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By John Helmer, Moscow

Two men, Dmitrij Harder and Andrey Ryjenko, have been convicted in parallel proceedings in a US court and a UK court of arranging and receiving bribes in business transactions with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

After several postponements over a year, Harder will be sentenced in US District Court in Philadelphia on July 18. On June 20, in the Central Criminal Court in London, Ryjenko was sent to prison for six years. A Crown prosecutor claimed: “Andrey Ryjenko repeatedly abused his position of power within a publicly-funded bank by accepting corrupt payments.”  She added that without the US prosecution of Harder, his guilty plea, and agreement to cooperate in testifying against  Ryjenko, there would have been no case. “This conviction was made possible through effective cross-border partnerships between a number of jurisdictions, including the United States.”

The UK lawyers who represented Ryjenko, barrister Jeffrey Chapman QC and solicitor Jessica Skinns of Bindmans, refuse to answer questions about the case, and will not release the evidence they presented in court.  But lawyers who have reviewed the case in the UK and US say there was a loophole in the law on which the prosecution of both men has been based. US lawyers admit they didn’t know of it when they were arguing their case in Philadelphia a year ago that the charges against Harder should be dropped.

Court testimony in London and statements from the EBRD also reveal there has  been a cover-up of intelligence agency involvement in the two cases, and political intervention in the longstanding conflict between the US government and other governments on the EBRD board and the bank management over how much, or how little money the bank should lend to and invest in Russia. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Since the 14th century it’s been said that if you take a pitcher to the well too often, it will eventually come back broken. When it comes to the market in Russian avant-garde art, taking the same picture to the well twice may be once too often.  (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the government-owned bank established in London in 1991 to finance market boosting projects in the former Soviet Union, has been secretly aiding UK and US intelligence services in espionage targeted at Russia. The US is a 10% shareholder in the bank, the UK holds an 8.7% stake; Russia, 4%.

The disclosure appears in the records of a trial this month at the Central Criminal Court in London of Andrei Ryjenko (Рыженко, usually Anglicized as Ryzhenko),  a senior banker at the EBRD who is a dual Russian-British citizen.  Early in June, Ryjenko was convicted of taking and then laundering $3.5 million in concealed bribes for helping applications to the EBRD for loans and equity investments from two Russian oil and gas companies win approval for a total of $275 million. MI5, according to testimony in open court, offered Ryjenko the opportunity to keep his money and avoid prosecution if he agreed to spy for the British against Russian foreign intelligence service (SVR) agents who, MI5 told Ryjenko, were under cover in London. Ryjenko refused for several months. He was then arrested and subsequently tried. On June 20, Ryjenko was sentenced to six years in jail.

Treason against Russia was one crime Ryjenko refused to undertake, the Old Bailey testimony reveals.  Also revealed, and for the first time, is EBRD’s role in operating the scheme of lures and inducements MI5 proposed for Ryjenko,  and other Russian nationals at the bank.  “Honey traps,”  comments a London banking veteran, “are generally illegal. Otherwise, the honey wouldn’t be so sweet, or entrapment worth plotting. It looks like Ryjenko trapped himself. It also looks like the bank was happy to make its money baiting the trap for MI5.”   

The EBRD spokesman, Anthony Williams, was asked to clarify the court testimony that the EBRD cooperates with MI5 to permit EBRD executives and EBRD records to be used in espionage operations against EBRD shareholders. “This refers to claims made during the trial”, Williams said on Monday, “that were not deemed credible by the court and which are rejected by the EBRD. EBRD does not cooperate with MI5 and other British and US intelligence agencies.”

Williams was unable to produce statements by the presiding judge, dismissing the MI5 evidence.  “I can only repeat: The EBRD does not cooperate with such intelligence services.” (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

When it happened eight months ago, the arrest of little known public works contractor Sergei Vladimirovich Maslov (lead image, right) made a sensational bang. The outcome, eight months later, is a silent ringing one; that’s ringing as in Russian telephone justice.  

At his palatial home at Arkhangelskoye, outside Moscow, on October 19, Maslov refused to let the police in, so they used sledge hammers on his front door before they took him away. A commercial television company chartered a helicopter to fly slowly over the mansion to film its tennis court, guest house, banya, servants’ quarters, garages and gardens. The cameras were invited in to film Maslov’s rooms and make an inventory of his closets, shoes, safes, as well as the objets d’art on the walls. His garage was opened to reveal several luxury autos. Pictures of Maslov’s motor yacht, berthed somewhere in Italy, surfaced in print

The message was that Maslov was very rich.  But the charge against him was that he was only slightly  crooked. He has been charged with defrauding a bank which had gone bust two years earlier of Rb1 billion ($16 million). Also arrested and charged was an accomplice, Vladimir Karamanov. He let the police into his home when they knocked; his face and possessions haven’t been displayed on television. The two men were flown by police to Rostov-on-Don; held on remand for a month; and then released in November to go home, purportedly under house arrest.

This week the Leninsky District Court of Rostov-on-Don  refuses to say if there is a continuing arrest order for either Maslov or his property; if a new hearing has been scheduled;  or if the prosecutors have dropped the case.  Lawyers for Maslov refuse to say what the status of the charges against Maslov are, or if there remains any case for him to answer. These are signals that whoever ordered the police into action last October has decided enough is enough.

Sources who know the players and their businesses agree Maslov was targeted by someone much richer and more powerful, who also sponsored the press coverage. The sources say Maslov’s recent business has been tied to Gennady Timchenko (lead image, left); so the sources are divided in their suspicion between Timchenko and his rival in the gas business, Igor Sechin, chief executive of Rosneft. According to one source, “either it was a pressure from Timchenko & Co. to extract money from Maslov, who pretended to be a Timchenko man and grabbed more than he was entitled to. Or it’s one of the battle fronts of the silent war between Sechin and Timchenko over new gas production and Novatek. To me, it looks like the first scenario. Timchenko initiated the arrest. Under pressure Maslov agreed to return money. Charges have been softened or dropped.”

This morning in Moscow Timchenko categorically denies both. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Deep in the inner recesses of the Kremlin there is a Russian group who crave to be loved by the American Establishment. For them shaking the hands of stuntman Steven Seagall or boxer Roy Jones Jr. – recent recipients of celebrity Russian passports — or of moviemaker Oliver Stone, doesn’t quite cut it. 

So they draw large sums of money from the Russian state budget to media studios like RT, talk-shops like the Valdai Discussion Club,  and think-tanks like the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy to host the conferences and banquets at which they can ingratiate themselves with their American inamorati – and most importantly, be seen to be loved in this fashion by President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.  For they, too, want to be loved.

The Russian demand for American love potions extends with special keenness to US warfighters against Russia, and US spies against Russia. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

German military records have been found in a Polish government archive in Warsaw revealing that Michael Chomiak (lead image, left), maternal grandfather of Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland (right), volunteered to serve in the German invasion of Poland long before the German Army attacked the Soviet Union and invaded Ukraine.  

Chomiak’s records show he was trained in Vienna for German espionage and propaganda operations, then promoted to run the German press machine for the Galician region of Ukraine and Poland during the 4-year occupation. So high-ranking and active in the Nazi cause was Chomiak that the Polish intelligence services were actively hunting for Chomiak until the 1980s – without knowing he had fled for safety to an Alberta farm in Canada.

The newly disclosed documents expose Freeland’s repeated lying that Chomiak had been a victim of  World War II; an unwilling journalist overpowered by German military force;  compelled to write propaganda extolling the German Army’s successes, and advocating the destruction of the Jews, Poles and Russians. As for Freeland’s claim that Chomiak had secretly aided the Ukrainian resistance, sources in Warsaw believe Chomiak was trained by the Germans as a double-agent,penetrating Ukrainian groups and spying on them. 

The Polish records also point to the likelihood that US Army, US intelligence and Canadian immigration records on Chomiak – concealed until now – can confirm in greater detail what Chomiak did during the war, as well as for years afterward, which made him a target for the Polish police until not long before his death in 1984. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Mystery moves in a godly way, wonders to perform. Even on state television, in Russia’s secular democracy.    

President Vladimir Putin (lead image, right) was taken by surprise, he said yesterday, by the first question ever asked during his annual Direct Line national broadcast about the affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church and Patriarch Kirill (left). Ivan Bratsev, identifying himself as a worker at the state-owned Baltic Shipyard in St. Petersburg, asked Putin about the future of St. Isaac’s Cathedral, the 180-year old city landmark.

There is no mystery about that because the transfer, demanded by the patriarch, of the cathedral from state control to the Russian Orthodox Church has been bitterly protested in the city for months, and reported widely in the national media.  The wonder was performed by Putin in his answer. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Johnny Appleseed, an eighteenth century nurseryman and orchardist, is honoured in his American homeland for being a patriotic soldier in the  war against the British, and for going barefooted in the mission of Jesus Christ to convert the native Indians, whose tribal lands he enriched with apple nurseries.  It’s the job he did for apples that has given him his nickname. When he died, his estate amounted to 490 hectares of apple orchards.

What is less well-known is that because grafting was against Johnny’s religious conviction, the apples he produced were prone to disease and good only for pressing into alcoholic cider, sauce for roast pork, and baked apple-pies.  In Russia the first two are unheard of. Porvidlo (Повидло)  and charlotte (Яблочная шарлотка), puree and pies, are the next best thing, applewise. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Vladimir Yevtushenkov’s asset-holding company Sistema has not inspired investor confidence since September of 2014. That was when Yevtushenkov was arrested in Moscow and charged with fraud and money-laundering in connexion with Sistema’s takeover of Bashneft, a Volga region oil producer.  That year, Sistema’s market capitalization on the London Stock Exchange dropped from $15.5 billion to $1.2 billion, setting a new record for haircuts among Russia’s oligarchs. Yevtushenkov’s incarceration lasted eight weeks in home confinement, during which he gave up Bashneft and accepted a number of other terms from Russian prosecutors and their superiors.

One of these get-out-of-jail cards has just come to light in Johannesburg, South Africa. Through leaked emails, a big-money deal has surfaced between Yevtushenkov and the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma. How much money was promised and for what purpose is not known yet.  But the deal in negotiation has been alleged by South African sources and reporters to be a case of skulduggery on Zuma’s part; that of his son, Duduzane Zuma, and of a financial advisor and collaborator of the Zuma family, Rajesh (aka Tony) Gupta. 

In Moscow today, Yevtushenkov’s head of corporate relations, head of press and head of investor relations would not confirm or deny the meetings with Zuma Senior, Zuma Junior and Gupta. They also refused to give details of the business Yevtushenkov has been conducting with President Zuma. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Sherlock Holmes pointed the way in The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet in 1892: “When you have eliminated the impossible,” he said, “whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

If you believe the evidence of the US Democratic Party, the Director of Central Intelligence,  the NATO Defense College, the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Hillary Clinton,  and several hundred of their state-paid hangers-on, it is impossible for there to be a surge of voters in any of our advanced democracies which cannot have been detected in advance by the election technologies in current use. That is, unless there had been massive cyber-penetration by the Russian secret services, under direct command of President Vladimir Putin, so that voters won’t or can’t reveal what they are thinking until they vote; and if that doesn’t produce wins for Kremlin-manipulated  candidates, to hack voting machines and turn out fabricated vote totals.

However improbable all this may seem to you, it stands to reason, Sherlockian reason, that the Russian explanation must be the truth. Putin’s advice early this month for Americans to “take a pill” must be further confirmation of improbability turned truth.   Also, there can be no exceptions. What must have been true for American voters last November must be just as true for British voters last Thursday. (more…)