Category Archives: corruption

EDITORIAL: Vladimir Putin, on the Take

EDITORIAL

Vladimir Putin, on the Take

We recently published a Special Extra post which contained a translation of an item from the Russian web.  In it, a Russian website interviewed a high-ranking Russian corruption investigator who revealed shocking details about his investigation of Vladimir Putin for personal corruption while Putin was serving in the government of St. Petersburg.

In an almost casual fashion, as if it were obvious to everyone, the investigator reveals that Putin had both hands in the cookie jar of budget revenues in Piter.  And, of course, to any human with a brain it is obvious. How else would Putin be able to afford to sport expensive watches and live in a network of palaces that span the globe?  And if Putin were not personally corrupt, how could corruption flourish so openly in Russia, so that Transparency International routinely finds Russia to be the single most corrupt major civilization on this planet?

The fact that Putin’s personal corruption is so well documented, even in Russia itself, just goes to prove that Russians approve of it, just as they approve of Putin’s brutal crackdown on democratic values, including his brazen murder of political opponents like Starovoitova, Politkovskaya, Estemirova and Markelov. Indeed, we recently reported on the fact that a new arrest in the Politkovskaya case clearly shows the involvement of high-level Russian law enforcement in her killing.

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SPECIAL EXTRA: Personal Corruption of Vladimir Putin Revealed

“Where the President is concerned, criminal cases do not proceed.”

«В отношении президента уголовное дело не ведется.»

ZAKS.ru

September 6, 2011

Translated from the Russian by La Russophobe

This is a rough translation of a shocking interview recently posted by the ZAKS.ru website which details personal corruption by Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg.  Some paragraphs have been digested.  We welcome any linguistic commentary or corrections from readers, either in the comments section or by e-mail.

Eleven years ago, Russian prosecutors closed Criminal Case No. 144,128.

Later, it became known as “the Putin Affair.”

Investigators do not doubt that the then-president was implicated in a number of crimes related to embezzlement of budget funds while was serving in the government of the City of St. Petersburg. Lt. Col. Andrei Zykov, a senior investigator for special matters at the Investigation Department of the Interior Ministry, was in charge of the case.

He sat down with ZAKS.ru’s Oleg Mukhin to discuss his experiences.

MUKHIN:  What is “the Putin affair”?

ZYKOV:  From 1993 to 1995, the Russian government was providing substantial financial support to many businesses.  They were losing money, on the verge of collapse, desperately trying to stay afloat to preserve jobs.  They needed infusions of cash to pay salaries.  State funds were distributed from the coffers of state-owned enterprises.

There was a construction company in St. Petersburg called Twentieth Trust which had been privatized in 1991.   In 1993 alone, roughly $4.5 million disappeared from the company’s books, and it was getting 80% of its revenues from the City.  It appeared that it had laundered tens of millions of dollars, and in 1999 a criminal case was opened to investigate.  This became known as the “Putin affair” because, while Anatoly Sobchak was mayor of the City Putin was at that time his second in command.  Every signature in regard to budget transfers would have a passed across Putin’s desk.

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EDITORIAL: FPS Russia vs. Russia Today

EDITORIAL

FPS Russia vs. Russia Today

FPS Russia is a guy in Georgia named Kyle who shoots things with automatic weapons in his back yard and then blows them up. Meanwhile, he talks about it in English with a fake Russian accent and refers to himself as “Dmitri.”

Russia Today is an official state-funded propaganda television network which employs hundreds of people and spends hundreds of millions of Russian tax dollars on production and advertising. They talk with weird, stilted accents in English, too.

Both FPSR and RT have YouTube channels to display their handiwork. Comparing their performance is interesting.

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EDITORIAL: Putin Spits on Russia

EDITORIAL

Putin Spits on Russia

The most outrageous and repulsive feature of the USSR was its brazen, naked contempt for its own citizens. It tortured and murdered them with reckless abandon and it lied to them as if they were idiotic children.  Proud KGB spy Vladimir Putin, a decrepit relic of the USSR, is continuing that tradition with relish.

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Russians: We are More Corrupt, and Hopelessly Sick, under Putin

Marc Bennetts, writing on RIA Novosti, points out that a majority of Russians now believe their country is more corrupt under Vladimir Putin than it was under Yeltsin, and one member of the Russian Duma believes the country is “seriously sick and may already be untreatable.”

The recent brutal slaying of a family of five – including three small children – in a provincial town near Moscow was enough to shock even Russia, a country with some of the highest murder rates in the world, and led a parliamentarian to suggest the killings were a sign that the country was “sick.” Perhaps incurably so.

The bodies of the 35-year-old woman, her three boys aged four, five and nine, and their grandmother were found stacked up in a bathroom in an apartment in Tula, some 200 kilometers from Moscow, late on August 1.

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EDITORIAL: The Ghastly Horror of Russian Barbarism

EDITORIAL

The Ghastly Horror of Russian Barbarism

It’s really amazing how, no matter what horrific and repugnant thing you may have seen from Russia, the country can always surprise you with something even more vile tomorrow.

What would you say if we told you, for instance, that the bus shown above is “home” to dozens – that’s right dozens – of helpless animals?

What if one of them was a super-famous animal celebrity, who had performed at a nationally famous circus, in feature films and even at the Olympic Games?

What if that celebrity, Katya the Bear, now “spends the long hours jumping up and down in her cage and trying to crack the rusty metal railings with her chipped and yellowed teeth”?

Well, it’s the case.  In fact, here she is:

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EDITORIAL: Russia, for Sale

EDITORIAL

Russia, for Sale

One of the most hilarious Russophile notions we’ve yet encountered is the way they attempt to attack Transparency International’s international index of corruption by claiming it is only a “perceptions” index and only places Russia at the uncivilized bottom of its list because of anti-Russian bias — as if all the talk about corruption in Russia were nothing but hot air and not based on any measurable reality.

TI needs no defense from us. It is a world renown organization of international objective scholars with unimpeachable credentials that provides an essential monitoring service.

But still, it’s genuinely pleasurable for us to watch the expressions on the faces of these idiot Russophiles change when they see a report like the one that aired on Russia Today, of all places, recently.   Perhaps by accident, the Russian Interior Ministry decided to admit, and RT decided to report, that the average size of a bribe in Putin’s Russia has increased by a stunning 700% in just the past year.

In other words, the forces of corruption in Putin’s Russia are not receding, they are going hog wild.

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The Bank of Moscow, Running Dry

Hero journalist Yulia Latynina, writing in the Moscow Times:

While watching the Bank of Moscow scandal unfold, two questions come to mind. First, the Bank of Moscow held the accounts of Moscow’s city budget, and the deficit of the bank is now $14 billion. In essence this means that the city’s funds have been stolen from the bank. How did this happen?

The second question is whether VTB will file a lawsuit in London courts against former Bank of Moscow president Andrei Borodin. It appears that the goal is not to extradite him back to Russia but to put him behind bars in Britain.

Borodin somehow received 20 percent of the shares of the bank, but it is difficult to say whether he was an actual or nominal shareholder.

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EDITORIAL: Artur Kositsyn, Paragon of Russia

EDITORIAL

Artur Kositsyn, Paragon of Russia

Policeman and Serial Rapist Artur Kositsyn

It’s hard to know which fact about Russian criminal Artur Kositsyn is more outrageous, his resume or his sentence.

While serving as a lieutenant for the Podolsk traffic police force in the Moscow region, Kositsyn raped at least 27 women at knifepoint, perhaps as many as 39.  The sentence he received upon conviction amounted to six months per rape.  In utterly bizarre fashion, sentence was then reduced by one year under a deal with Kositsyn in which he agreed to be incarcerated in a maximum-security prison.

Mr. Kositsyn is, in other words, a paragon of his country.  Which reminds us of “president” Dima Medvedev.

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EDITORIAL: Russia and its “Wealth”

EDITORIAL

Russia and its “Wealth”

According to the Wealth-X website, Russia has one-quarter the ultra high net worth (UHNW) citizens that Brazil has and close to one-tenth the number held by India and China.  But Russia goes toe-to-toe with the other BRIC nations when it comes to billionaires, and those billionaires control a shocking 85% of all the wealth held by Russia’s ultra-rich.  In Brazil and India (and for that matter the United States), billionaires do not even control a third of the ultra-rich asset base. Russia’s billionaires control a third of Russia’s GDP, whereas in the USA billionaires control just a tenth.

What this data shows beyond any question is that Russia is a disastrous failure when it comes to spreading the wealth.  Russia is an oligarchy even within its oligarchy, as billionaires greedily refuse to allow millionaires to have a fair share of the investment pot.  And Russia’s ultra-rich control an unspeakably vast segment of Russia’s total wealth, meaning that only a very narrow group of decision-makers controls the lion’s share of all important financial decisions. With such limited information and viewpoints, it’s inevitable that Russian innovation and entrepreneurship will suffer.

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EDITORIAL: Putin pulls a Clinton

EDITORIAL

Putin  pulls a Clinton

What do you think, dear reader, when you gaze upon the image above (click to see it full size, if you have the stomach for it).  Do you think:  “Who in God’s name would be so warped as to arrange a scene like that, much less want to photograph if for posterity?”

That’s what we thought, too!  Would you then be surprised to learn that the person who composed and photographed this image has just been hired as one of the official photographers for Vladimir Putin, so-called “prime minister” of Russia?

So were we!

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The Shameless Fraud of Putin’s “People’s Front”

Victor Davidoff, writing in the Moscow Times, explains the shamelessly fraudulent and likely illegal means by which Vladimir Putin is generating support for his “People’s Front” initiative:

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin first floated the idea of creating the All-Russia People’s Front on May 6. A week later, the front’s founding document was published. Since then — a little over a month — Putin has arguably become the most popular politician in history. Today his front has several million supporters and about 500 organizations as members. According to information from the local branch of United Russia in the Khabarovsk region, half a million people support the front out of a total population of 1.34 million. In one day, 39,000 employees of the holding company Siberian Business Union joined the front; that is, four divisions in military terms, an apt comparison when talking about the people’s front. Putin, it would seem, has outdone Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong — and he has done it without resorting to terror.

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Nikolai Maximov and Russia’s Steel “Business”

John Helmer reports:

In European folklore, will-o’-the-wisps are lambent flames seen flickering over bogs and fens, and known by many different names and stories. Usually explicable as methane igniting, in some Baltic mythologies the will-o’-the-wisp is believed to signal buried treasure. In others, the ignition is believed to be the trick of a mendacious imp intent on leading unwary travellers to misfortune.

In the history of the Russian steel business since 1990, just two men have gone bankrupt while trying to create steelmill empires, and including them, four groups have collapsed. Considering how small their indebtedness was compared to the likes of the steel majors – Evraz, Severstal, Mechel – they might think of themselves as plucky, but unlucky.

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EDITORIAL: $175,000

EDITORIAL

$175,000

As of the last tax year, that was the sum in Russian “president” Dima Medvedev’s bank account.  It had doubled compared to the year just before he became “president” of the country, although his salary in the intervening three years remained constant and was far lower than he received as the top executive at Gazprom, Russia’s largest business entity.  Medvedev’s income remained, laughably, far less than that of Russia’s “prime minister” Vladimir Putin.  Two years ago Medvedev’s wife had 50% more than that in her own bank account.  Now, she has nothing. When asked what happened to the money by a Russian financial newspaper, the Kremlin refused to say.  In a recent survey, over 75% of Russian respondents said that Medvedev, like all Russian officials, was lying when he reported his income last year.

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EDITORIAL: Corruption in Putin’s Russia

EDITORIAL

Corruption in Putin’s Russia

Political competition is a necessary element for properly structuring any economy. We would like to see more ideas and more political competition in the development of these ideas.

– Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, April 21, 2011

They say that a fish rots from the head. Nowhere is that more true than in Russia.  The country ranks a genuinely shocking #154 out of 178 world nations when surveyed for corruption, meaning that Russia is the 24th most corrupt country on this planet.  Three people can count on their fingers the number of nations more corrupt than Russia, with more than a whole hand going spare.

It did not get that way by accident. As we document in today’s special issue, Russian corruption is so shockingly extensive and deep-rooted because Russia’s very highest leaders are themselves on the take, and the nation is just following their example.

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EDITORIAL: Russians Love them some Graft

EDITORIAL

Russians Love them some Graft

One of the most obvious reasons why corruption rampages like a wildfire in Vladimir Putin’s Russia is that the people of the country would prefer to lap up its “benefits” than to live another way.

For instance, Russians pay far less for gasoline than they otherwise would because of political corruption. Just like in the USSR, the Russian Kremlin controls gas prices to make the privations of the failed neo-Soviet economy more palatable to clueless Russian citizens.  Other prices are controlled too, like transportation and basic foodstuffs, regardless of the fact that it’s not legal.

The result of such a practice is predictable:  Shortages.  The USSR was infamous for them.  Now, the same is happening in Russia.

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EDITORIAL: Russia to HSBC — Drop Dead!

EDITORIAL

Russia to HSBC — Drop Dead!

The poster child we choose for our special issue on corruption this week is the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, better known to the world as HSBC — it bills itself as “the world’s local bank.”

But as of this month, it isn’t Russia’s bank any more.

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Russia, Virtually Toxic

The Moscow Times reports:

A computer virus controlled by as few as three people in Russia is accused of taking control of more than 2 million computers around the world and perhaps stealing more than $100 million.

The cyber crime ring, which operated for a decade, was shut down this week after U.S. officials got a court go-ahead to seize hard drives used to run the malicious software, the U.S. Justice Department said.

The computer virus, dubbed Coreflood, infected more than 2 million PCs, enslaving them into a “botnet” that grabbed banking credentials and other sensitive data that its masters used to steal funds via fraudulent banking and wire transactions, the Justice Department said Wednesday.

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Livin’ La Vida Rooskie Loca

The Moscow Times reports:

Real estate in Dubai and Montenegro. Regular first-class travel. Millions of dollars in Swiss bank accounts. Russia’s second-best country house.

And all made possible with an annual household salary of less than $40,000.

Those are the findings of a private investigation into the assets of Olga Stepanova — the former Moscow tax official who authorized a $230 million payment that no one disputes was embezzled.

The investigation is the latest conducted by supporters of Hermitage lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in jail after accusing senior Interior Ministry officials of masterminding the $230 million fraud.

The Interior Ministry, in turn, accuses Magnitsky and Hermitage in the fraud.

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Corruption is Killing Russia, Literally

Kirill Kabanov, head of the nongovernmental National Anti-Corruption Committee and a member of “president” Dmitry Medvedev’s Human Rights Council, writing in the Moscow Times:

In an April 22 comment in Moskovsky Komsomolets, political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky called for the arrest of Health and Social Development Minister Tatyana Golikova and her husband, Industry and Trade Minister Viktor Khristenko, on charges of corruption. In particular, Belkovsky accused the health ministry of pilfering funds for tomographic scanners and recalled that Golikova had promoted a drug called Arbidol that is produced by Pharmstandard, a company believed to have close links to her family.

Russians, suffering from corruption fatigue, have had a rather ho-hum reaction to the Golikova and Khristenko scandal. It is long been accepted as a given that the higher an official’s rank, the more opportunities he or she has to embezzle.

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In Russia, they can’t even Pick a Mascot on the Up and Up

Mascot of the Monarch’s Will
Russia has one voter 
February 28, 2011
Gazeta.ru
Translated from the Russian by The Other Russia

The nationally televised election for mascot of the Winter Olympics in Sochi became a telling model for Russian elections in general and a possible repetition in the upcoming Duma and presidential elections.

The elections aired on Channel One for Russians to choose the mascot for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi bore an entirely predictable result, albeit one that directly contradicted the population’s opinion. The winner was the snow leopard, with 28% of the vote. This only happened because Vladimir Putin, while in Sochi, spoke out in favor of the snow leopard right on the day of voting. It’s true that the Olympics had to be split between three mascots, since not one received more than half of the vote – the polar bear (18%) and bunny (16%) were added to the leopard.

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In Russia, even History is Corrupt

Brian Whitmore, writing on The Power Vertical:

A Russian leader gives a four-hour speech filled with empty platitudes about imaginary accomplishments, promises of a bright future, and dire warnings about dangerous foreign influences. The speech was interrupted 53 times by applause.

Sound familiar?

Several months back, I blogged about the striking similarities between Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. Each replaced a reformist predecessor who was ultimately seen as bumbling, erratic, and ineffective — Nikita Krushchev in Brezhnev’s case, Boris Yeltsin in Putin’s. Both ushered in an era of stability and relative prosperity thanks to high oil prices. And both perceived a “golden age” that lasted roughly a decade.

But by the late 1970s, the luster began to wear off Brezhnev’s rule as the Soviet economy stagnated, life expectancy plummeted, and social problems like rampant alcoholism, worker absenteeism, and widespread cynicism became endemic.

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Corruption: Why Russians have nothing to Smile About

Michael Bohm, writing in the Moscow Times:

It is often said Russians don’t smile much, while Americans smile too much.

In general, the American smile has a terrible reputation in Russia. The campaign started in the early Soviet era. Look at the sinister smiles on old agitprop posters of caricatural “U.S. imperialists” wearing trademark cylinder hats, smoking cigars, salivating and smiling as they relished their piles of money and power over the world’s exploited classes.

Later, starting from the Khrushchev and Brezhnev eras and continuing until the late 1980s, the Soviet print and television media carried regular reports called “Their Customs,” which focused on contemptible bourgeois lifestyles in the United States and other Western countries.

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Sergei Stepashin, on the Take

The Moscow Times reports:

The Audit Chamber has threatened to sue liberal activist Marina Litvinovich for implicating its head and his family in a report on government corruption.

But Litvinovich stuck to her findings, saying she relied on various media reports that had never been challenged in court — implying that they were true.

Her report, posted Friday on the web site Election2012.ru, is titled “Power of Families. The Government. Part 1.” It targets the families of 18 senior officials, including Audit Chamber head Sergei Stepashin.

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When Putin “Wins” by Cheating, Russians Lose

Vladimir Ryzhkov, writing in the Moscow Times:

The Tambov region provides an excellent illustration of the connection between United Russia’s political monopoly, rampant corruption and the low standard of living in Russia.

On July 13, President Dmitry Medvedev appointed Tambov Governor Oleg Betin to a fourth term. Betin has been governor several times since 1995. He is a member of United Russia, although in the 1990s he was a member of the Communist Party. Medvedev particularly values Betin for his role in the 2008 presidential election, when the president received more than 72 percent of the Tambov vote.

The results of the recent March 13 elections demonstrate that the Tambov region has not lost its touch in “organizing” elections, with United Russia reporting 65 percent of the vote there — one of its highest results in the March vote.

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