Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Russian criminals use EU banks. Shock!

Given how many different bits of regulation the EU has imposed on its member states and how many other bits of legislation and regulation those member states imposed on their citizens, all in order to prevent money laundering, it may come as a surprise to readers of this blog to find out that none of them manage to prevent money, stolen from the Russian people and Russian businesses from being laundered through EU banks. Well, it may. Personally, whenever I hear stories like that I recall Captain Renault:

  Mind you, that wonderful scene also shows what a complete numpty Victor Laszlo was and how unlikely it was for the resistance to get anywhere under his idiotic leadership but that's another story.

Back to those EU banks and Russian money. Bear in mind that the EU makes all sorts of noises about the terrible state of affairs in Russia. The noises are not loud enough to make any difference. For instance the killers and torturers of Sergei Magnitsky, found guilty of "fraud" several years after his death, happily come and frolic in EU countries. This is known as sophisticated soft power that is different from the rough and tough American foreign policy (though we don't hear so much about that under Barack Obama's presidency.)

The next well known Russian dissident to go to prison will be the anti-corruption blogger and protest organizer, Alexei Navalny. To be fair, a number of other Russian dissident dislike him but that has ever been so. There are no dissident movements anywhere that do not spend more time fighting each other than the enemy.

Meanwhile Navalny is trying to tie up some lose ends before he is put out of action for six years if the prosecution gets its wish, which is quite likely as the judge in question has never presided over an acquittal.
On Tuesday (16 July), he, and his group of other young jurists, unveiled the secret business empire of Vladimir Yakunin [in Russian], a government official who runs Russian Railways, the country's state-owned train operator.

According to their information, Russian Railways has channelled millions upon millions of taxpayers' money into businesses owned by Yakunin's wife and two sons.

The businesses include hotel chains, blocks of flats and marine ports.

But the Yakunin connection is hidden behind layers of offshore firms, dozens of which are registered in EU member state Cyprus.
That would be the Cyprus that has recently been bailed out by the rest of the EU, I take it.

Here is the Yakunin story on the BBC Russian Service that is easily translated into English, on Forbes (ditto) and on Kommersant. Apart from EUObserver there seem to be no English-language media accounts. (Sorry, there is one, the Moscow Times.)
Navalny told EUobserver by email from Moscow on Tuesday that the EU's frequent statements on lack of rule of law in Russia "are, of course, a good thing."

But he is "sceptical" they will prompt change.

Instead, he urged EU authorities to help Russian people by enforcing rule of law in EU member states.

Or, in other words, by stopping Russian criminals from using European banks and offshore structures to conceal their ill-gotten gains.

Noting that the EU's joint police body, Europol, the European Commission and six EU countries are now investigating a money laundering trail linked to the death of Russian whistleblower-auditor Sergei Magnitsky, Navalny said: "This work is fundamentally important."

He added: "Stolen money was smuggled outside my country and re-invested in Europe … If the commission and Europol do their job properly, it will create an extremely important precedent."

He said the EU should go further, by creating new legal obligations for sensitive Russian investments.
It is always rather charming to see people from countries that are considerably more corrupt than the EU (believe it or not) look to that organization for some action rather than just pretty words in the battle they are waging. Sadly, I have to tell Mr Navalny (should he be reading this blog, which is not very likely) that the EU is not going to do anything to upset President Putin and his camarilla and neither will the member states, which is a good deal more shameful.

UPDATE: A day before expected, Alexei Navalny was sentenced to five years' imprisonment, allegedly for corruption but in reality for blogging against the Putin mafia and exposing their corruption. Self-pitying activists and members of the blogosphere, please note: this is what oppression looks like.

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