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By John Helmer, Moscow

There is every reason to read and reread the Tintin books by Hergé, and even more for boycotting the film just released by Steven Spielberg. The essay by Tom McCarthy is one of a hattrick by the London Guardian to rubbish what Spielberg has done.

Next up to prove the Guardian is a newspaper of mature judgement when it warns readers off the American cartoonist, Christopher Hitchens. But that’s another story, to be told in good time.

McCarthy tells the story of Hergé’s interview, fifty years ago, with a boy coming out of a cinema after seeing a French make of Tintin and the Golden Fleece. Had he liked it, Hergé asked. No, the boy said. Why not? “Because Captain Haddock didn’t have the same voice as he does in the books,” the boy replied.

Returning to what Hergé called the land of the Soviets, it isn’t known what sort of a voice Suleiman Kerimov, secretary of a committee of important asset owners, has, because he has almost never exposed it in public. But he has an American spokesman, that is to say a lawyer named Eliot Lauer, who has an assistant named Jason Gottleib. They work in a big office in New York City.

After last week’s publications reported what Kerimov owns, and is apparently selling (or hiring out), this letter landed on the Bear’s bureau:


 

That Kerimov doesn’t own what is being offered for sale (rent, hire, lease, charter, etc.) is big breaking news. So to be on the safe side, Kerimov was asked to clarify what his newfound voice had said:

To: Gottlieb, Jason
Cc: Lauer, Eliot
Sent: Thursday, October 27, 2011 3:03 AM
Subject: Re: Re your client, Mr Kerimov

Dear Mr. Lauer:

I am in receipt of your letters via Jason Gottlieb.

I am grateful that after my telephone and email attempts to make contact with you, with your associate and with your secretary, Ms Lanham, and my efforts to check the relevant details regarding your client, Suleiman Kerimov, you have finally replied.

May I clarify with you and Mr Kerimov the claims of your letter:

— you state that “Villa Medy Roc does not belong to Mr. Kerimov”. Since my report which you cite does not say this, but rather that Mr Kerimov owns a villa (and is offering it for sale) at Medy Roc — the latter referring to a location as illustrated — will you kindly state whether Mr Kerimov has beneficial use of a property at the approximate location referred to, in the area of Cap d’ Antibes, subject to the jurisdiction of the Antibes Municipal Council, near the properties of the Quandt family and of the Gaydamak family?

— you appear to be distinguishing between your representation of an individual named Suleiman Kerimov and companies and interests associated with and/or controlled by him, directly or indirectly, and from which he derives benefits, including loan, credit, pledge, guarantee or mortgage benefits and obligations. Are you saying that no company with any association with Mr Kerimov or his trustees or assigns, in which he and/or they exercise control or executive direction or management, is registered as the proprietor and/or leasee and/or mortgagor or securor of a real estate asset or property in the area of France referred to by me, and reported by Antibes municipal councilman Gerard Piel?

— you say “Mr Kerimov is not ‘in conflict’ with landowners in the area.” I reported “problems…over terms of property use, mooring, development and public access rights.” I also identified the fact that there are different landowner interests in the area. Your terminology differs from my report in material ways. Are you saying that Mr Kerimov is for or against changes in the land leasehold charges to the villa owners by the Antibes municipal council? That Mr Kerimov is for or against public access rights to the shore line around the villas? That there is agreement between Mr Kerimov and the Quandt family on future plans for development of the area?

— You say that “M/Y Ice is not owned by Mr. Kerimov”. I ask you to clarify the same problem of attribution and assignation — are you denying that the Lurssen-built vessel is owned by a company with which there is, or there has been, an association, direct or indirect, with Mr Kerimov and/or his representatives, trustees, or assigns?

— You refer to “questions about yachts”, and you then refer to one vessel, M/Y Ice. Am I correct to conclude that you are making no correction with respect to the published reporting on M/Y Air (Feadship)?

— you say “we have no particular reason to know whether the M/Y Ice is for sale.” To whom does your use of the personal pronoun “we” refer?

— You further say “this purported sale also seems questionable, as real estate agents generally do not sell yachts.” In the two publications to which you refer, I did not report that a real estate agent was selling, or even chartering a yacht. As you know from the text, I referred to “a leading shipbroker”, “two people familiar with the matter”, and a “yacht broker”. Are you, or is Mr Kerimov denying what they say, as quoted, including the categorical identification of Mr Kerimov as the beneficial owner of both M/Y Ice and M/Y Air?

— In your final paragraph, you say: “any public dissemination of information contrary to the above factual statements should be corrected forthwith.” Since your phrase “above factual statements” is vague, and may variously refer to statements, to facts, and to interpretations, I invite you to pinpoint what is factually in error in the publications that deserves correction.

As I have explained to Mr Katafai, a copy of which you should have now received, I am confused by the factual claims in this matter and the apparent conflict over facts between sources.

I also wish to note that you were asked, in relation to M/Y Air, whether the operation of the vessel is by a group of banks in relation to loan agreements with Mr Kerimov. As you have not addressed that question, and as you state categorically that M/Y Ice is not owned by Mr Kerimov, perhaps the confusion is resolved by the source who has claimed to me that as part of loan agreements between banks and Mr Kerimov’s companies, the two vessels are in law or in practice the property of the banks which financed their purchase, and which are now recouping the income earned from the vessel charters. I’ll be obliged if you would clarify the situation for me.

If you will be so kind as to address these questions in another letter, and enable me thereby to complete the checking I initiated before publication, I will be glad to publish it at the earliest opportunity, so that readers will have a clear and comprehensive understanding of the facts. Certainly, if I am mistaken, i wish to make this clear to readers as soon as possible.

if you would prefer to grant me an interview, in which we might go over the many complications, I’ll be glad to call in if you would indicate a convenient time

Yours faithfully,

John Helmer

There was no initial acknowledgement, so the letter was sent twice more.

The text of an agreement by the French Maritime Prefecture of the Mediterranean, dated April 19, 2011, was also forwarded to Lauer, asking if it had correctly identified Kerimov’s Swiss associate Alexander Studhalter of Lucerne as his man in charge of operating his helicopter off the deck of the Motor Yacht Ice.

Note the email address of Studhalter at Swiru ties him to one of Kerimov’s Swiss money-boxes, as reported here in 2009. And note that the physical address of Societe Sunstone Group Limited, the company name Studhalter gave the French authorities, is Matthofstrand 8, Lucerne. That also happens to be Swiru’s address, according to the Swiss company register.


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Lauer replied on Sunday morning, Moscow time: “am Sabbath observant and have many other things to deal with [.] make no assumptions at all simply because I have not devoted exclusive time to your blogging and communications [.]”

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