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The Russian Oligarch: New Wealth and Power in Modern Russia
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message 1: by James, Group Founder (last edited Jun 03, 2017 05:22AM) (new)

James Morcan | 11100 comments In light of all the renewed speculation about Russia's global influence, including their potential interference with voting results in the last US election, as well as President Donald J. Trump's mysterious relationship with Vladimir Putin, I'm interested to know what others think about this issue.

How influential are these Russian Oligarchs on the world stage? How does their influence compare to the wealthiest people of Western Europe, the rest of Asia and the USA? When people speak of "The Elite" or the "Global Elite" are Russians being overlooked?

Firstly, a definition:
A Russian oligarch (see the related term "New Russians") are wealthy businessmen of the former Soviet republics who rapidly accumulated wealth during the era of Russian privatization in the aftermath of the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the 1990s.

Ukranian-born lawyer turned author and group member Nik Krasno has a series of novels (a series of novels titled Oligarch) I plan to read exposing what he has observed with these post-Soviet rich boys:

Rise of an Oligarch

Rise of an Oligarch by Carlito Sofer

Mortal Showdown

Mortal Showdown by Nik Krasno

Be First or Be Dead

Be First or Be Dead (Oligarch #3) by Nik Krasno


And there's also this non-fiction book I came across by Ben Mezrich:

Once Upon a Time in Russia: The Rise of the Oligarchs—A True Story of Ambition, Wealth, Betrayal, and Murder

The bestselling author of Bringing Down the House (sixty-three weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and the basis for the hit movie 21) and The Accidental Billionaires (the basis for the Academy Award–winning film The Social Network) delivers an epic drama of wealth, rivalry, and betrayal among mega-wealthy Russian oligarchs—and its international repercussions.

Once Upon a Time in Russia is the untold true story of the larger-than-life billionaire oligarchs who surfed the waves of privatization to reap riches after the fall of the Soviet regime: “Godfather of the Kremlin” Boris Berezovsky, a former mathematician whose first entrepreneurial venture was running an automobile reselling business, and Roman Abramovich, his dashing young protégé who built a multi-billion-dollar empire of oil and aluminum. Locked in a complex, uniquely Russian partnership, Berezovsky and Abramovich battled their way through the “Wild East” of Russia with Berezovsky acting as the younger man’s krysha — literally, his roof, his protector.

Written with the heart-stopping pacing of a thriller—but even more compelling because it is true—this story of amassing obscene wealth and power depicts a rarefied world seldom seen up close. Under Berezovsky’s krysha, Abramovich built one of Russia’s largest oil companies from the ground up and in exchange made cash deliveries—including 491 million dollars in just one year. But their relationship frayed when Berezovsky attacked President Vladimir Putin in the media—and had to flee to the UK. Abramovich continued to prosper. Dead bodies trailed Berezovsky’s footsteps, and threats followed him to London, where an associate of his died painfully and famously of Polonium poisoning. Then Berezovsky himself was later found dead, declared a suicide.

Exclusively sourced, capturing a momentous period in recent world history, Once Upon a Time in Russia is at once personal and political, offering an unprecedented look into the wealth, corruption, and power behind what Graydon Carter called “the story of our age.”

Once Upon a Time in Russia The Rise of the Oligarchs—A True Story of Ambition, Wealth, Betrayal, and Murder by Ben Mezrich


message 2: by Annabelle (new)

Annabelle t (spicygirl) | 1 comments Cool


message 3: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 1361 comments One book perhaps worth reading is "Red Notice" by Bill Browder, which shows what Russia was like with the oligarchs in power. Corruption was endemic. The key to being an oligarch was to be close to someone who owned a bank - money was invented out of hot air and loaned to people who could buy up assets at really bargain basement prices. Browder himself became a billionaire, before the like of Putin decided they did not need an American as an oligarch.


message 4: by James, Group Founder (new)

James Morcan | 11100 comments Ian wrote: "One book perhaps worth reading is "Red Notice" by Bill Browder, which shows what Russia was like with the oligarchs in power. Corruption was endemic. The key to being an oligarch was to be close to..."

Okay, thanks for the recommendation.


message 5: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno James wrote: "How influential are these Russian Oligarchs on the world stage? How does their influence compare to the wealthiest people of Western Europe, the rest of Asia and the USA? When people speak of "The Elite" or the "Global Elite" are Russians being overlooked?..."

I think it's a fascinating subject, so fascinating that their collective rise and stories inspired dedicating three books to the subject -:)
All started from 0, as Soviet assetless citizens in late 80-ies, beginning of 90-ies, who've never been abroad, they amassed a remarkable wealth in 20-25 years.
Witnessing rapid enrichment and the surrounding events in the former USSR, a feeling of being in the midst of a high-voltage action movie never left me, which I hope I manage to convey in the Oligarch series. Thanks for mentioning the installments!
Maybe billionaires with Russian/Ukrainian roots that made their fortune in the States like Sergey Brin (Google) or Jan Koum (Whatsapp/Facebook) are closer to elite than those coming with Russian/Ukrainian money, but some of the latter get pretty close.
Russia has close to 100 billionaires (5-th in the world), which in their turn control a significant chunk of world's minerals, oil, metals, other raw materials:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...
http://uk.businessinsider.com/the-ric...
Some of them diversify into hi-tech and have significant holdings in Silicon valley, like Yuri Milner in Facebook, Twitter and many others: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yuri_Mi...
Some/few are associated with organized crime background, others - enjoy transparency and good standing.
Many sponsor parties and influence politics behind the scenes, while a few assume pivotal positions themselves, like Poroshenko - a 'chocolate king' incumbent president of Ukraine, Abramovich - a former governor of Chukotka in Russia or Kolomoyski a former governor of Dnepro region in Ukraine. And who really knows how much Putin, Nazarbayev or Aliev are worth?
At first they'd been trying to copycat western peers, while being ridiculous with often tasteless demonstration of their wealth buying most expensive properties, sport clubs, etc in London, NY and other financial and business centers, satisfied with just being accepted. Now, after some clout started to rub off on them, they probably want more than just that.


message 6: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 1361 comments In my opinion, it is not that different from the US in the late 19th century. I doubt any of the Russian oligarchs can match J D Rockefeller's wealth, after correcting for inflation, and few would match the lack of morals, ethics, or sheer ability to "bend the law" as those guys. It is interesting that when such people come from nowhere and see a massive new opportunity, they get incredibly rich, and the first round of them in a country seem to have no idea what to do with their wealth. Later on, people like Gates start to behave better.


message 7: by James, Group Founder (new)

James Morcan | 11100 comments Ian wrote: "In my opinion, it is not that different from the US in the late 19th century. I doubt any of the Russian oligarchs can match J D Rockefeller's wealth, after correcting for inflation, and few would match the lack of morals, ethics, or sheer ability to "bend the law" as those guys. It is interesting that when such people come from nowhere and see a massive new opportunity, they get incredibly rich, and the first round of them in a country seem to have no idea what to do with their wealth. ..."

That seems like an apt comparison.


message 8: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno Ian wrote: "In my opinion, it is not that different from the US in the late 19th century. ..."

Yep, there are a lot of similarities, except some Russian/Ukrainian nouveau riches attempt to be Rockfeller and Gates in the same lifespan -:) Thus, dudes having dubious past, desperately try to embellish and launder their glorious present and future.
Millions of people were struggling to survive and ultimately reduced to poverty in a Soviet system crumbling around them and in the ensuing anarchy, while few very apt individuals managed to use this same anarchy to amass an unbelievable wealth, often turning gigantic state and communal facilities into their private property...


message 9: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 1361 comments From what I understand, Nik, the key in Russia was to know someone who somehow or other owned a bank. You got a loan of money the bank probably did not have had anyone bothered to look, and used this to buy a whole lot of bargain basement shares (or coupons or whatever Yeltsin was issuing) and you went from nothing to owning a major enterprise in hardly any time at all. Then you could leverage against that to get much much more. The good news was, while your finances were noting more than hot air, the enterprises were good. If you bought an oil company, it did not take long to sell enough oil to become real, and now the bank actually ended up with real money instead of the make-believe. Real crazy.


message 10: by James, Group Founder (new)

James Morcan | 11100 comments I also wondered whether we are underestimating how many secret fortunes were amassed during communism? Are we assuming that all these Russian billionaires became rich after the fall of the Soviet Union? Or, do you think it's possible that despite the extreme form of socialism some of the more corrupt figures at the top of the Soviet Empire could have been super rich in secret?

Another thing: Nik mentioned that "Russia has close to 100 billionaires (5-th in the world)", which is true. However, I also noticed (last time I checked a Forbes list a few years ago), that of the top 50 richest in the world, a large percentage are Russians. In fact, I'm pretty sure Russia is, or at least was when I checked, #1 in terms of having the most citizens in the top 50 multi-billionaires.
But correct me if I'm wrong on that.


message 11: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno Ian wrote: "From what I understand, Nik, the key in Russia was to know someone who somehow or other owned a bank. You got a loan of money the bank probably did not have had anyone bothered to look, and used th..."

Real crazy is right.
It was a place of boundless opportunities. Imagine 1990 - no banks, no companies (only first cooperatives), empty stores and then the entire system starts to collapse.
An access to borrowed money is only one way, while there were various for enrichment, which not even necessarily required ownership over enterprises. Management learnt how to leave profits of state factories in their private pockets and those of supervising government officials through putting a private corporate layer between the factory selling to their intermediary at cost plus a small margin, which then sold produce to end users at real price, thus accumulating profits with the intermediary that they established for this purpose..
As some of them confess in the interviews, they can explain how they made every dollar except for the first million -:)
With empty shelves everywhere in the beginning of nineties, simple trade operations from importing jeans, video tapes to second hand clothes even and selling them at retail markets enabled some to make initial capital, which in its turn enabled them to 'buy' convenient privatization plans, for example.
Even on flowers or strawberries in winter, I hear the returns were in thousand percents on the cost..
Some cared to create paper debts and then convert them into real stocks.
Or partnering with foreign money and often leaving a foreigner with nothing.
Some extorted and offered protection to merchants.
The inventory was quite diverse...
On the other hand there were brilliant guys, who sensed opportunity and were there in the right time. Thus, I think one of the first Moscow stock-exchanges was initiated by 3 kids in their late teens.


message 12: by James, Group Founder (new)

James Morcan | 11100 comments Nik wrote: "s some of them confess in the interviews, they can explain how they made every dollar except for the first million -:)
With empty shelves everywhere in the beginning of nineties, simple trade operations from importing jeans, video tapes to second hand clothes even and selling them at retail markets enabled some to make initial capital, which in its turn enabled them to 'buy' convenient privatization plans, for example...."


Wow, it really was a free-for all, Nik! One of the greatest entrepreneurial moments in history, perhaps...


message 13: by Lance, Group Founder (new)

Lance Morcan | 2733 comments Donald Trump's Financial Ties to Russian Oligarchs and Mobsters Detailed In Explosive New Documentary from the Netherlands http://www.alternet.org/video/donald-...
Dutch TV did what no American TV network dares, suggesting Trump's past includes illegal racketeering.

Hacker, Banker, Soldier, Spy: A Guide to the Key Players in the Trump-Russia Scandal http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2...
Get up to speed on the growing controversy engulfing the presidency.


message 14: by James, Group Founder (new)

James Morcan | 11100 comments Does anyone know how far Trump's connections with Russian oligarchs goes?
For example, was he active in Eastern Europe at all when the Soviet empire collapsed and the fortunes started to be made?


message 15: by Lance, Group Founder (new)

Lance Morcan | 2733 comments Ex-wife of Russian oligarch demands $15BILLION in world's largest final divorce settlement http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/artic...


message 16: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno James wrote: "Does anyone know how far Trump's connections with Russian oligarchs goes?
For example, was he active in Eastern Europe at all when the Soviet empire collapsed and the fortunes started to be made?"


In the global village most big biz dudes are frequently interconnected. Wouldn't be surprised if Trump and his entourage had ties with Russian oligarchs, but that would hardly be something outstanding. It's the essence of the connections, if exist, might make a difference.
Speaking about billionaires and possible conflicts of interests: against the backdrop of hostilities between Russia and Ukraine, Ukrainian billionaire president had a big factory in Russia until it stopped production just recently. Kinda sleeping/doing biz with the enemy -:). But who could've anticipated that the situ would turn this way?


message 17: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno Lance wrote: "Ex-wife of Russian oligarch demands $15BILLION in world's largest final divorce settlement http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/artic......"

Upgrading wives to a younger version is something quite frequent among these dudes -:)
Abramovich, Rybolovlev and some others have already been through billion plus divorces


message 18: by James, Group Founder (new)

James Morcan | 11100 comments Russia funded Facebook and Twitter investments through Kushner associate https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017...
Institutions with close links to Kremlin financed stakes through business associate of Trump’s son-in-law, leaked files reveal


message 19: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 1361 comments Whatever you say about Russian oligarch power, I rather fancy it is nowhere as significant as the Koch brothers in the US. The fact is, money in large amounts always brings power, but there has to be a fertile ground for the power to grow.

Apart from being questionable on financial grounds, what is wrong with those investments anyway?


message 20: by James, Group Founder (new)

James Morcan | 11100 comments An older article, but the references to the Russian mafia might potentially explain how some of the oligarchs came to gain so much control...

Document:Gangsters Paradise https://wikispooks.com/wiki/Document:...

Article by David Guyatt
Subjects: Gangsterism In Russia
Source: Deep Black Lies

Gangsters' Paradise
Organised crime in Russia is out of control. Criminal "brigades" own everything of value and can "acquire" any commodity in any quantity if the price is right. Ferocious criminal gangs ship out nuclear warheads with the same aplomb that they plunder train-loads of stolen bank-notes. Fearless and ingenious they even ripped-off Russia's entire gold reserves.

Grigor is a street-wise Muscovite who sells his ass to anyone for twenty roubles. There are plenty of takers; many don't bother to pay. Aged a mere eight years, he roams the streets, railway stations and airport terminals of this once proud city, his small, angelic face smeared with grime and distorted by a cigarette jutting from his mouth. Suddenly the granite like exterior dissolves, his bottom lip trembles and tears track down his filthy cheeks. "I want to go home." But there is no home for Grigor to return to - his parents are lost to a world of vodka in a new land of mayhem, murder and mobsters.

He is one of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of discarded children that infest the railway stations, bus shelters and wastelands of Moscow seeking a "quick fix" to suppress their daily misery. Their only crime was to have been born at a time when a super-power tottered and then fell into the yawning chasm of poverty.

Russia is a fractured society where the underworld dominates with a Capone like ferocity. The state has evaporated in all but name. Corruption, always a feature of communist life, has blossomed out of control. The new Tsars of the nineties, dressed in sleek Armani suits and Gucci loafers are today immensely wealthy, bloated with arrogance and are utterly ruthless.

Within one year of Mikhael Gorbachev's ousting, over 2600 (some estimates put it as high as 5000) "crime clans" employing over 3 million criminals had miraculously appeared and spread like wild-fire throughout the former Soviet empire. Forty of them match or out-number in size the Sicilian and American Mafias'. Collectively they form the most powerful criminal grouping in the world.

This lead Boris Yeltsin to warn in 1993 that "Nearly two-thirds of Russia's commercial structure has ties to the growing criminal world." Such was their alarming growth that Interior Ministry officials warned that organised crime would control between 30-40% of the Gross National Product "In the next few years." This figure has probably been out-stripped already. How these syndicates came to the fore and achieved such concentrated power in so short a time remains mystifying.

Yet criminal gangs have been operating in the Soviet Union for decades. The "Organizatsiya" - the organisation - dates back to Bolshevik times where it concentrated on political assassination, armed robbery and other juicy gang-banging enterprises. Courted and used by Stalin for his own devious purposes the organisation was later outlawed and a great many of its members ended up in the abominable Gulags. But by then they had formed a hard backbone of professional criminals who became impervious to Stalin's cruel and whimsical treatment.

Known as "vorovskoy mir", the "world of thieves" they secretly spread throughout the whole of the Soviet state becoming a "corporation of underground establishments." In the same fashion as all other criminal organisations they were a secret society and developed strict laws that set them aside from society at large. Transgression of the "thieves' law" was meted out by a "court" and was always severe. Stealing from a fellow thief, turning state informer and a host of other offences were punished by execution. The worst transgression was serving in the State army and the offending culprit could expect to suffer a bloody and excruciating death.

The princes of the Russian thieves were the indomitable "vory v zakone" - "thieves-within-the-code" who presided over national meetings and developed tactics for each of their clans. Imprisoned by Stalin these elite criminals were as tough as they come. Not only did they mete out severe punishment to their underlings but would inflict the most exquisite pains on themselves. Masochistic in the extreme these acts were intended to demonstrate to their gaolers that nothing could subdue their iron wills.

One prisoner, Edward Kuznetov serving 15 years in prison, observed some of these harrowing and perverse rituals: "I have seen convicts sew up their lips or eyelids with thread and wire; sew rows of buttons to their bodies; nail their scrotum to the bed... cut open the skins of their arms or legs and peel it off as if it were a stocking..." He also witnessed cases in which they would "... cut lumps of flesh from their belly, roast them and eat them; or cut off their fingers or nose or ears or penis..."

All good things come to an end and it was no different for vorovsky mir, whose rigid disciplines began to crumble in the wake of World War 11. By 1950 they had begun to court foreign crime syndicates, convening a European "congress" in the small city of Lvov. Leading Mafia's from Italy, Poland and elsewhere attended. At home in mother Russia the thieves began re-establishing links with the eminently corruptible communist functionaries. Over the course of the next four decades they were irrevocably bonded by a super-glue of self interest and greed.

Operating in quiet collaboration with the Sicilian and American Mafia's, the Japanese Yakuza, Chinese Triads, Turkish and Balkan crime syndicates, the Russian gangsters understood that the Soviet empire possessed massive natural wealth. Besides having the world's largest oil reserves, the Soviet republics have more timber than the Amazon as well as a vast reservoir of gold, gemstones and other mineral wealth.

In addition there was an immense stockpile of weapons waiting to be plundered and millions of acres of additional land that could be put to work for the already burgeoning narcotics industry. The problem for the crime Barons was how to tap into and exploit this vast array of riches. With that special Russian flair for Chess, a strategy developed that was so complex that it became practically invisible and was always two or three moves ahead of law enforcement. Ultimately it was to lead to the most spectacular criminal "coup" ever devised.

Commencing with a scam that would've made Ian Fleming's "Goldfinger" blanch in admiration, the Russian Mafia, along with outgoing Communist Party officials, "heisted" thousands of tonnes of gold bullion from Russia's reserves. Valued at $35 billion, Russia's gold reserves were estimated to be 100 million troy ounces - just under 3000 tonnes. Then in September 1991, a palpitating Grigory Yavlinski, the economic supremo, revealed to delegates at the Group-of-Seven industrial countries meeting in Bangkok, that a mere 240 tons were all that was left. Two months later, in November, even that had disappeared. "Not a gram of gold remains; the vaults are empty," said Victor Geraschenko, chief of Gosbank, the Russian Central Bank.

In one operation valued at $4 billion, over 300 tons were secretly shipped to Switzerland, some of it subsequently arriving in London. Unlike Britain, the Swiss authorities do not keep records of gold imports which makes it a favourite centre for disguising the point of origin - a very effective method of laundering suspicious transactions. The bullion, some sources now believe, was used as collateral in a secondary scam that set-out to vacuum-up all the available Rouble bank-notes in existence at the time and sell them at knock down prices to organised crime syndicates from around the world.

Still shrouded in fear and secrecy, 280 billion Roubles - valued at hundreds of billion of dollars at the official commercial rate of exchange - were being offered for sale by shady wheelers and dealers to leading figures in the world of organised crime. In one suspect transaction during January 1991, 140 billion Roubles were hawked by Russian middle-men, for an estimated $7.7 billion but was foiled by the KGB. Six months later; just a few weeks prior to the abortive coup that unseated Mikhail Gorbachev, a suspiciously similar transaction for 140 billion Roubles was struck and eventually netted $4.5 billion - demonstrating how quickly the currency had been devalued.

At about the same time another shadowy character was bidding for "100 billion clean, clear, good, legal, bundled, counted, verified, packed and stamped Russian Roubles" on offer from a questionable Liechtenstein based company. Purchased at a fraction of the true price, as low as 8 cents on the dollar, Colombian cartels, Mafia hoods and the planet's criminal fraternities were stampeding to snap up the banknote bargains. In part to launder their dirty narcotic revenue and also to reap a giant profit by repatriating the currency in exchange for bargain basement priced commodities, the Rouble proved to be the currency of choice during 1990 and 1991.

In another case, a massive TIR truck was driving the highways and byways of Italy, loaded to the ceiling with Russian banknotes looking for a hot home. Information on this scam was gathered by phone taps authorised by Italy's Antimafia Commission. Santo Pasquale Morabito, a notable Italian narcotics dealer single-handedly purchased 70 billion Roubles. Costing a paltry $4,6 billion, Morabito stumped up cash, anticipating a quick killing. His agent, a member of the Turkish Mafia attempted to sell them on but chose a Swiss undercover operator who brought the matter to the attention of Swiss authorities. Meanwhile, another TIR truck load of notes being transported across Europe under the protection of KGB guards was kept under surveillance by intelligence operatives. Cash was draining out of Moscow at such a phenomenal rate that it caused panic in the gold-capped spires of the Kremlin.

So great was the concern that Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov announced to a startled world that he had uncovered a "plot by Western banks to flood the country with roubles and topple President Gorbachev." Pavlov went on to claim that banks in Switzerland, Canada and Austria were involved but could not or would not name them, but added that this was a "financial war" and feared what would happen as the billions of banknotes were dumped back on the market over-night "creating hyperinflation, and destabilising the economy."

Adding that "Quite simply Mr. Gorbachev is getting in someone's way," he outlined a scenario in which the Soviet Union was threatened with a loss of economic independence in a kind of "annexation, quiet and bloodless." Largely derided in the west for his comments, the Kremlin none the less viewed the matter seriously enough to order the recall of all 50 and 100 Rouble notes in circulation. It is now known that reputable western banks were involved in this shady business. One "solid European bank" was discovered to have offered a well-heeled and cash rich American investor a block of one billion Roubles complete with "official letters guaranteeing their re-entry into the Soviet market."

At the time no one could understand why the world's leading gangsters were forming a disorderly queue to buy vast quantities of what was in effect little more than coloured paper - with hard cash. These were criminal entrepreneurs who possessed sharp business minds honed by decades of greed and power, and were not known for squandering their wealth. We now know that behind this ploy lay an even more audacious plan. The Soviet Union was to be asset-stripped.


message 21: by James, Group Founder (new)

James Morcan | 11100 comments Gangsters Paradise (article cont'd):

And the assets were stripped. To the bone and back again. Gradually it became clear that the massive quantities of exported Roubles weren't just coloured paper. Almost worthless on the international market they were repatriated through some of the 260 Mafia controlled banks that sprung-up around the country. Having gone full cycle from export through to repatriation, the laundered Roubles, now viewed as inward "investment", were used to capitalise and finance the explosion of crooked Joint Venture companies that had mushroomed in the meantime. There followed a massive spending spree that continues to this day.

Russia has been recently described by Italy's Antimafia Commission as "a kind of strategic capital of organised crime from where all the major operations are launched." Wasting no time, the now Rouble-rich Mafia's set about plundering Russia's abundant natural treasures. Platinum, gemstones, oil, lumber, strategic raw materials; non-ferrous metals, - cobalt, copper, bronze, titanium even caterpillar tractors and other high value equipment; all went under the hidden hammer.

Transformed into a world of grab-it and prosper, Moscow began to wilt under the bizarre influx of plundering crime Barons and opportunists. One enterprising soul who now banks and has residence in Monte Carlo - reputedly itself a hot-spot for money-laundering and medallion wearing Mafiosi - was Artjom Tarasov. With entrepreneurial flair Tarasov acquired 4 million tons of crude oil at an equivalent price of $5.00 a ton. On-selling at $140 a ton the deal netted a cool half a billion dollars, less expenses, commissions, "kick-backs" and a healthy share-out to his swindler partner, the American Marc David Rich. Rich, the senior man of Marc Rich & Co., the giant commodities trading firm, is currently wanted by the FBI who have posted a $750,000.00 reward for his capture. Tarasov, meanwhile, became Russia's first multi-millionaire.

Immensely more profitable, however, is the illegal trafficking in narcotics and weapons and with prodigious profits derived from asset stripping and other scams, these two enterprises were set to undergo a meteoric rise. Russia has recently been estimated to have in excess of 2 million drug addicts, a figure that far outstrips the rest of Europe combined. Globally the narcotics industry is thought to generate in excess of $1000 billion annually.

Still the biggest dope peddlers around, the Colombians have cut an agreement with the Russian Mafias' to import Cocaine for onward shipment to the rest of Europe - which despite the much vaunted "fortress" label is wide open to the East. Former Soviet colonies grow prodigious quantities of dope. Authorities estimate that between them the CIS states produce more hashhish than the rest of the world put together. Likewise, prolific quantities of Opium poppies are grown and harvested under armed guard in Turmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and elsewhere, ultimately destined for world-wide distribution.

The narcotics flow through a sophisticated underground pipeline that runs through Bulgaria and Romania and other eastern European "portals" and onwards into the anxious hands of the Sicilian Mafia and Chinese Triads who refine and distribute the end product. Psychotropic drugs too, are a favourite item. These include Amphetamines and the immensely powerful "Krokodil" estimated to be a thousand times more powerful than Heroin.

Of far greater concern to western law enforcement and intelligence communities is the widespread trafficking of arms, including weapons of mass destruction. Plundered from former Soviet arsenals - often with the willing assistance of former KGB and senior military officers - almost any item is up for sale.

In one operation that took place in October 1992, police retrieved thousands of missiles, millions of rounds of ammunition, an armoured personnel carrier as well as a Mi-8 helicopter gunship. State industries, now run privately, have also been quick to tread the bonanza trail and sell the latest Soviet military equipment including Tanks - sold at $100,000 per ton weight - plus an assortment of rocket launchers and tactical missiles and fighter aircraft.

Far more worrying though, is the trade in nuclear weapons and material. A U.S. House of Representatives Republican Task Force reported at the end of 1992 that three tactical nuclear warheads had vanished. Priced at $14 million a throw, and with a range of sixty kilometres, warheads were being stolen to order from army installations in Irkutsk.

Master-minded by two former intelligence operatives - one ex KGB and the other ex GRU, the intelligence arm of the Soviet military - they were smuggled into Yugoslavia and then were trucked to Bulgaria, through Turkey and onwards, it is claimed, to clients in Iraq and Libya

The same network filled an order for 32 kilo bars of plutonium that was ripped-off from Ukranian storage depots, but were seized by Italian police before reaching their destination, again in Iraq. Other seizures in Europe have included quantities of Plutonium-239, Strontium-90, Cesium-137 and highly enriched weapons grade Uranium. Despite these police successes it is believed that large quantities of nuclear materials are reaching their ultimate destinations - those countries committed to making nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile the economic devastation of Russia continues unabated, a gruesome testimony of corruption and criminality that is largely ignored by an introspective and unmindful west. Growing numbers of despairing Muscovites die from hypothermia on the snow-swept streets where they have collapsed and huddled, foetal-like, following a mighty vodka binge. On average twenty or so real-life "stiffs" daily arrive at the morgue during the long winter months. Privatisation has bequeathed Russia 100,000 millionaires and an estimated 200,000 joint venture companies that are owned lock, stock and pork-barrel by various "entrepreneurs" - a word that nowadays has sinister overtones and is generally used as a code-word for "criminal."

Embracing a free market economy - something the west insisted upon if it were to grant foreign aid - has left Russia destitute. The old communist days, as harsh and unyielding as they were, at least provided a staple diet and free healthcare for the population. Despite being economically wrecked, Moscow, paradoxically, is now the most expensive business destination in Europe, overtaking Brussels and Paris in a one-stride gallop. Quick buck opportunities for the hard-nosed businessman have spiraled, even while the great majority of Russian citizens now look to a future of unyielding squalor.

And for Grigor and his friends each dawn is just another day of bitter hustling. Occasionally some solace is found in music. Gathered around a smoking fire to ward off the chill, a group of street kids pass a cigarette butt around and listen, as one of their number strums on a stolen guitar. It is one of those soulful Russian folk songs that speak of pain as a way of life. The words, sung by a sixteen year old veteran, yearn for a day when they can look forward to wearing a "nettle-coat" for comfort. The simplicity of the song brings out a rash of goose-bumps. Physical pain can be borne, even welcomed, but it is the emotional pain that cannot be endured in this new gangsters paradise.

And as the band plays on, an early Reagan administration National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) remains classified. It is simply entitled "Prolonged Economic Warfare against the USSR" As the economist, John Maynard Keynes, once shrewdly observed "There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and it does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose."

https://wikispooks.com/wiki/Document:...


message 22: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 1361 comments I am not convinced they would snub their noses at Stalin. Sure, they had to be caught, but if caught they would probably get the three year sentence - which was the worst sentence Lavrenti Beria could think up, and he was not Caspar Milquetoast.


message 23: by James, Group Founder (new)

James Morcan | 11100 comments Any truth to this?

The toxic relationship between Britain and Russia has to be exposed
https://www.theguardian.com/commentis...
Russian money is poisoning the UK, yet Boris Johnson continues to suppress a report into this matter


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