharkov from the chief executive’s page; there was no mention of Ivanov. According to Alrosa spokesman Andrei Ryabinnikov, speaking on Monday afternoon: “we do not comment on the details of the employment agreement with Mr. Zharkov. We report all new appointments in the company in special press releases.”

Sources close to Alrosa in Moscow and in diamond trade centres abroad believe Zharkov’s abrupt ouster was the outcome of a power play between former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, an economic advisor to the Kremlin, and Yury Trutnev, the deputy prime minister in charge of the Russian Far East.  For many years the dominant state official on the Alrosa board, Kudrin was defeated.  Trutnev, victorious, leaked first word of Zharkov’s replacement by Ivanov on February 27.

The sources also reveal that Zharkov, a long-time protégé of Kudrin and subordinate of the current finance minister Anton Siluanov (lead image, right centre) was removed for pushing too hard the share sell-off and cash collection schemes of the Finance Ministry, also touted by Kudrin.  The Sakha republic, where most of Alrosa’s mines are based, and which holds 25% of the company’s shares, opposed Zharkov, and got Trutnev to agree. Medvedev and President Vladimir Putin then decided that the man they could trust to satisfy the locals, but remain under their thumb, was Ivanov Junior.

 “This is piratization by the state,” explains a London source. “It makes nonsense of the privatization of Alrosa shares, of the 34% free float, of the governance rules of the company. It is simply state companies reverting to form – that’s Soviet form but with less control than in the Soviet days.  It’s now a gang of men wearing state uniforms feathering their nests.”   State piratization is so sensitive that noone inside Alrosa, and almost noone in the Russian diamond industry, will admit what is happening. (more…)

SERGEI FRANK ARRANGES PHANTOM PRIVATIZATION FOR STATE SHIPPING COMPANY SOVCOMFLOT

By John Helmer, Moscow

Sovcomflot, the wholly state owned shipping company, is to be privatized by the sale of 25% less one share on the Moscow stock exchange, the Minister of Economic Development Maxim Oreshkin said at the Sochi investment forum this week. The announcement, decided last month in the government’s privatization plan for 2017,  was made in an aside to reporters,  and Oreshkin allowed no questions.

After fifteen years of attempts to sell and list Sovcomflot shares on international stock exchanges, the reversion to Moscow is an immediate blow to the government’s plans, and to the management role of Sovcomflot’s chief executive, Sergei Frank (lead image, lower left). In the longer term, Russian shipping insiders believe, it is a potential opportunity for a personal takeover by Kremlin favourite and the dominant oil transportation oligarch, Gennady Timchenko (lower right). According to Moscow newspaper reports,  Oreshkin’s ministry has decided to sell another 50% stake in Sovcomflot by the year 2019, retaining for the state just 25% plus one share. Frank himself has been attempting a state-financed management buyout, and the state controlled oil company Surgutneftegas is also a contender. Read more

The company, whose Soviet-era name means “Modern Commercial Fleet”, has failed to secure western underwriters and approval from stock market regulators in London, New York, and elsewhere, for an open-market listing. Instead, the Russian state treasury is to collect the privatization cash target of Rb24 billion (currently $414 million) from a scheme financed by the Central Bank and state banks, Sberbank and VTB. “This is fake news,” commented a Moscow shipping insider.” Just like last year’s Rosneft share sale.”  (more…)

OLIGARCHS ON THE SKIDS* – PRESIDENT PUTIN GOES DOWN MARKET FOR CAPITAL RECEPTION – NEXT YEAR LABOUR UNION BOSSES

By John Helmer, Moscow

President Vladimir Putin hosted his annual supper for the largest holders of capital in Russia on Monday evening. Compared to his table in December 2015, he added 15 extra seats, and for the first time men of little capital have been invited. Representatives of small business and even one Moscow house builder with a reputation for destroying city heritage sites were seated too. With a first-time invitation to sit down  also came rehabilitation for Sergei Frank, chief executive of the state shipping company Sovcomflot, whose business practices have been judged by the British High Court, Court of Appeal, and Supreme Court to be dishonest

Putin’s address was shorter than usual. “Despite the unfavourable situation on the global markets and in the political sphere,” he said, “we have indeed seen changes for the better. We have succeeded in stabilising the situation in the economy. This is a clear and evident fact today. We need now to set in place a strategy for confident growth, and this is something we can achieve together. Of course, there are still many outstanding problems and many reasons for dissatisfaction. There is still much to change and improve in order to feel more confident. But at least we all agree what we need to do, how we need to do it, and what timeframe is realistic.” (more…)

FINALE OF THE SOVCOMPLOT – UK JUDGE DISMISSES APPEAL AGAINST $72 MILLION IN PENALTIES AND COSTS; REJECTS RUSSIAN BANK SURETY; ORDERS IMMEDIATE CASH DOWN-PAYMENT

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By John Helmer, Moscow

 It’s the job of the Dorchester doorman to know his hotel guests’ sins; cater to them discreetly; but  keep them under his top-hat, forever secret.

During more than a decade of Sergei Frank’s trips to London to direct High Court litigations against the men he succeeded at Sovcomflot, the Russian state shipping company, he could count on the discretion of the hotel doorman.  After the final ruling came down on Thursday, Frank, chief executive of Sovcomflot (lead image, right), can’t be sure that his humiliation by more than a dozen British judges will not now make him a laughingstock.

In a new 4-page judgement , Frank’s appeal against $72 million in compensation and costs to be paid to Sovcomflot’s ex-shipping partner, Yury Nikitin, has been dismissed, and he has been ordered to start paying immediately, with a down-payment of £1 million.

“There is no doubt,” ruled Sir Stephen Males, the presiding judge, “that, overall, the defendants [Nikitin’s companies] were the successful party. They obtained a judgment for US $59.8 million on the inquiry.” More than that, according to Males, the award of the costs of litigating should be paid to Nikitin, plus interest on further delays the shipping company takes. Not to do so, according to the judgement, “would fail to recognise the overall success which the defendants achieved.” (more…)

SOVCOMFLOT TO PAY $70 MILLION PENALTY FOR DISHONESTY — LONDON COURT ENDS 11-YEAR LITIGATION WITH COUP DE GRACE

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Sovcomflot, Russia’s state-owned shipping company and one of the largest oil and gas tanker operators in the world, has today been ordered by a London court to pay compensation of $70 million, plus legal costs, to Russian shipowner and Sovcomflot’s former charter partner, Yury Nikitin.

The penalty, imposed by Justice Sir Stephen Males of the High Court, has been imposed after the judge ruled that Sovcomflot’s chief executive, Sergei Frank (lead image) and his company, had fabricated evidence in the case, given dishonest testimony in court, and improperly frozen hundreds of millions of dollars of Nikitin’s funds for years. Frank and Sovcomflot were judged to have been more culpable than the court’s findings that Nikitin had been dishonest to win new vessel and tanker charter business.

In a judgement released on October 7, Males put an end to a sequence of court actions and appeals which commenced in 2005, and have subsequently gone through the High Court, the Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court, and been reviewed by almost a dozen of the most senior judges on the British bench. The penalty puts a stop to eleven years of what one judge called Frank’s “vindictive claim”.
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SERGEI FRANK AND SOVCOMFLOT SUFFER FINAL DISGRACE – UK HIGH COURT ORDERS MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR COMPENSATION

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The Russian state shipping company Sovcomflot and its chief executive Sergei Frank (lead image, right) have been ordered to pay “tens of millions of dollars” in punitive compensation to exiled shipowner, Yury Nikitin (left). A UK High Court judgement late last month concluded a record 11-year litigation by condemning Frank’s dishonesty in fabricating evidence in the case, and freezing hundreds of millions of dollars of Nikitin’s funds. Frank and his Sovcomflot subordinates were judged to have been more culpable than the court’s findings that Nikitin had been dishonest in paying bribes to win new vessel and tanker charter business.

The High Court judgement, which has gone almost unreported in Moscow, was issued on August 26. The 40-page ruling by Justice Sir Stephen Males flatly contradicts international bond and share sale prospectuses which Sovcomflot has been circulating in international markets. The judgement may blackball Frank as unfit to manage or direct an internationally listed company in future.

“The potentially devastating consequences of a freezing order have often been recognised,” ruled Justice Males. “It is only just that those who obtain such orders to which they are not entitled, a fortiori when they are guilty of serious failures to disclose material facts and have pursued claims described by the trial judge as ‘obviously unsustainable’, should be ordered to provide appropriate compensation for losses suffered.”

“If the Kremlin still hopes to privatize Sovcomflot with the sale of shares to international investors,” commented a London investment banker, “it will have to replace Frank, and purge the company and the board of everyone responsible for the London case.”
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US LIFTS KREMLIN CAPITAL BLOCKADE — SOVCOMFLOT FLOATS $750 MILLION BOND, US BANKS SUBMERGE TIMCHENKO TAKEOVER RISK

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By John Helmer, Moscow

A Russian state bond for $750 million is such an obvious target, European bankers are asking why didn’t US government warfighters against Russia shoot down last month’s Sovcomflot issue. This followed by just four weeks the campaign by the US Treasury to stop US investment banks and the international security clearance companies, Euroclear and Clearstream, from trading the bond issued in May by Russian state bank, VTB.

Sovcomflot, Russia’s state-owned shipping company and one of the world largest oil tanker groups, successfully placed $750 million in 7-year bonds at 5.375% on June 23 . VTB and Sberbank were the Russian underwriters, J P Morgan and Citigroup were the American bank underwriters. Sovcomflot’s prospectus confirms its bond has been cleared to trade with all three global clearance agencies — Depository Trust Company (DTC) of New York, Euroclear of Brussels, and Clearstream of Luxemburg. Says a London bond trader: “The DTC is dominated by Citi, Morgan Stanley and J P Morgan. Euroclear is owned by J P Morgan. These Americans can hardly be sanctions busters unless the US Treasury has all of sudden decided to go soft on the Russian oil and gas business, and on Russians who have been on the sanctions lists for two years. Is the war petering out, like the Obama Administration?”
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RUSSIAN LAW ON INCOME AND ASSET DISCLOSURE HITS AND RUNS

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Disclosure by Russian officials of state companies of their annual incomes and property is required by Russian law. There are four exceptions. The first is when the officials required to disclose don’t want to. The second is when the prime ministry is persuaded to let them. The third is when the Kremlin is persuaded not to disagree. The fourth is when President Vladimir Putin says it’s up to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to settle the matter.
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ST. HELENA ON EAST 75TH STREET — ABRAMOVICH MAKES A MOVE TO NEW YORK CITY

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Roman Abramovich has bought two houses, and is negotiating for at least one more, on East 75th Street in New York for about $70 million. The New York papers are reporting that Abramovich is planning to live there with his family because his wife prefers it for her work. Abramovich’s spokesman insisted yesterday that Abramovich’s “main residence is Moscow”.

So why is the well-known crony of President Vladimir Putin buying American assets which may be sequestered, the transactions reversed, his funds frozen or lost, by US Treasury sanctions and by the US Government’s campaign to oust Putin from office? Has Abramovich been offered a guarantee of asset protection from the Obama Administration if he is buying for the one individual the US Government wants to put in exile there – Putin himself?
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SERGEI FRANK DISMISSED BY THE HIGHEST UK COURT – ANOTHER $4 MILLION LOST ON VENGEANCE LITIGATION

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The Supreme Court, the final court of appeal in the UK, issued a rejection notice on November 10, denying the Sovcomflot subsidiary, Novoship, an appeal against its defeat in the Court of Appeal on more than $150 million in claims against former chartering partner, Yury Nikitin, and companies associated with him. A three-judge panel of the court ruled the Sovcomflot group’s “application does not raise an arguable point of law”. The court also penalized Sovcomflot and Novoship by ordering them to pay the legal costs of Nikitin against whom they have been litigating in London for a decade.
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MIKHAIL MARGELOV APPOINTED TO TRANSNEFT FOR “FOREIGN ECONOMIC ACTIVITY AND PUBLIC RELATIONS” – WHAT CAN BE RELATED NOW OF THE SECHIN-TIMCHENKO-TOKAREV ALLIANCE? MAKE THAT TRANSNEXT

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Former Federation Council Senator and the Kremlin’s troubleshooter for Africa and maritime piracy, Mikhail Margelov (image left) has been appointed a vice president of Transneft, the state oil pipeline company. The October 29 announcement says Margelov “will be responsible for supervision of foreign economic activity and public relations.” Igor Dyomin, the press spokesman for Transneft’s chief executive, Nikolai Tokarev (right), said there will be no other personnel changes. “Why ? If everyone works efficiently? There is no plan of major reforms after Margelov has come into the company.”
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SOVCOMFLOT LOSES ANOTHER UK COURT APPEAL, LOSES COSTS

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The British Court of Appeal has issued a ruling to deny the Sovcomflot group and its Novoship subsidiary the right to appeal a corruption judgement to the Supreme Court, the highest of the British courts. The judgement puts an end to nine years of attempts by Sovcomflot group chief executive Sergei Frank and Russian government officials to have the British courts convict Yury Nikitin, their former chartering partner, of bribery and corrupt profiteering in the business of shipping oil.
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UK COURT OF APPEAL SPRINGS SURPRISE ON SERGEI FRANK IN THE SOVCOMFLOT SAGA — YURY NIKITIN KEEPS $169.4 MILLION IN PROFITS, PURSUES $180 MILLION COUNTER CLAIM

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By John Helmer, Moscow

In a unanimous three-judge ruling issued on Friday, the UK Court of Appeal has rejected a claim from Novoship, the state shipping company which is part of the Sovcomflot group, for recovery of more than $243 million in profits and interest. Novoship had claimed the money was earned corruptly by vessel charterer, Yury Nikitin. The court upheld Nikitin’s appeal, overruling a High Court judgement of December 2012, and decided that Nikitin’s profits had been earned honestly.

In a judgement written for the appellate court by Lord Justice Sir Andrew Longmore, the court upheld an order for Nikitin to pay $410,304.39. That amount, Nikitin’s lawyers say, had been offered at the start of the court case, but refused. According to Mike Lax, Nikitin’s solicitor, “as soon as Novoship alleged that the money was tainted, Mr Nikitin offered to repay it, even though he did know the background. We made a Part 36 offer to this effect at the commencement of the litigation which was not accepted by Novoship. Since Novoship have done no better than the offer we made from the outset, it is likely that Novoship will also have to pay most of our costs and their own costs of the litigation.”
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WHO IS EMPLOYING THE DECOY TO BLAST FYODOR ANDREYEV? LEV LEVIEV SAYS IT ISN’T HIM. WHAT DID THE ALROSA CHIEF EXECUTIVE DO TO DESERVE YURY TRUTNEV’S SHOT?

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Diamonds are a bit like champagne: even in the worst of times, demand can grow among consumers, and for producers, sales revenues and profits too.

Good news isn’t usually the honey which attracts this particular bear; and Alrosa has been producing plenty of it. Released early this month, the company’s financial report for 2013 and operational report for the first quarter of 2014 show that production of rough stones is up, with higher grades for each tonne of ore and higher volumes of ore out of the company’s newest mines. Rough diamond prices are rising, so sales revenues grew at 11% last year, and are forecast to accelerate to 16% this year. Compared to its major global rivals, Alrosa has been able to maintain its output at the minehead, while the others – De Beers, Rio Tinto — have retreated, and BHP Billiton has left the business altogether.
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ELENA TIMCHENKO AND KSENIA FRANK SHOW FRIENDSHIP FOR RUSSIA, AND SOMETHING ELSE

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Never let it be said that in Russia deeds done out of the goodness of the heart go unnoticed by the state. Nup. Not even when philanthropies are paid for with cash accumulated in violation of the state’s policy of deoffshorization. Nup, nup. There is even a special award minted by the Kremlin and intended to recognize the good which offshorizers do in friendship for Russia. Called the Order of Friendship, the ribbons are blue and black, colours which appear on no flag of any country in the world, and symbolize thereby the freedom of the blue sky and the black hole in which we are all obliged to dwell beneath.
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SOVCOMFLOT STILL IN THE RED

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Russia’s state-owned tanker company Sovcomflot has reported third-quarter and nine-month financial results showing that it continues to lose fleet operating revenues and run at a loss. In the nine months to September 30, the company says its time-charter equivalent (TCE) revenues were $657.2 million, down 1.6% on the same period of last year. Fleet operating costs were up by 7% to $284 million, primarily because of a jump in charter hire payments. On the bottom line, Sovcomflot says it ran a 9-month loss of $8.6 million; a year ago it was in the black at $42.5 million.
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LEAKED LETTER REVEALS SOVCOMFLOT DROPPED ITS CASE AGAINST CHIEF EXECUTIVE DMITRY SKARGA IN MOSCOW IN 2011, BUT KEPT ATTACKING HIM IN THE LONDON COURTS FOR THREE MORE YEARS — AND KEEPS ATTACKING IN MOSCOW

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By John Helmer, Moscow

New evidence has surfaced from the Russian state shipping company Sovcomflot showing that the current chief executive Sergei Frank ordered the company’s lawyers to continue their attempts to prosecute his predecessor Dmitry Skarga in the London and Moscow courts, while telling the General Prosecutor in Moscow they were dropping their case against him.

Last week Frank’s eight-year campaign against Skarga came to an end when the Supreme Court, the highest of the English courts, dismissed Sovcomflot’s application to appeal against two High Court judgements and one Court of Appeal judgement, all exonerating Skarga of Sovcomflot’s allegations, and requiring Sovcomflot to pay more than £8 million ($13 million) in compensation of his costs. The latest episode of that story was reported here.
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RED HAS TURNED YELLOW – THE GREEK AND CYPRIOT COMMUNISTS ARE FLYING A DIFFERENT FLAG IN THE UKRAINE WAR



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.”

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IF IT SMELLS ALLURING, IT’S RUSSIAN – IN WARTIME L’ORÉAL (FRANCE) AND ESTÉE LAUDER (US) MAKE A BAD SMELL



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.

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THE WAR AGAINST FOOD – WHO IS TO BLAME



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.  

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EXILE



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.”

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IN THE FOG OF WAR THERE’S THE GUTERRES CERTAINTY AND THE CADIEU CERTAINTY – GORILLA RADIO SEES THROUGH THE COVER-UP



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.

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DID UN SECRETARY-GENERAL GUTERRES COMMIT A WAR CRIME AT AZOVSTAL?

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.

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THE LAST DITCH IS POLAND – RUSSIA’S PHASE-3 PLAN FOR WESTERN UKRAINE



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.

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THE MATLIN PLOT, THE BROWDER PLOT AND THE NEW YORK TIMES PLOT



By Lucy Komisar,  New York*
  @bears_with

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.

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YELLOW COAL, THE FUEL MADE OUT OF RACE HATRED — MAY DAY MESSAGE FROM SIGIZMUND KRZHIZHANOVSKY, 1939



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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 bilification of society.

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IS CAESARISM THE PROBLEM, THE SOLUTION, A FANCY DRESS COSTUME, OR A PROPAGANDA CARTOON?



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.

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