From Stalin to Putin, the Kremlin's mutually beneficial ties to Russian gangsters go way back.
The current geopolitical tussle between Russia and the West has impoverished our debate. Too often, it replaces nuanced understanding with snappy and snarky sound bites.
One example is the description of Russia as a “mafia state.” As if that can encapsulate the complex, sometimes hostile or cooperative relationship between Russia’s rulers, spooks, population and gangsters. Nonetheless, since 2014, the ties between mafia and state have certainly become closer.
For generations, there has been an unusually close connection between the underworld and "upperworld" powers. Stalin carried out bank robberies and piracy with mobsters such as the infamous Simon Ter-Petrossian — or “Kamo,” as he went by in criminal and revolutionary circles — in part to raise funds for the Bolshevik revolution.
The Cheka political police recruited bandits, and later Stalin would coopt vory — “thieves,” members of the professional criminal subculture — to be the enforcers, foremen and even guards of the Gulag slave-labour camps.
In the twilight years of the Soviet Union, organized crime was part of the connective tissue holding corrupt Party officials and the barons of the black market together. And in the anarchy of the 1990s, the distinctions between mobsters, entrepreneurs and officials were often more theoretical than real.
Of course, when the little-known Vladimir Putin was campaigning for the presidency in 1999-2000, he promised law and order, and many believed him. I spoke to one vor who took to keeping a packed suitcase under his bed in case he had suddenly to head to the airport ahead of an arrest warrant.
But he never had to.
In hindsight, given Putin’s crucial role in the St. Petersburg mayor’s office as its ambassador to the city’s underworld, and the powerful Tambovskaya crime group in particular, we should not have expected him necessarily to take on the gangsters.
Instead, he domesticated them. The word went out, routinely communicated through earnest conversations between criminals and the police officers meant to arrest them, that there was a new social contract.
Criminals could continue to be criminals; the police would continue to police them. But if at any point the vory looked as if they were posing any challenge to the state, then they would be treated as enemies, and life would get very hard. The criminals adjusted very quickly to this new world, one in which the state had reaffirmed its status as the biggest gang in town.
During the Second Chechen War, the Chechen gangs across Russia largely abandoned Chechnya to its fate. And more generally, the indiscriminate car bombings and drive-by shootings, such a feature of the wild 90s, and symbols of a state unable to control its streets, ended.
Occasionally, individuals were deemed to have become too big for their boots or embarrassingly prominent, such as Tambovskaya kingpin Vladimir Barsukov (Kumarin) or Said Amirov (Said the Undying) the notorious mayor of Makhachkala. Then the state would swoop in with deliberate overkill, commandos leaping from helicopters to a chorus of sirens, in a piece of law-enforcement theater to remind everyone of the power of the state. The state did not seem to consider organized crime a priority, so long as it knew its place.
Over years of talking to Russian police officers and investigators, I have been heartened and impressed by the number who clearly wanted to do their jobs. They may take a small bribe for a small service here, turn a blind eye to a minor infraction there. Ultimately, though, many wanted to tackle the gangsters.
But the corruption still to endemic in the state, and the tight links between criminal, business and political elites, especially at the local level, mean that the major criminals are, unless they arouse the ire of someone higher up the pecking order, pretty much untouchable.
As a result, many of the law enforcers confine themselves to targeting middle-ranking criminals, whom they at least have a chance of convicting, rather than major players who are safe beneath their krysha, their protective roof of corrupt favors and mutual assistance.
Until 2014, the relationship between the Kremlin and the kleptocratic Russian elite on one hand, and the gangsters on the other, seemed to be getting more tenuous. Putin might still occasionally use some underworld slang to demonstrate his tough-guy credentials, but the days when senior figures of the business and political elite would openly hobnob with gangsters had largely passed. Furthermore, the vory had lost their old, gulag-chic identifiers of tattoos and leather. They were becoming a new breed of white-collar gangster-businessman.
The new age of geopolitical tension may be reversing that trend and bringing Kremlin and crooks closer together again. In his bid to make an impoverished Russia punch like a great power, Putin has created what I call a mobilization state.
This is not totalitarianism. There is still independent business, free journalism and civil society. But аt any time they may be asked — and in Godfather style, this is a request that cannot be refused — for favors in the name of the state. This also applies to the gangsters.
We have seen hackers pressed into service as footsoldiers of cyberwar and espionage. Gangsters charged with assassinating Chechen fundraisers in Turkey. Smugglers “taxed” to provide secret funds for political operations in Europe. The list goes on, as once again the Kremlin turns to criminals as instruments of its rule.
This is not a “mafia state” with its implication that either the gangsters run the government, or that the government controls the underworld.
Instead, it is simply the latest example of the corrosive way that successive regimes have tried to use organized crime as a tool of statecraft, not realizing — or perhaps not caringm — how much the vory have gained from this pernicious alliance.
Prof. Mark Galeotti is a senior researcher at the Institute of International Relations Prague and the author of the new book “The Vory: Russia’s Super Mafia.” The views and opinions expressed in opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the position of The Moscow Times.
Russian mafia ‘is using scheme meant for UK farmers to launder £60bn of dirty money’
By David Wooding, Sunday Political Editor
RUSSIAN mobsters have used a business scheme for British farmers to launder £60billion of dirty money, it is claimed.
The gangs are accused of exploiting a project set up 100 years ago to move cash undetected and finance criminal activities.
Russian gangs are accused of exploiting 100-year-old project
The racket was uncovered when the Government launched a probe following the nerve agent attack on former spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury in March.
They found just five frontmen were behind more than half of the 6,800 investments made in Scottish Limited Partnerships in the 18 months to May 2017.
Further inquiries showed that 17,000 opaque shell companies using the scheme were registered at only ten addresses.
These companies exist only on paper and have no office or employees but can hold investments.
A business scheme for British farmers to launder £60billion of dirty money was uncovered in the wake of the Salisbury nerve agent attack
New laws are being drafted to stop international crooks infiltrating the scheme which is used fairly by thousands of UK firms.
Future users will be required to have a real link with Britain and do business — or at least have an address — in Scotland.
Business minister Andrew Griffiths said: “The UK has taken a leading role in the fight against money laundering.
“As we are seeing with Scottish Limited Partnerships they are being abused to carry out all crimes abroad, from money laundering to arms dealing.
"This cannot continue to go unchecked.”
British Overseas Territories are playing a huge role in laundering dirty money from Russia, analysis of figures from the IMF and Russian Central Banks has revealed.
The amount of money held by Russians in the UK is dwarfed by the amount held in the British Overseas Territories, which include some of the world’s most significant tax havens.
The Global Witness report, Missing the Bigger Picture, is released as politicians have called for a crackdown on criminal and corrupt cash from Russia following the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and ahead of a crucial vote in parliament to increase transparency in the UK’s tax havens on Tuesday 1 May.
The analysis of figures from the IMF and Russian Central Banks shows nearly five times as much Russian money is invested in the British Overseas Territories (OTs) as is held in the UK.
Some £34 billion of Russian money is currently invested in the OTs, making it the third most popular place to store money, after Cyprus and the Netherlands.
Over the last ten years, more than 7 times more money has flowed from Russia to the OTs than has gone to the UK. Over this period, £68 billion from Russia has been invested in the OTs.
The British Virgin Islands (BVI) is the second most popular destination for money leaving Russia, second only to Cyprus.
Money invested in the OTs accounts for 12 per crnt of all Russian money invested outside Russia.
The report shows that the billions of Russian cash flowing into and through the OTs include the proceeds of crime and suspected corruption.
Companies in the OTs have been used by Russian businessmen to receive £100 million from the ‘Russian Laundromat, as part of a money laundering scheme used by the Russian state-owned arms exporter and a scheme to shift $10 billion out of Russia.
The briefing also highlights a case in which one BVI company linked to the Russian mafia paid $900,000 to another BVI company owned by a Russian who was later sanctioned by the US for his involvement in the Syrian government’s chemical and biological weapons programme.
One of the owners of the BVI company linked to the Russian mafia, Alexander Perepilichnyy, became a whistleblower and later died in suspicious circumstances in Surrey in 2012. A US intelligence report stated with ‘high confidence’ that his murder was sanctioned by Putin.
Global Witness’ Senior Campaigner Murray Worthy said: “If politicians are serious about tackling criminal and corrupt from cash from Russia they simply cannot ignore the enormous role the UK’s tax havens play.
“The UK government is responsible for these shady island economies and must make sure they can no longer be used to facilitate laundering dirty money by ending the secrecy that enables these outrageous schemes.”
Caucase Normandie. Thief-in-law Lasha Rustavsky busted in Greece may avoid extradition to France or Georgia?
Last week, influential Georgian thief-in-law Lasha Shushanashvili and several other crowned thieves close to him have been busted in Greece. However, bodyguards of Lasha Rustavsky, who had resisted the police, were not remanded in custody and, according to his attorneys, Shushanashvili has a good chance to be released soon. The CrimeRussia has reviewed a special operation jointly carried out by the French, Greek, and Georgian law enforcement structures and extradition perspectives of Shushanashvili.
Georgian ethnic organized crime led by thieves-in-law became a true plague in the EU. The European police deliver massive blows to it from time to time by detaining 30–40 persons at once. On April 16 and 17, the French and Greek law enforcement authorities, in close collaboration with the Georgian special services, have carried out one of the largest such operations in Europe dubbed “Caucase Normandie”.
In the course of the special operations, more than 40 natives of former Soviet countries have been arrested, including 4 thieves-in-law. The majority of the detainees are Georgians by nationality; there are also several Armenians, a female Azerbaijani, and a Russian. Their age varies in the range of 29 to 57 years.
The preceding inquest into operations of the Georgian criminal syndicate had continued for more than two years. According to the French Prosecution, at least 300 policemen were involved into Operation Caucase Normandie carried out in several cities of France. Rennes Prosecutor Nicolas Jacquet said that the preparations to the arrests of the suspects were ongoing for several months in close collaboration with the Georgian and Greek police.
As a result, 30-year-old Elgudzha Shukakidze, 36-year-old David Khodeli, and 39-year-old Paata Akhaladze, keeper of the thieves’ pooled cash fund, have been detained in Caen, Normandy. Nana Matiashvili and Nino Ioseliani, wives of Shukakidze and Akhaladze, who, according to the investigation, were also involved into the crimes, have been arrested together with their husbands. 27-year-old Levan Gochiashvili and famous Georgian rapper, 44-year-old Kakha Abuashvili (Kabu), suspected of illegal activities, have been detained in Rennes, Brittany. Gocha Potskhishvili, Beka Akhvlediani, Vakhtang Akhvlediani, Lorit Pachkoria-Nosadze, Arsen Khachatryan, Zurab Adzhamov, Karen Arutyunyan, Mikhail Ochigava, Aleksei Sanadze, and Azerbaijani Elmira Mustafaeva – all members of the clan led by Lasha Rustavsky – have been arrested in Rouen, Paris, and other French cities. Le Parisien reports, citing its sources, that the suspects have committed at least 150 forced entries into residential and office premises in Normandy alone. However, based on the ‘trophies’ seized during the searches, the number of burglaries committed by Georgian ‘brigades’ may reach one thousand.
On April 18, 2018, the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs has reported the arrest of the following people in Greece: Georgy Tsilakuri, Lado Dolidze, Ruben Mkhitaryan, Gurgen Egizaryan, David Natobidze, Georgy Zhlantiashvili, Tornike Papava, Georgy Kereselidze, Zaza Gelashvili, Bidzin Paresheshvili, Levan Tsulaya, Otar Bezhuashvili, Vakhtang Andriadze, Mikhail Bezhuashvili, Georgy Damotsev, Irakli Gabelaya, Teimuraz Seturi, Givi Imnaishvili, and Vepkhvia Pirmisashvili. The law enforcement agency could not provide the name of one more suspect because he was not identified yet.
Out of the four arrested thieves-in-law, only one – Ramaz Gugunishvili (Siu), also known as Aleksander Kabaladze – was detained in France, in Montauban commune not far from Toulouse. Two other crowned thieves – Nodar Shukakidze (Nodo Gldansky) and Merab Asanidze (Chikora) – were arrested in Athens, while Lasha Shushanashvili, called “European thief-in-law № 1” by the Greek media, has been arrested at the entrance to a three-storey mansion in Thessaloniki where he was living since recently.
57-year-old Lasha Shushanashvili (Lasha Rustavsky) is an authoritative thief-in-law. He has multiple criminal records and was crowned in Georgia in 1979. Shushanashvili wields significant powers in the criminal circles of Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, and Greece. He used to be a member of the inner circle of Aslan Usoyan (Ded Khasan). The European law enforcement authorities consider Lasha Shushanashvili and his brother Kakhaber Shushanashvili (Kakha Rustavsky) leaders of the organized crime of the former Soviet states, including ‘Georgian mafia’ in Western Europe. After the arrest of Zakhary Kalashov (Shakro Molodoy) in the United Arab Emirates and his subsequent trial in Spain, brothers Shushanashvili became key figures in the struggle between two major thieves’ clans led by Aslan Usoyan (Ded Khasan) and Tariel Oniani (Taro). The CrimeRussia wrote earlier that brothers Shushanashvili had supported Aslan Usoyan and were leaders of his combat unit in this war that has claimed lives of many crowned thieves from both sides, including Vyacheslav Ivankov (Yaponchik) and Ded Khasan himself.
Unlike the majority of the arrests performed in the framework of Operation Caucase Normandie, the Thessaloniki police have arrested Lasha Rustavsky a la a gangster movie. Quiet and prestigious Pylaia neighborhood was flooded by patrol cars; over 100 police officers and one helicopter had participated in the capture of the crowned thief.
According to Protagon.gr, Shushanashvili was arrested in the last moment – accompanied by two bodyguards with cases, he had attempted to flee Thessaloniki. According to the local media, the guards and driver of the thief-in-law had resisted the police; as a result, two persons were wounded (one on each side). The police report states that there were no gunshots, and all the required measures were taken to ensure the safety of people living in the neighborhood.
However, the residents claim that there were gunshots, while the driver of Shushanashvili tried to ram a police car to break from the trap. Ultimately, all the four suspects have been detained; according to Voria.gr, firearms and bladed weapons were seized from the thief’s bodyguards.
It was initially reported that the bodyguards of Lasha Rustavsky had to be charged with resistance to representatives of authority and illegal firearms possession, but Efsyn.gr wrote that all the four of them have been released on the next day by the Thessaloniki Court. The portal notes that this happened because of the absence of witnesses for the police at the court session, and the case was adjourned. The suspects may not be held liable for delays caused by the prosecution – so, the guards were left on the loose.
Lasha Shushanashvili has been remanded in custody in the Diavata prison, not far from Thessaloniki, pending the examination of the French extradition request by the Court of Appeal – the Interpol warrant against him and other thieves-in-law was issued following an application from the French authorities.
Lasha Rustavsky is familiar with this prison – he had served time in it earlier. In 2013, he was sentenced in Greece to 14 years behind bars for leadership of an international criminal organization operating in various European countries. The indictment had charged Shushanashvili with numerous crimes committed by his henchmen, including robberies, extortion, attempted murders, and assassination of a ‘mafioso’ from a rival gang.
According to Macedonian newspapers, despite the grievous charges, Shushanashvili used to live pretty comfortably in the Diavata Prison; his detention conditions were truly luxury in comparison with other inmates.
Shushanashvili lived in a special cell equipped with an air conditioner purchased at his expense and officially permitted by the prison administration due to his health condition – in 2012, Lasha Rustavsky has suffered a stroke and was admitted to the Thessaloniki Hospital. The inmates had recognized the leadership of the thief-in-law, while his sole cellmate was, in fact, his bodyguard.
The Greek police had considered Shushanashvili “target № 1” for rival groups – so as least 5 SWAT troopers had accompanied the crowned thief during his frequent visits to the hospital. As The CrimeRussia wrote earlier, he never had issues with communication with the outer world. In addition, Shushanashvili had a separate menu and a personal chef – while his bodyguard had tasted all the meals to exclude the possibility of poisoning.
The attorneys for Shushanashvili managed to secure such privileges for their client using numerous doctors’ certificates claiming that the thief-in-law had suffered from numerous diseases, including malignant hypertonia, hepatitis B and C, and vascular encephalopathy.
Later the documents confirming the poor health condition of Shushanashvili have played the key role in his release in Spring 2015, after the enactment of so-called "Paraskevopoulos law" in Greece – ultimately, the crowned thief has served only 2.5 years instead of the 14 imposed by the court.
"Paraskevopoulos law" was approved in Greece in 2015 following an initiative from Nikos Paraskevopoulos, Greek Minister of Justice, Transparency and Human Rights, in order to deal with the over-incarceration and reduce the budget costs pertaining to the maintenance of inmates. The law grants the right to parole to inmates, including those convicted for grievous crimes, who have served a portion of their term. Thanks to "Paraskevopoulos law", more than 3 thousand criminals, including those of the Albanian and Georgian origin, have been released in April 2015. The law was sharply criticized by the people, politicians, and law enforcement officials because the mass amnesty has caused a huge crime wave in the country.
Agrinio portal provides the following statistics to illustrate the outcomes of "Paraskevopoulos law": at least 5 thousand home burglaries and 500 robberies involving violence and bodily harm threats are committed in Greece on an annual basis. At least 2 homeowners were killed by the robbers in two years. The portal puts the blame for these crimes on ‘Georgian mafia’ that surpasses other ethnic criminal group in this sphere not only in Greece, but in entire Europe as well.
In September 2017, 28 Georgian natives belonging to the Kutaisi criminal clan were arrested in Italy and Germany on suspicion of 85 home burglaries committed in two years. In November 2017, 23 members of an organized criminal group led by thief-in-law Kakha Rustavsky, brother of Lasha Shushanashvili, were arrested in Spain in the framework of a police operation dubbed “Naples”.
By that time, Shushanashvili junior was already locked up in prison – in March 2016, the Spanish court has sentenced Kakha Rustavsky to 20 years and 11 months behind bars (later the term was reduced to 15 years and 3 months). However, the criminal chapter created by Lasha and Kakhaber Shushanashvili had continued its operations for a while – initially under the leadership of Zviad Dorsadze, a close associate of Kakha Rustavsky, and after his arrest – under the leadership of Spartak Dzhaparidze whose current whereabouts remain unknown. The criminal group specializing in home burglaries had laundered money and sent stolen watches, jewelry, and electronic appliances to Georgia for further resale via a private mailing company belonging to it.
In February 2018, eight more Georgian citizens have been arrested in Paris for home burglaries. According to the French gendarmerie, they had transferred a portion of the stolen money to thieves’ pooled cash fund.
In late March 2018, shortly before the joint operation of the French and Greek law enforcement authorities, a gang of Georgian burglars led by Valerian Khuadze has been busted in Greece.
The Greek media call Khuadze a thief-in-law, but operative databases on crowned thieves don’t have any references to his name. 52-year-old Valerian Khuadze, 33-year-old Besik Tvalodze, 40-year-old Varlam Dzhavakhashvili, and 39-year-old Mamuka Perandze are suspected of at least 26 housebreaking episodes committed in a number of Greek cities. According to the police, 2–3 burglaries were committed on a daily basis in various cities – often located dozens of kilometers from each other. All robbed homes were pre-selected by the criminals in advance.
The tactics of this gang was pretty similar to that used by burglars arrested in Greece three weeks later in the framework of Operation Caucase Normandie.
According to the investigation, members of the organized criminal group were robbing 2–3 households per day, normally in the morning, when the owners were away. They had acted very professionally. The police report mentions at least 56 housebreaking episodes committed in Thessaloniki alone in the last year and resulting in damages totaling €1 million.
The arrested thieves-in-law are suspected of burglary planning and coordination of criminal operations in the two countries.
According to some information, 29-year-old Nodar Shukakidze (Nodo Gldansky) was in charge of several ‘brigades’ operating both in France and Greece and consisting mostly of his fellow countrymen from the Gdlani district of Tbilisi.
Greece became a haven for Georgian thieves-in-law in the late 1990s for a number of historical reasons. A numerous Georgian diaspora has been living in the country since the beginning of the 20th century: Orthodox Pontic Greeks were fleeing to Greece en masse from ethnic cleansing in the Ottoman Empire. In the late 1980s, the diaspora has grown considerably due to the immigration from the USSR. According to CARIM East portal, some 400 thousand natives of Georgia, including 100 thousand ethnic Greeks, currently reside in Greece. During the rule of Mikhail Saakashvili, criminal liability was imposed on thieves-in-law and members of the thieves’ community – and Georgian criminals started relocating to Greece as well. According to La Stampa, more than 100 Georgian crowned thieves had resided in Greece in 2015; each of them had a ‘retinue’ consisting of 10–20 persons. Greece is frequently used for thieves’ congregations and as a base for ‘guest performances’ in other European countries. Home burglaries are not the sole source of income for ‘Georgian mafia’ in Greece – its interests encompass international drug trafficking and racketeering of small ethnic businesses as well.
Avraam Aivasidis, Security Chief of Thessaloniki, has noted at a press conference dedicated to the results of Operation Caucase Normandie the importance of joint efforts of Interpol, Eurojust, and law enforcement structures of Greece, France, and Georgia in the context of European police cooperation.
The concerns of Georgia about the criminal mayhem unleash by its citizens in Europe are pretty understandable – the visa free regime with the European Union introduced on March 28, 2017 is in jeopardy. It can be suspended if the number of people illegally staying in the Schengen Area grows too much or should a third country start posing a threat to the public and internal security of the EU.
The European Union had already pushed Georgia to take actions against its organized crime. In December 2017, the European Commission has expressed concern about the operations of Georgian organized criminal groups in Europe. The report of the European Commission on the visa regime liberalization with West Balkan countries, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine states that Georgia is the leader among the countries – not members of the EU – by the number of its citizens committing grievous crimes in Europe.
192 thousand Georgian tourists have visited EU countries within the year of the visa free regime. According to the Spanish police, operations of the Georgian organized crime often feature a ‘seasonal’ pattern – some criminal groups return to Georgia, while others ‘take the duty’. Spain, Greece, France, and Germany suffer from Georgian ‘guest performers’ most of all. In February 2018, the Government of North Rhine-Westphalia has called for termination of the visa free regime with Georgia.
France has also suffered much from the Georgian organized crime – its law enforcement structures had launched the inquest preceding Operation Caucase Normandie and submitted an application to the Interpol to issue international warrants against Lasha Shushanashvili and thieves-in-law arrested together with him.
However, the attorneys for Shushanashvili have capitalized on the French ‘origin’ of the warrant issued against their client – and, as a result, Lasha Rustavsky may be released soon.
Paraskevas Spiratos, a lawyer of Shushanashvili, calls the charges pertaining to the leadership of an organized criminal group laid against his client a “communicative trick” of the authorities.
Spiratos believes that the indictment is based on the past criminal record of Shushanashvili having nothing to do with his current life in Greece or crimes committed in France. Shushanashvili vehemently denies all allegations. Spiratos told SETimes that the crowned thief, who is currently seeking asylum in Greece, objects against his possible extradition to France. Shushanashvili also requires the investigative actions involving French law enforcement structures to be performed in Greece where is currently resides. He also requires the indictment to be translated into his native language. According to the attorneys, this gives their client “a hope for a fair trial”.
Yannis Lavrentiadis, another lawyer of Shushanashvili, considers the French involvement into the investigation of home burglaries committed in Thessaloniki a nonsense and hopes that the Greek justice is guided by logic in the investigation and examination of deeds committed by his client.
According to Protagon.gr, Shushanashvili is seeking a political asylum in Greece. His application has been declined at first instance – but he has appealed this decision and is currently waiting for a verdict of the court of appeal. Lasha Rustavsky is a person without legal nationality: the crowned thief has been stripped both of his Russian and Georgian citizenship.
Based on his past prosecution experience in Europe, the extradition of Shushanashvili to France is unlikely. After the arrest of Lasha Rustavsky in a Greek resort of Vouliagmeni in 2012 upon a Spanish warrant, Spain had been seeking his extradition for several years – while Georgia, where Shushanashvili was charged with leadership of a criminal community of thieves-in-law and faced a lengthy term in a special detention facility located in the basement of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, was closely monitoring the situation.
However, the Greek authorities have declined the Spanish extradition request because of the crimes committed by the crowned thief in Greece. Such a turn of events has even caused some diplomatic tension between the two countries. The EU Bureau for Judicial Cooperation has criticized Greece for non-collaboration with Spain, while Spanish media outlets wrote about bribes allegedly paid by Shushanashvili to the Greek justice for several years and totaling €800 thousand. Shushanashvili had posed as a dissident and private businessman, called his prosecution political machinations of the Saakashvili regime, and thanked the Athens Court for not letting him to fester in a Georgian prison. A similar outcome can’t be ruled out in the current situation as well.
Lately, it’s more and more often heard at press conferences that the next US sanctions will be targeted at the Russian banking sector, in order to prevent “black” money laundering and financing of criminal and terrorist gangs. At the same time, the Russian authorities that have promised to support the persons from the sanction list find themselves in a very inconvenient position. It is not going to happen that Russia will support outflow of its own capital in favor of international criminal groups, isn’t it?
Politicallore has made an attempt to explore the existing situation.
In 2001, under the pressure of the international community, Russia finally adopts the law on counteraction of legitimization (laundering) of incomes received by illegal means, and financing of terrorism. The main instrument for crimes were, of course, financial and credit institutions, both small and large. But if by 2018 the sector of large players has been cleaned up, small banks still appear from time to time in the crime news connected with the storage and turnover of funds of different organized crime groups. Master-Bank, Creditimpeks and others, whose license was withdrawn for “laundering”, have become a black page in the history of the banking sector. What are the banks that came to the attention of the US Congress? According to the specialists and experts on American law, there’s hardly anybody in the Congress who would oppose to introduction of the new “banking” sanctions against the financial system of Russia.
However, let’s come back to history. In 1999, there was a lot of noise around the Russian criminal lord Semen Mogilevich, who was suspected to have laundered a fantastic amount of 10 bln. USD through Bank of New-York. Also, a small Russian financial and credit institution TEMBR-Bank was mentioned for the first time in mass media (the shareholder of the bank was Arbat International, the company of Mogilevich, that was known in the USA as the “black cash desk of the Russian mafia” – ed.).
The escape of Shakro Molodoy, who was suspected by Spanish law enforcement authorities in a large-scale money laundering, dates back to the same time. And the name of the above mentioned bank came up again.
During criminal investigation, the company of Mogilevich disappeared from the owners of TEMBR-Bank, and its shareholders became two charismatic personalities: Elena Suchilina (works at the bank and knows all its “kitchen” from the moment of its opening) and Tamara Khoroshilova (a wealthy lady with certain connections). By the way, the activity of the latter became widely-known in connection with the bankruptcy of BFG-Credit, where 750 mln. rubles disappeared with a helping hand of ms. Khoroshilova.
These funds deserve a special attention not so much due to the amount, but more due to the source: mass media repeatedly mentioned that the savings of Khoroshilova belonged to the criminal income of Shakro Molodoy’s organized criminal group. This story also involves multiple searches in the above mentioned banks by the Russian special services.
Currently, the shareholder of TEMB-Bank became Khoroshilova’s civil husband – Aleksandr Remezov, who is at the same time the one who has helped her get rid of multi-billion debts.
It should be added that, first of all, it’s the Russian economy itself that is suffering from such “laundries”. Thus, using connections with organized criminal groups and law enforcement authorities of Russia, black bankers have already managed to screw up one of the largest Russian state corporations Deposit Insurance Agency (DIA), and all the depositors of BFG-Credit bank together with it.
According to the database of arbitration proceedings, the Arbitration Court of Chechnya Republic has recognized the bankruptcy of the ex-owner of TEMBR-Bank and of the bankrupt BFG-Credit Bank Tamara Khoroshilova. The bankruptcy was initiated by its former husband Aleksandr Remezov, who used to be the head of MOEC (Moscow United Energy Company) until April 2011. It is notable that initially the case had been submitted to Moscow Arbitration Court, according to jurisdiction, since ms. Khoroshilova was registered as an entrepreneur in Moscow, but then she terminated her Individual Entrepreneur status and changed the place of registration, after which the creditor’s application was considered by Chechnya court.
It follows from the court act that the debt originates from the loan for 250 mln. USD, these funds were taken by Tamara Khoroshilova from Aleksandr Remezov on September 20, 2012, with the interest rate 12% p.a., and had to be paid back by March 20, 2017. The acknowledgement receipt and the decision of Gudermesskiy City Court of Chechnya dated September 8, 2017, under which the amount of debt and 267 mln. USD of interests and penalties were charged from ms. Khoroshilova, were submitted to the court as a confirmation.
The investigation of the activity of the gang of “black” bankers in Russia was transferred to investigator of the RF Investigation Committee Aleksandr Sorokin. Soon afterwards, a witness in the case – the co-owner of BFG-Credit from Tamara Khoroshilova – received an offer to provide “financial aid” to the investigator. In exchange, the businesswoman wanted the investigator to recognize her as a victim and initiate a new case against the other two shareholders of BFG-Credit: movie producer Yuriy Glotser and his son Philip. During negotiations, Sorokin agreed to fulfil only the first item of Khoroshilova’s wishes, declaring the desired remuneration in the amount of 100 thousand USD.
Soon, the case was reassigned to another investigator, who served multiple summons to the participants of the notorious banking case calling them for interrogation. However, there was no proper reaction from the persons under investigation. The investigators have found out that the majority of Khoroshilova’s accomplices had left Russia. After this, the RF Investigation Committee charged them in absentia on part 4 of Article 160 of the Criminal Code of Russia (embezzlement) based on the fact of theft of the bank’s property disguised as lending to legal entities. The key figures were put on the federal and then international wanted list.
BFG-Credit is famous due to the fact that it was holding the money of the largest public TV and radio companies – First Channel and VGTRC, and also Russia Today (Rossiya Segodnya). In total, the media companies have entrusted around 6.5 bln. rubles to the bank. However the TV and radio companies had managed to get back their money before the bank license was withdrawn. VIP-depositors that were the main target for the bank activity, were less lucky. 2 bln. rubles have disappeared from the accounts of one of them.
This begs the question: how are Russian authorities going to act with regard to the “laundries”? Probably, prohibition of their activity would look logical. Even more, that for the last several years the Russian banking regulator has gained a lot of experience in this sphere.
Politicallore will continue following the decision of the US Congress and keep its readers informed.
Politicallore will continue following the decision of the US Congress and keep its readers informed.
threw a lavish party at Davos in January with champagne and performances by Enrique Iglesias and Russian folk dancers. Now, just a few months later, the Russian oligarch is on an international blacklist that is usually reserved for terrorists, warlords, and human rights violators.
Last week, the U.S. leveled its most severe sanctions at Deripaska's metals conglomerate. Americans are banned from dealing with companies including United Co. Rusal. This move caused Deripaska's empire, the largest aluminum producer outside of China, to lose half its value in one day.
The sanctions bar Deripaska from participating in the economy of the global dollar. The impact of this was instant. International investors dumped stocks and bonds issues by Deripaska's companies and aluminum traders refused to by metal from Rusal.
Oleg Deripaska was born in Soviet Russia in 1968. He grew up on his family's farm, where he learned to live off the land from his grandparents. His mother was a widow and an engineer and she left the farm to find a job. Deripaska loves to read and his metals empire headquarters feature walls of books. He was a good math student and enrolled at Moscow State University. One year into his studies he was drafted into the Soviet army and spent three years in Siberia. When he returned he went back to school and graduated with honors from Moscow State University in 1993. He wanted to become a theoretical physicist, but the collapse of the Soviet Union caused financial aid to dry up. He received his master's degree in economics in 1996 from Plekhanov University of Economics.
When he was 25, he teamed up with engineers, rocket scientists, and other physicists to form his first metals trading company, VTK. VTK bought metals at low Russian prices and sold it abroad for significantly more. He used his profits to acquire shares in Sayanogorsk Aluminum. Between 1993 and 1994, Deripaska became the largest individual shareholder in the company behind Russia itself. That annoyed the company's Communist-era bosses.
Deripaska became the director general of the Sayanogorsk Aluminum plan in 1994 at age 26. In 1997, Sayanogorsk became the core asset of Sibirsky Aluminum. Deripaska was president of Sibirsky, which became the core asset of Rusal. Oleg Deripaska has a net worth of $7.5 billion.
Oleg Deripaska led the consolidation of Russia's aluminum industry. He has always been the face of Russian metals across the globe. He spent decades cultivating the U.S. and other Western business circles and the sanctions immediately wiped all that out. He may be able to continue to do business in Russia, but he has been crippled elsewhere in the world by the sanctions.
The strength of the impact of the Russian sanctions reverberated throughout Russia's financial markets. Businesses controlled by the 27 individuals sanctioned by the U.S. are ripe for attack. Stocks in Moscow fell by the most in four years and the ruble had the biggest drop in value in the world. Investors sold stock with ties to major Russian oligarchs.
Deripaska's Rusal now has the challenge of running an aluminum empire with customers like Toyota while being unable to do business in the Western financial system.
Deripaska faces some particular issues as one of the most controversial billionaire oligarchs with close ties to Vladimir Putin. His years climbing the ladder of the metals industry are filled with allegations that he ordered the murder of a businessman, bribed a government official, and has links to the Russian mafia.
Deripaska officially called the sanctions against him "groundless, ridiculous and absurd." Remember, he is the Russian that had ties to 's former campaign manager Paul Manafort.
The day the sanctions were announced, Deripaska was celebrating Rusal's 18birthday.
The next day shares of Rusal collapsed. They fell 50% on the Hong Kong stock exchange.