Exiled oligarch #VladimirGusinsky and his ‘special’ #Kremlin deal

| September 23, 2019

Many see Vladimir Gusinsky as a victim – a man forced out for his liberal beliefs and strength to stand up to Vladimir Putin and his henchmen. But others believe that is far from the truth. Some say Gusinsky is still “welcomed” in the Kremlin – indeed, he has made hundreds of millions of dollars from this “cosy arrangement”, writes Phillip Braund.

Gusinsky and former business partner Konstantin Kagalovsky recently clashed in the High Court in London in a dispute over a Ukrainian television station, TVi.

After the hearing, Kagalovsky said: “Everyone thinks that Goose – as he’s known – is a frightened man on the run from the Kremlin.

“Well, nothing could be further from the truth.

“He has a deal with the Kremlin – something he boasted to me about – that’s allowed him to make a fortune out of supplying television programmes to Russian stations for years.

“He never tired of telling me about his special deal with the Kremlin.

“Who signed the deal and how it meant that he’d have to stay away from politics back home.

“He called it his deal with the ‘Moscow Side’ and said it was signed by the Russian Federation, Gazprom and Gazprom Media.

“And, whenever he spoke about Putin, he rarely called him by his name – it was usually ‘Big Boss this and Big Boss that’.

“He insisted he had a special relationship with Moscow, but I’m not so sure.

“I think they had him on a hook and were playing him.

“To the public Gusinsky is a political victim and enemy of Putin.

“However, it’s typical KGB practice to make an open enemy into a hidden agent of influence.

“I remember him telling me that before he went to sleep at night, he wrote of list of people he hated and kept it by his bedside.

“You’d be surprised who was on his list.”

After falling out with the newly installed President Putin, Gusinsky left Russia in 2000.

He was languishing in the infamous Butyrka Prison in central Moscow on charges of “illegal privatisation”,when he was approached by Press Minister Mikhail Lesin to sell his “Media Most” company to Gazprom.

In return, Lesin promised Gusinsky he’d close the case against him.

Gusinsky agreed, and three days later he was freed, and he left the country for Spain.

Firstly, through the Spanish courts the Russians successfully had Gusinsky arrested but later attempts to extradite him failed.

By the time the Russians asked again he’d fled to Israel.

Later, Gusinsky obtained a Spanish passport by declaring he was a Sephardi Jew – Sephardi means Spanish or Hispanic.

He also holds an Israeli passport and currently lives in St Moritz Switzerland.

Two years later, as the now called Gazprom-Media was buying the final stake in his channels, Gusinsky reached another agreement with the Kremlin – a pact he crowedthat was confirmed by Putin.

Gusinsky would call this his “unbreakable agreement” – a deal that would guarantee him endless commissions and money for his dramas.

On the other hand, the contract also prevented Gusinsky from taking advantage of a decision made in his favour by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

The ECHR ruled he [Gusinsky] could chase Gazprom’s foreign assets in a civil action.

It’s said he “cynically” used the ruling to open up negotiations with the Kremlin.

With his “unbreakable agreement” firmly in his back pocket, Gusinsky’s New Media Distribution Company (NMDC) produced more than 3,000 original episodes and picked up a host of awards along the way.

Many programmes are firm favourites with Russian viewers – “Agent of National Security”, “The War of Cops”, “Secrets of Investigation” all reached audiences of millions.

In total, it’s said Gusinsky’s companies supply 13% of content for Russian television.

However, renowned investigative journalists Ilya Rozhdestvensky and Roman Badanin, writing for Proekt [Project] Media, uncovered the fact that content producer Panorama made each “Secrets of Investigation” show for about $125,000.

But Russian TV channels were buying them at double that price – making Gusinsky’s media empire profits of more than $500 million since 2000.

And, some people are now suggesting, given his Russian “agent of influence” abroad, that Gusinsky should be registered in America under its Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

FARA was introduced in the 1940s to stop Nazi propaganda spreading in the US.

At one point the Soviet news agency TASS and newspapers Izvestia and Pravda were registered as agents.

Broadcaster Russia Today was registered but wanted exemption.

It was reluctant to disclose its finances, board members and demonstrate evidence of editorial independence.

It has now registered.

Since FARA was introduced 221 Russian companies have been registered as foreign government agencies.

© Daisy Dog Media

 

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