Thrown Away And Humiliated

How fortune and Western patrons cheat on Russian "oligarchs-traitors"

Last week in London, the National Crime Agency's operatives detained and then released the Russian oligarch Mikhail Fridman on bail. He is suspected of money laundering, conspiracy to defraud the Ministry of Internal Affairs and giving false testimony.

The offence of the oligarch, one of the wealthiest people in Russia in the recent past, is that he, bypassing thee sanctions imposed on him, operated with several thousand pounds needed to service his current expenses for the maintenance of the estate and servants. 50 agency employees carried out an operation against a dangerous criminal and his accomplices.

Mikhail Fridman, a man who for decades tried to fit into the Western elite and did not spare money for it, volunteered to help Ukraine in an attempt to avoid sanctions, is now publicly humiliated in the UK and the West. Apparently, the same fate awaits his "colleagues in the oligarchic shop", like Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who is still "on horseback". Since the socio-political winds are changing, these people will undoubtedly become a new object of humiliation and persecution.

Mikhail Fridman, the oligarch and owner of multibillion-dollar assets in Russia, was detained on December 1 in his luxurious London residence. The operation involved over 50 officers from the specialised department of the NCA for the fight against kleptocracy (from the Greek. ΚλέΠτειν "steal" +κράτος "domination, power"; literally "the power of thieves"). Extensive searches revealed "digital devices and a significant amount of cash."

Throw Away And Humiliate
Mikhail Fridman.

Recall that the oligarch is subject to spending limits. He can spend no more than GBP 2,500 per month, which can in no way compensate for the running costs of property, servants, assistants, food, etc. And so a prominent kleptocrat was put in his place, effectively being charged with criminal offences for money laundering, conspiracy to deceive the British Home Office and conspiracy to commit perjury.

Remarkably, "accomplices" were detained with him and also released on bail: Friedman's 35-year-old assistant, who took out a bag with several thousand pounds in cash from the mansion, and a 39-year-old man, " the former boyfriend of the businessman’s current partner." They are charged with money laundering and conspiracy to defraud.

It is noteworthy that the National Crime Agency's official report mentions the sexual orientation of one of the detainees and hints transparently at the oligarch's sexuality. Such a detail can easily ruin the entrepreneur's image such a detail may destroy the image in Russia. For decades, the entrepreneur, philanthropist and public figure has positioned himself as one of the founders, principal sponsors and "spiritual leaders" of the Russian Jewish Congress (RJC). However, the Russian oligarch was quick to betray his accomplices.

"Mr. Fridman is at home, not under arrest. He has nothing to do with this story," a spokesman for Friedman's Alfa Bank in Moscow said. "The NCA’s Combatting Kleptocracy Cell, only established this year, is having significant success investigating potential criminal activity by oligarchs, the professional service providers that support and enable them and those linked to the Russian regime. We will continue to use all the powers and tactics available to us to disrupt this threat," Graeme Biggar, Director General of the NCA, said.

No effort to obtain Ukrainian citizenship with an offer to transfer assets to Ukrainian jurisdiction, no USD 150 million donations for Ukrainian Jewish organisations in exchange for an attempt to get "sanctions lifted", and, most importantly, no decades of building relations with Western elites saved oligarch Friedman from severe sanctions and a series of public humiliations.

Since the early 1990s, Mikhail Fridman and his companions have actively sponsored the Russian Jewish Congress and have had close contacts with the World Jewish Congress with the global financial elite in charge.

In 2018, Mikhail Fridman and his business partner Petr Aven visited Washington. They spoke with senior US administration officials at a private "Atlantic Council" event and criticised the Putin regime. According to reports from Council members, such meetings were a regular occurrence. However, as we all know, oil and water don't mix, and it looks like Friedman and his fellows still failed to join the global elite club.

Attempts of another famous Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who served ten years in prison on economic charges and was then pardoned and released to the West, are also likely to be futile.

Throw Away And Humiliate
Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Following Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014, Khodorkovsky became visibly active, organising outreach to Russian opposition networks and media through Open Russia (Otkrytaya Rossiya) and Open Media. The oligarch nurtured solid Western structures, both overseas and at his seat in the UK, transferring 150,000 pounds in 2017-2018 to Chatham House, also known as the Royal Institute of International Affairs. Khodorkovsky's Future of Russia foundation transferred 151,900 pounds sterling in financial aid in 2020 alone to the "Atlantic Council", whose close ties did not help Mikhail Fridman.

Future of Russia Foundation was among the benefactors, who have donated between USD 100,000 and USD 250,000, on Atlantic Council website. As a result, the Atlantic Council issued a report titled "Global Strategy 2022: Thwarting Kremlin aggression today for constructive relations tomorrow," which proposed a long-term strategy for countering Russia. In particular, it stressed the need to boost large-scale assistance to Ukraine and beef up its armed forces.

Winds change. In recent weeks, the international media have been flooded with signals of the US and several EU countries to reconsider and drastically reduce the amount of aid provided to Ukraine.

Washington says it is not entirely transparent what is happening in the Kyiv-controlled territories and suggests that temporary, albeit interim, agreements should be reached with Russia.

The European Union states, on the other hand, are talking about the depletion of weapons stocks, which is critical to the strategic security of NATO countries. In this context, the relatively prominent figure of the Russian oligarch Khodorkovsky, with his extensive knowledge of Western inner workings, could be an excellent "information" tool in revising strategy.

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