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DwB_1698


It’s traditional at this time of year to rest, chew things over, do a little flossing of the teeth, and return sharper than ever.

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DwB_1678

By John Helmer, Moscow

Leonid Lebedev (lead image) has been charged with stripping millions of dollars from TGK-2, the regional electricity utility he controls. Details of the lawsuit have been revealed this week in the files of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in Tortola, British Virgin Islands (BVI).

The 4-page court filing of June 24, 2015, names Lebedev personally, according to the court’s registry clerk, plus seven of his companies in the scheme. The core allegation against Lebedev is that he arranged to strip cash out of TGK-2 through transactions with Russian subsidiaries of his Sintez holding and offshore companies which Lebedev registered as TGK-2 shareholders. These sold shares among themselves, passing cash out of TGK-2 on terms which ran up TGK-2’s liabilities and diminished the value of its assets, and hence the equity value left to minority shareholders and investors. When they woke up, they described the “knowingly unprofitable transactions” on the internet in this way. Unless the culprits are sent to jail, another investor said, the probability of recovering the money which has been moved offshore “tends to zero.”
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DwB_1700

By John Helmer, Moscow

The board of directors of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was unsure until the last minute on Friday that the Ukrainian government in Kiev would get their delayed loan instalment of $1.7 billion. The board and management were much swifter in erasing personal communications which the IMF representative in Kiev, Jerome Vacher, has been conducting on Facebook with Ukrainian officials; with his personal stylist and hairdresser; and with public relations agents and media publicists for the Ukrainian government.

A Facebook publication by Vacher, in which he identified as his friends the Minister of Finance, Natalie Jaresko; a deputy governor of the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU), Vladyslav Rashkovan; and the former governor of the NBU, Stepan Kubiv, was erased last week, hours after a Polish investigative reporter Stanislas Balcerac, queried the propriety of the publication with Vacher’s superiors in Washington.
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DwB_1702

Comment by GB, London

We used to fly the Zimbabwe roses (and some Zambian) to the Dutch auctions; about 100 tonnes a week on Boeing 747s. Ours were cut, trimmed and boxed, and we delivered them to Amsterdam very early in the morning so that they could make the auction at the flower market in Aalsmeer that morning.

The Dutch control the flower producers in Africa as well. We spoke with some friends in Russia who wanted to import the roses directly into Russia, avoiding the Dutch middlemen. They were incensed that the price the Zimbabwean growers earned from the roses was less than a quarter of the delivered price to Russia – an important flower consumer; especially on Women’s Day.
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Dwb_1699b

By John Helmer, Moscow

The Dutch auction, as it’s called in the wholesale flower trade of Europe, is a clever scheme which simulates competitive bidding while it hides premiums in the prices Dutch growers and traders rig for their flowers. To cut the cost of flowers you have to deadhead the Dutch. And that’s exactly what Russia is threatening to do this week.

The Dutch are crying foul. That’s what monopolists usually do when the game is up. In Dutch history going back to the time when the Amsterdam merchants held a monopoly on the world supply of nutmeg – a prophylactic against bubonic plague , it was believed at the time — they organized slavery, torture, and other atrocities to protect their nutmeg trading scheme. Before you jump to condemn the Russian phytosanitary authority for issuing a warning against Dutch flower exports, remember the Amboyna Massacre of March 9, 1623.*
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DwB_1697A1

By John Helmer, Moscow

It’s midsummer. Time for the oligarchs, even the insolvent ones, to go aboard their yachts, and set sail for the resorts of the Mediterranean. Oleg Deripaska’s Queen K is this week cruising in the eastern Aegean between the Greek islands and the Turkish coast. Andrei Melnichenko’s A is in the Gulf of St. Tropez, while Victor Pinchuk’s Oneness has made its way from Monaco to Sardinia. Suleiman Kerimov’s financial indisposition cost him his Ice, which is in Gibraltar flying someone else’s flag; his relief boat Air is currently at anchor at Cala di Volpe, on the east coast of Sardinia.

Last week Leonid Lebedev’s Synergy was sailing off the Tuscan coast. But Lebedev (lead image, left) himself is washed up – onshore, that is.
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DwB_1696

By John Helmer, Moscow

With three tweets Radoslaw Sikorski (lead image, right), the leading Russia-hater of Poland, and his wife, Anne Applebaum (left), a member of a Russia-hating think-tank in London called Legatum, acknowledged on Monday that they have been ousted from the very frontiers they claim to be threatened with Russian invasion; dismissed by the very people they claim to have been representing; and discredited by the very souls they have been saving from devils they have been conjuring up for years. If you are in the propaganda and disinformation business, this is a bitter dose of something Poles no longer trust Sikorski or Applebaum to speak – the truth.
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DwB_1695b

By John Helmer, Moscow

Russia’s misfortunes aren’t exactly sweet for the country’s leading sugar producers, but they can’t complain. On the back of sharply rising sugar prices in January, first-quarter earnings and profits have jumped at the listed sugar producers, and the trend is expected to continue through the second quarter. Prodimex, the leading sugar producer in Russia, isn’t saying so because it’s a private corporation controlled by Igor Khudokormov (lead image, left). He isn’t complaining. In fact, while his sugar business and holdings of farmland grow larger and richer, Russia’s sugar daddy is almost invisible.
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DwB_1693

By John Helmer, Moscow

Canada – bless its maple-leaf heart – has given Ukraine C$400 million in cash since last September to help the Kiev government finance its civil war and debts. This week in Ottawa, with the signing of a free trade agreement between the two governments, the Canadians aim to claw back the cash by obliging Kiev to allow a surge of imports of Canadian cereals, meat, timber and other products. Until now Ukrainian producers of these goods have resisted, blocking the Canadian imports for fear they will damage the Ukrainian market and domestic earnings.

Canadian officials acknowledge that for Ukrainian steel, which is currently barred from entering the Canadian market at dumping prices, there will be no change, and the new agreement will make no difference.

“Harper is saving the Ukraine by damaging its farmers,” a Toronto source says, “and keeping Canada’s steelmills protected from one of the few exports the eastern Ukraine can still turn out. If that’s not cynical politics for gullible voters, I don’t know what is.” According to another Canadian analyst of the Ukrainian conflict, “this is money-making for a small circle of Ukrainian-Canadian business figures, their friends in Ottawa, and the ultra-nationalists in Ukraine.”
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DwB_1694

By John Helmer, Moscow

Last Friday a US federal court judge named Andrew L.Carter Junior issued a warrant for the US Government to seize $300 million in bank cash and investment accounts in Belgium, Ireland and Luxembourg. The proceeding conceals the name of the owner of the targeted bank accounts, and of the mastermind in what court documents call “an international conspiracy to launder corrupt payments made to GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL A, a relative of the President of Uzbekistan and a government official at all times relevant to the facts alleged.”

The court claim by the US Department of Justice names Russian telecommunications companies MTS and Vimpelcom for having “made more than $500 million in corrupt payments”. But the US Government court papers are selective. The Russian companies weren’t the only ones in the alleged conspiracy between 2004 and 2011, Justice acknowledged in court. The other telecommunication company names concealed in the court papers included TeliaSonera, owned by the Swedish and Finnish governments, and the International Communications Group (ICG), which is given the protective code “U.S.Company-1”, and whose method of buying its entry into Uzbekistan was unrecorded.
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