Connect with us

Crime

Exiled oligarch #VladimirGusinsky and his 'special' #Kremlin deal

SHARE:

Published

on

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.

Advertisement

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

 

Crime

18 arrested for smuggling more than 490 migrants across the Balkan route

Published

on

Officers from the Romanian Police (Poliția Română) and Border Police (Poliția de Frontieră Română), supported by Europol, dismantled an organized crime group involved in migrant smuggling across the so-called Balkan route.

The action day on 29 July 2021 led to:

  • 22 house searches
  • 18 suspects arrested
  • Seizure of munitions, five vehicles car, mobile phones and €22 000 in cash

The criminal network, active since October 2020, consisted of Egyptian, Iraqi, Syrian and Romanian citizens. The criminal group had cells in the countries across the Balkan route from where regional facilitators managed the recruitment, accommodation and transport of migrants from Jordan, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Several criminal cells based in Romania facilitated the border crossing from Bulgaria and Serbia of groups of migrants and arranged their temporary accommodation in the area of Bucharest and in western Romania. The migrants were then smuggled to Hungary on their way to Germany as a final destination. In total, 26 illegal transports of migrants were intercepted and 490 migrants were detected in an attempt to illegally cross the Romanian border. Very well organized, the criminal group was involved in other criminal activities as well, such as drug trafficking, document fraud and property crime.

Advertisement

Up to €10,000 per migrant

Migrants were paying between €4,000 and €10,000 depending on the trafficking segment. For example, the price for facilitating the crossing from Romania to Germany was between €4,000 and €5,000. The migrants, some of which were families with young children, were accommodated in extremely poor conditions, often with no access to toilets or running water. For the safe houses, the suspects rented accommodations or used the residences of group members, mainly situated in the areas of Călărași County, Ialomița County and Timișoara. In one of the safe houses, measuring about 60 m2, the suspects hid 100 people at the same time. The migrants were then transferred in risky conditions in overcrowded lorries between merchandise and in vans hidden in concealments without proper ventilation. 

Europol facilitated the exchange of information and provided analytical support. On the action day, Europol deployed one analyst to Romania to cross-check operational information against Europol’s databases in real time to provide leads to investigators in the field. 

Watch video

Continue Reading

Crime

Fight against ransomware: New website to get help faster marks five years of ‘No More Ransom' initiative that helped over six million victims recover their data

Published

on

Europol, the EU law enforcement agency, has marked five years of its ‘No More Ransom' project with a revamped website that allows easy access to decryption tools and other help in over 30 languages. The initiative supplies ransomware victims with decryption tools to recover their encrypted files, helps them report cases to law enforcement authorities and contributes to raising awareness about ransomware. Since its launch five years ago, the project has already helped more than six million victims worldwide and prevented criminals from making almost a billion euro in profits.

The Commission is a partner of the project, together with tech companies, law enforcement, and public and private sector entities. Ransomware is a type of malware that locks users' computers and encrypts their data. The criminals behind the malware demand a ransom from the user in order to regain control over the affected device or files. Ransomware represents a growing threat, affecting all sectors including energy infrastructure or health care. Protecting European citizens and businesses against cyber threats, including against ransomware, is a priority for the Commission. You will find more information in the press release published by Europol.

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Crime

Beating financial crime: Commission overhauls anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism rules

Published

on

The European Commission has presented an ambitious package of legislative proposals to strengthen the EU's anti-money laundering and countering terrorism financing (AML/CFT) rules. The package also includes the proposal for the creation of a new EU authority to fight money laundering. This package is part of the Commission's commitment to protect EU citizens and the EU's financial system from money laundering and terrorist financing. The aim of this package is to improve the detection of suspicious transactions and activities, and to close loopholes used by criminals to launder illicit proceeds or finance terrorist activities through the financial system.

As recalled in the EU's Security Union Strategy for 2020-2025, enhancing the EU's framework for anti-money laundering and countering terrorist financing will also help to protect Europeans from terrorism and organised crime.

The measures greatly enhance the existing EU framework by taking into account new and emerging challenges linked to technological innovation. These include virtual currencies, more integrated financial flows in the Single Market and the global nature of terrorist organisations. These proposals will help to create a much more consistent framework to ease compliance for operators subject to AML/CFT rules, especially for those active cross-border.

Advertisement

Today's package consists of four legislative proposals:

An Economy that Works for People Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said: “Every fresh money laundering scandal is one scandal too many – and a wake-up call that our work to close the gaps in our financial system is not yet done. We have made huge strides in recent years and our EU AML rules are now among the toughest in the world. But they now need to be applied consistently and closely supervised to make sure they really bite. This is why we are today taking these bold steps to close the door on money laundering and stop criminals from lining their pockets with ill-gotten gains.”

A new EU AML Authority (AMLA)

At the heart of today's legislative package is the creation of a new EU Authority which will transform AML/CFT supervision in the EU and enhance cooperation among Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs). The new EU-level Anti-Money Laundering Authority (AMLA) will be the central authority coordinating national authorities to ensure the private sector correctly and consistently applies EU rules. AMLA will also support FIUs to improve their analytical capacity around illicit flows and make financial intelligence a key source for law enforcement agencies.

In particular, AMLA will:

  • Establish a single integrated system of AML/CFT supervision across the EU, based on common supervisory methods and convergence of high supervisory standards;
  • directly supervise some of the riskiest financial institutions that operate in a large number of member states or require immediate action to address imminent risks;
  • monitor and coordinate national supervisors responsible for other financial entities, as well as coordinate supervisors of non-financial entities, and;
  • support co-operation among national Financial Intelligence Units and facilitate coordination and joint analyses between them, to better detect illicit financial flows of a cross-border nature.

A Single EU Rulebook for AML/CFT

The Single EU Rulebook for AML/CFT will harmonize AML/CFT rules across the EU, including, for example, more detailed rules on Customer Due Diligence, Beneficial Ownership and the powers and task of supervisors and Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs). Existing national registers of bank accounts will be connected, providing faster access for FIUs to information on bank accounts and safe deposit boxes. The Commission will also provide law enforcement authorities with access to this system, speeding up financial investigations and the recovery of criminal assets in cross-border cases. Access to financial information will be subject to robust safeguards in Directive (EU) 2019/1153 on exchange of financial information.

Full application of the EU AML/CFT rules to the crypto sector

At present, only certain categories of crypto-asset service providers are included in the scope of EU AML/CFT rules. The proposed reform will extend these rules to the entire crypto sector, obliging all service providers to conduct due diligence on their customers. Today's amendments will ensure full traceability of crypto-asset transfers, such as Bitcoin, and will allow for prevention and detection of their possible use for money laundering or terrorism financing. In addition, anonymous crypto asset wallets will be prohibited, fully applying EU AML/CFT rules to the crypto sector.

EU-wide limit of €10,000 on large cash payments

Large cash payments are an easy way for criminals to launder money, since it is very difficult to detect transactions. That is why the Commission has today proposed an EU-wide limit of €10,000 on large cash payments. This EU-wide limit is high enough not to put into question the euro as legal tender and recognises the vital role of cash. Limits already exist in about two-thirds of Member States, but amounts vary. National limits under €10,000 can remain in place. Limiting large cash payments makes it harder for criminals to launder dirty money. In addition, providing anonymous crypto-asset wallets will be prohibited, just as anonymous bank accounts are already prohibited by EU AML/CFT rules.

Third countries

Money laundering is a global phenomenon that requires strong international cooperation. The Commission already works closely with its international partners to combat the circulation of dirty money around the globe. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog, issues recommendations to countries. A country that is listed by FATF will also be listed by the EU. There will be two EU lists, a “black-list” and a “grey-list, reflecting the FATF listing. Following the listing, the EU will apply measures proportionate to the risks posed by the country. The EU will also be able to list countries which are not listed by FATF, but which pose a threat to the EU's financial system based on an autonomous assessment.

The diversity of the tools that the Commission and AMLA can use will allow the EU to keep pace with a fast-moving and complex international environment with rapidly evolving risks.

Next steps

The legislative package will now be discussed by the European Parliament and Council. The Commission looks forward to a speedy legislative process. The future AML Authority should be operational in 2024 and will start its work of direct supervision slightly later, once the Directive has been transposed and the new regulatory framework starts to apply.

Background

The complex issue of tackling dirty money flows is not new. The fight against money laundering and terrorist financing is vital for financial stability and security in Europe. Legislative gaps in one Member State have an impact on the EU as a whole. That is why EU rules must be implemented and supervised efficiently and consistently to combat crime and protect our financial system. Ensuring the efficiency and consistency of the EU AML framework is of the utmost importance. Today's legislative package implements the commitments in our Action Plan for a comprehensive Union policy on preventing money laundering and terrorism financing which was adopted by the Commission on 7 May 2020.

The EU framework against money laundering also includes the regulation on the mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders, the directive on combating money laundering by criminal law, the directive laying down rules on the use of financial and other information to combat serious crimesthe European Public Prosecutor's Office, and the European system of financial supervision.

More information

Anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism

Proposal on centralized bank account registeries

Questions and Answers

Factsheet

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending