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DwB_1655

By John Helmer, Moscow

Andrei Melnichenko (lead image, left) and Nathaniel Rothschild (right) are offering $100 million in cash, plus refinancing of at least $450 million in debt notes expiring in eight weeks. That’s money London bankers say Rothschild doesn’t have, and Melnichenko can’t borrow. The offer is for the takeover of Asia Resource Minerals Plc (ARMS), a London-listed operator of coalmines in Indonesia.

From his Channel Island headquarters Rothschild has announced the deal with Melnichenko for a joint takeover bid. But in Cyprus, where he is headquartered, Melnichenko is saying nothing. In Moscow, the Russian interpretation is a combination of scorn for Rothschild, and a determination to make out of an improbable business deal in Borneo the appearance of international clout which Russian business has lost. According to Russian investment banker number-1: “I have spent enough time in Indonesia so that I never even try to do business here – the deck is stacked against you. Nat is a serial [expletive; translation, passive recipient of forcible intercourse], and he is in for yet another treat.” Russian investment banker No. 2: “Russians are trying to break out of the corner in which the Americans have confined them. They will use any pretext. – any kind of foreign venture is designed to make Russian business legitimate and powerful looking. This is driven by the huge inferiority complex now felt by highly leveraged men like Melnichenko. They need to show they still can [expletive; translation, active initiator of forcible intercourse].”
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DwB_1654a

By John Helmer, Moscow

The Eastern European alliance in the war against Russia is cracking up.

In Poland, voters will elect a new president on May 10, and then a new parliament and prime minister by October 30. On present polls, the pro-American war factions are unlikely to win. That will mean the elimination, at least in Poland, of Radosław Sikorski (lead image, left), last year’s Anglo-Polish foreign minister, this year’s speaker of the Polish parliament (Sejm); and of his Anglo-American wife, Anne Applebaum (right).

The Siklebaums aren’t the only casualties. Victoria Nuland, leader of the war party at the State Department in Washington, tweeted from Warsaw last week: “I think countries like the United States and Poland, need to do everything we can to support the Ukrainians.” Polish officials told Nuland, after downgrading her meetings to the lowest possible protocol level, that enough is enough.
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DwB_1653

By John Helmer, Moscow

Andrej Babis is the one of the wealthiest men in eastern Europe — if you bite bread, read a newspaper, fill your car with fuel, or put fertilizer on your window box in Prague, chances are you owe Babis money. He is also Deputy Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Finance Minister, and candidate to become the next Czech President.

When Babis announced on Friday in Washington that he is planning to sue the US foreign policy establishment for libel, he wasn’t bluffing. His aim is to stop the US State Department, American officers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, and the war party in Kiev from attacking him as a Kremlin stooge.

The rise of Babis is also the takeoff of another albatross which is about to hang itself around the neck of candidate to become President of the US, Hillary Clinton. For it’s her campaign booster and pollster, Douglas Schoen and his old firm Penn Schoen Berland (PSB), which claim credit for inventing Babis’s political party, Akce Nespokojených Občanů (Action of Dissatisfied Citizens) – the acronym ANO also means “yes” in Czech – and putting Babis in power. From non-existence in 2011, ANO took 19% of the votes in the Czech lower house election of 2013, a close second behind the ruling Social-Democratic Party; 17% in the Czech senate election of last October. According to the American pollster, PSB’s Czech-educated executive, Alexander Braun is the winner of several US awards for his Czech political campaigns. He also claims credit, along with Schoen, for advising “notable clients…includ[ing] Tony Blair and Hillary Clinton, as well as presidents in Mexico, Ukraine, and Philippines.”
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DwB_1651

By John Helmer, Moscow

President Vladimir Putin has lost the war. Not the one with Washington for the future of Europe, eastern Ukraine, and the Kremlin itself. That war isn’t going so badly for Putin. The one he is losing is with the Russian oligarchs on whether they will repatriate their assets from their offshore havens, subject themselves to genuine auditors, and pay Russian tax.

Putin conceded defeat, a powerful international banker believes, when the president announced late last month that he accepts the establishment of Russian trusts to hold assets and income onshore and offshore without liability to pay domestic tax. According to Putin on March 25, “this is an innovation in our legislation, which before we didn’t have.”

“Russian capital,” the banker says, “has been saying from the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine that it wants Putin to abandon his deoffshorization plan. It’s going to succeed because the sanctions imposed since the conflict began have cut off the regular supply of capital to Russia. Capital isn’t patriotic, at least not in Russia. Putin is obliged to pretend he can persuade the oligarchs to act in the country’s interest. But he’s pretending. The proposed new law on trusts shows it.”
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DwB_1649

By John Helmer, Moscow

Insiders at the Russian aluminium monopoly Rusal say that chief executive and control shareholder Oleg Deripaska has been miscalculating the effect of share price surges Rusal has enjoyed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in recent weeks. That’s because the share price gains have been quickly reversed – and because Rusal’s most important lender, state owned Sberbank, is unpersuaded that the value of the company is gaining.

Sources on the Hong Kong exchange acknowledge a case officer has been assigned to monitor share trading of Rusal, and that he has been aware of abnormal trade volumes on several days in February and March, along with seesawing in the price of the share. But the Exchange chief executive, Charles Li, is reluctant to confirm what the exchange has done to uncover what happened and enforce exchange trading rules. The exchange is also afraid of being accused of covering up irregular trading practice and inside information. According to Li’s spokesman, Scott Sapp, “HKEx does not comment on individual companies or its regulatory actions.” Sapp then asked not to be named.
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DwB_1650

By John Helmer, Moscow

When Ukrainian warlords need a well-earned rest from fighting the civil war, there’s always Cleveland, under State Department protection, or Miami for the warm weather.

Igor Kolomoisky has accumulated more than a quarter of a billion dollars in US investments through a chain of front companies which stretch from several American states to Miami, Florida, to Cyprus, and to the Caribbean. He has also managed to keep his name out of the public record of the American transactions. But the money trail in some of his deals, and at least one of his partners, have come under scrutiny by US and state government agencies, and federal courts in several US states.

Kolomoisky himself, according to a Kiev source and a federal US court filing in December 2012, “has traveled to the United States over the past few years and should have no trouble obtaining a visa.” Kolomoisky has been in the US in recent days, reportedly on a restricted visa, in order to discuss his future and the future of his American assets with US Government officials. Public records reveal that the value of these assets has been falling sharply, and that some may be sold in debt default auctions unless Kolomoisky can persuade state and federal government agencies to provide subsidies, concessional utility rates, tax and other credits.

Sources in Cleveland, Ohio, where Kolomoisky has control over several downtown buildings and a hotel, report that his assets there have lost market value since he acquired them. “Out of state investors think they will make a ton of money,” one of the sources said. “they don’t. I don’t think [Kolomoisky] made any money [in Cleveland].”
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DwB_1648

By John Helmer, Moscow

The Canadian Government announced last week it is giving away another
C$200 million to Ukraine, topping the $200 million handed to Kiev last September.

A spokesman for Foreign Minister Rob Nicholson concedes the money is not being audited as the announced loan agreements require. Nicholson, according to Johanna Quinney in Ottawa, doesn’t know whether the first $200 million has been spent through the Ukrainian budget on military operations in the civil war in the east, or against Russia. In signing for the money to fund the war, Nicholson, who is running for election in six months’ time in the Niagara Falls constituency near the US frontier, may be violating Canadian law, Ottawa sources say.
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DwB_1646a_

By John Helmer, Moscow

The Cyprus Government’s unit for combating money-laundering will consider an investigation of Igor Kolomoisky if it is requested by the Ukrainian or US Governments, Eva Papakyriacou revealed on Tuesday. Papakyriacou is the head of the unit, whose acronym, following the Greek, is MOKAS.

She declined to say if there has been a request for investigation, either by a foreign government, or by the Cyprus government agencies responsible for Kolomoisky’s Cyprus passport, or the source of funds of his Privatbank group in Cyprus. “All the information possessed by MOKAS is confidential,” Papakyriakou said. “However, it is noted that the source of funds is checked by the Banks and the Supervisory Authority for Banks is the Central Bank.”
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DwB_1647

By John Helmer, Moscow

On July 17, 2014, at 1320 local time, Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 crashed in eastern Ukraine. The investigating authority, the Dutch Safety Board (DSB), reported within five days that the two black boxes, the cockpit voice recorder (CVR – lead image, left) and the flight data recorder (FDR), had been recovered. On September 9, eight weeks after the crash, the DSB issued what it called a preliminary report.

On March 24, 2015, at 1041 local time, Germanwings flight 4U9525 crashed in southeastern France. The first black box, the CVR (lead image, right), was recovered within the first 12 hours, and the contents reported to the media by investigators of the Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses pour la sécurité de l’aviation civile (BEA). The second black box, the FDR, was found on April 2. The BEA released a summary of what it contained one day later. According to French reporters, the time elapsing between the discovery of the CVR and public disclosure of its contents was less than 24 hours – “overnight we went from zero information to knowing everything”, Paris-Match has reported.

Comparing the two crash investigations, the Dutch and the French, the disclosures have been very much slower in release for the MH17 case – and almost totally unrevealing. Is this evidence about what really happened to the aircraft – or is it evidence about the forces to which the investigators have succumbed?
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DwB_1645

By John Helmer, Moscow

Forgery in the Russian art market is diminishing. “The situation is becoming much better. There are now very few fakes,” reports James Butterwick, a London-based dealer and specialist in Russian art. “This has nothing to do with the experts. The market is the expert now, and it’s become very difficult to buy a picture of dubious authenticity. Save us from the academics and the connoisseurs.”
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