Posts Tagged ‘Russian Oligarchs’

Oligarchs, sanctions and money laundering

March 10, 2022

As part of the undeclared war with Russia, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has frozen the assets of Roman Abramovich, owner of the famous Chelsea Football Club, and six other wealthy Russians who thought their wealth would be secure in the United Kingdom.

Britain has long been a safe haven for dirty money, and not just Russian dirty money.  That’s because, on the one hand, the origin of money can be concealed through shell companies and offshore tax havens, and, on the other, they feel their money is safe.    

Real estate prices in London, and also in New York, Miami and other cities, are being bid up by foreign oligarchs.  This is of great benefit to bankers and real estate investors, but not necessarily to the general public.  So Johnson’s action is a good thing—right?

Economic sanctions have almost never achieved their goals.

The League of Nations, created after World War One, hoped to stop military aggression by sanctioning aggressors.  This failed in its first test, the invasion of Ethiopia by Italy in 1935.  The United States, more than any other country, has used economic sanctions as a weapon.  But decades of economic sanctions did not bring about regime change in Iran or Cuba and probably will not change Venezuela.

The result of Johnson’s actions will likely drive other Russian oligarchs to take their wealth back to Russia, which would be to the benefit of Putin’s government.

Arbitrary economic sanctions against individuals are contrary to the rule of law.

Tax havens are a serious problem.  But if a chief of state, based on his own personal judgment, confiscates the wealth of a few individuals or blocks their access to their wealth, he does not solve the problem of tax havens.  He merely makes his own country a more risky place to invest.

The Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution says nobody should be deprived of “life, liberty or property” without due process of law.  Nobody should have their wealth seized unless it can be proven in a court of law that they have violated some pre-existing law or regulation.

Impartial laws and regulations are needed.

We need laws that prevent oligarchs, dictators and crime lords from hiding their wealth and the sources of their wealth.  We need for these laws to be enforced without fear or favor.  Nobody should be above the law and nobody should be below the law’s protection.

Fun fact: Among those who have hidden their wealth in offshore tax havens are Vladimir Putin (through cronies) and Volodymyr Zelensky.

LINKS

Revealed: the $2bn offshore trail that leads to Vladimir Putin by Luke Harding for The Guardian.  [4/3/2016]

Pandora Papers: Russia dismisses leaks implicating Putin by Al Jazeera. [10/4/2021]

Pandora Papers: Ukraine leader seeks to justify offshore accounts by Al Jazeera. [10/4/2021]

Boris Johnson claims the UK is rooting out dirty Russian money | That’s ridiculous by Oliver Bullough for The Guardian.  [2/25/2022]

The oligarch’s guide to getting around the UK’s economic crime bill by Oliver Bullough for The Guardian. [3/9/2022]

Roman Abramovich Sanctioned by U.K. Govt., Assets Frozen by Alex Ritman for The Hollywood Reporter. [3/10/2022]

UK freezes assets of Abramovich, six other Russian oligarchs by Al Jazeera. [3/10/2022]

The American sanctions on Russia’s economy, explained by Ben Walsh for Vox. [3/9/2022]  What sanctions supposedly will do.

How the West undermines its own sanctions by Casey Michel for The Atlantic.  [3/9/2022]. It’s complicated.

Trump’s business ties with Russian oligarchs

August 14, 2018

I probably should refrain from posting anything more about Donald Trump and the Mueller investigations until Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller issues his final report.  But having already posted on this topic, I find it hard to stop.  I continually feel the need to make new posts to clarify or explain or update my previous posts.

My present opinion is that if the Mueller investigation finds anything that Donald Trump or his inner circle have done that is worthy of indictment or impeachment, it is much more likely to be in their relationships with Russian oligarchs and mobsters than with Vladimir Putin or (knowingly) with the Russian FSB.

Trump’s whole business career was based on his relationships with corrupt American officials and organized crime figures.   The revival of his real state empire after the collapse of his casino gambling business was largely due to infusions of Russian money, as Donald Trump Jr. boasted in 2008.

Nobody that I know of has proved that Trump knowingly helped Russians launder money they got from crime or corruption, but the question is not only what he knew for a fact, but what he probably guessed and was expected to know, but made sure not to know.

If he or his family have done anything blackmail-able, my guess is that it has to do with business dealings with individual Russians.

[Added 8/16/2018]  One interesting thing about the reports (linked below) on Trump’s business connections with Russian gangsters is that they began in the mid-1980s.  It indicates that the Russian so-called mafia was already a powerful force with ties to Trump even before the fall of Communism.

LINKS

If Trump is Laundering Russian Money, Here’s How It Works by Garrett M. Graff for Wired.

Buyers with ties to Russia, former Soviet republics, paid $109 million cash for Trump properties by Anita Kumar for McClatchy newspapers.  In case you didn’t know, multi-million dollar real estate deals paid in cash are highly suspicious.

Secret Money: How Trump Made Millions Selling Condos to Unknown Buyers by Thomas Frank for BuzzFeed.  The author is a different Thomas Frank from the one who wrote Listen, Liberal! or What’s the Matter With Kansas?

Trump’s Russian Laundromat by Craig Unger for The New Republic.

The top 1 percent in Russia

October 6, 2017

I’ve posted many charts about the growing concentration of income and wealth in the United States in the hands of a tiny elite.   Here is a chart illustrating inequality in Russia.

You should take note about what this chart shows and doesn’t show.  The ruling elite in the old Soviet Union didn’t have large incomes, and they didn’t live like American millionaires and billionaires, but they did have special privileges, much like military officers compared to the rank and file or like American corporate executives with huge expense accounts.    They had special stories, special medical care, special schools for their children, etc.

Also, the chart indicates that relative equality isn’t everything.   I don’t think many Americans would have wanted to trade places with the average person in the old Soviet Union.

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Donald Trump’s real Russian connections

March 18, 2017

If you were looking for links between Donald Trump and Russia, you’d be more likely to find them by investigating Trump’s sleazy business dealings than his 2016 election campaign.

His connections with racketeers in the construction business in New York City and in casino gambling in Atlantic City, N.J., were well-known before the election, so it wouldn’t be surprising that he would have dealings with Russian racketeers and oligarchs as well.

I don’t claim—and none of the writers of the linked articles below claim—that there is proof that Donald Trump broke any specific law.   The significance of his associations and business deals are as evidence by which the public can judge his character.  Of course we voters had plenty of evidence about his character before the 2016 election.

I think it’s possible that Trump’s views about Russia prior to the election were influenced by his Russian cronies.   I favor an impartial investigation into whether Trump had any improper ties with Russia.

But I also think this investigation would be pretty much a footnote to what is going on now.  We don’t have to speculate about what Trump’s policy toward Russia will be.  We see it in action.  Trump caved in to the anti-Russia war hawks.  Regardless of what Trump’s motives may or may not be, this is a bad thing, not a good thing.

LINKS

The Curious World of Donald Trump’s Private Russian Connections by James S. Henry for The American Interest.

Did Russian Oligarch Rybolovlev Bailout Trump in 2008? an interview of James S. Henry for the Real News Network.   (Hat tip to O)

The Florida mansion that Donald Trump sold to a Russian billionaire now torn down by Glen Garvin for McClatchy newspapers.

Donald Trump’s Worst Deal by Adam Davidson for The New Yorker.

How Did an Alleged Russian Mobster End Up on Trump’s Red Carpet? by David Corn and Hannah Levintova for Mother Jones.

Comrade capitalism: Putin and the oligarchs

November 14, 2015

A new hereditary oligarchy of wealth is emerging in Russia.  But it does not consist of the sons and daughters of millionaires and billionaires.  Rather it consists of the sons and daughters of influential officials in the government security apparatus, starting with President Vladimir Putin’s daughter.

2014-03-07-PUTINThey are much like the so-called nomenklatura, the privileged sons and daughters of high-ranking Communist Party officials in the old Soviet Union.

Many of Russia’s millionaires and billionaires got rich by buying up government-owned factories and resources cheap right after the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

Reportedly when Putin took power, he called in Russia’s richest business people and told them he would not inquire into how they got their wealth—provided they did not oppose his policies.

He meant what he said.  Those who did oppose him have been crushed.  But even those who keep their heads down and their mouths shut do not feel secure.  Many wealthy Russians are investing outside Russia because they don’t think their assets are safe at home.

This is what people in Third World dictatorships do.  It doesn’t speak well for Russia’s future.

LINKS

Comrade Capitalism: Putin’s daughter, a young billionaire and the president’s friends by Stephen Grey, Audrey Kuzmin and Elizabeth Piper for Reuters.  (Hat tip to O).

Remote Control: Can an exiled oligarch persuade Russia that Putin must go? by Julia Ioffe for The New Yorker.  Profile of Mikhail Khodorovsky.

Alexandra Tolstoy interview: “Sergei must have planned his escape.  He didn’t tell me so I didn’t have to lie about it” by Kim Wilsher for The Guardian.  (Hat tip to O).

Half of Russia’s Richest People Are Planning to Cash Out by Alexander Sazanov for Bloomberg News.