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By John Helmer, Moscow

The committee of administrators of the Personal Abasement Award (PAW), having sat on their hands for two years, have decided to nominate Catherine Belton (image left) and the Financial Times for a presentation of the affairs of Suleiman Kerimov (right) at the very moment he has been trying (failing) to cash out his stake in Polyus Gold with a merger into Polymetal.

The PAW award rules and procedures, along with the roll of past winners, can be found here. At this stage of the nominating process, the rules require that “each candidate will be advised of his nomination before publication, and given the opportunity to clarify meaning, and plead truth or justification.”

Here is the report which the committee has cited for its award.

Belton was invited by letter to respond to the nomination:

Sent: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 3:41 PM
Subject: Nomination for a PAW award

Dear Catherine:

The CPC has nominated your article, “Suleiman Kerimov, The Secret Oligarch”, Financial Times, February 10, 2012, for a PAW award.

The award rules require pre-notification to the reporter, along with a series of questions relating to the substance of the published report, what may have been omitted, method of verification, full, timely and unedited right of reply, etc. Here are the procedures: http://johnhelmer.net/?page_id=1005.

In our lengthy telephone and email exchanges last month, you made claims and admissions on the record, but these don’t appear in the publication. I’ll be grateful if you would respond to the following questions regarding what you said then, and what, subsequently, you included, omitted, or intended by intimation and innuendo in the nominated article:

1. Your investigation of Mr Kerimov has been a joint Financial Times-Forbes project which started a year ago. Is this the first or the last report your investigation of Mr Kerimov has come up with over this interval?

2. Reporting the unfortunate car accident in Nice in 2006 you say that it involved “his [Kerimov’s] $650,000 Ferrari Enzo”. Reports from the scene at the time indicated the car had been driven to Nice by Alexander Studhalter whose business is based in Lucerne, Switzerland, and whose representation of Mr Kerimov in Switzerland is in the Swiss corporate records, but has not been confirmed by him or by Mr Kerimov. What was Mr Alexander Studhalter’s relationship to Mr Kerimov in 2006, and now?

3. In the photo illustration of your report, you show Mr Kerimov and right behind him to his left Umar Dzhabrailov, a well-known Moscow businessman. Why have you not identified Mr Dzhabrailov? What is the relationship between him and Mr Kerimov?

4. Referring to the record you made last month of your investigations into Mr Kerimov’s business affairs, you spoke of allegations of money-laundering on behalf of Saddam Hussein, and you cited a business associate of Mr Kerimov’s as one of your sources; a due diligence report as another. Did your investigation of this matter lead you to change your mind on the veracity of the allegations?

5. You refer to “$10m [as] fair game for Kerimov to throw on a single party” — what evidence did you check to verify that number? Or is it a number without substantiation?

6. You omitted to refer to Mr Kerimov’s long parliamentary career as a deputy in the State Duma and (currently) a senator in the Federation Council. You refer in detail to his acknowledgement of his business dealings. How do you square the latter with the prohibition of business dealings in the former roles?

7. You refer to allegations of Mr Kerimov’s association with Mr Hussein of Iraq. You omit to refer to his relationships with Muammar Qaddafi of Libya and with his son Saif al-Qaddafi. Why?

8. You refer to your sources as Americans, principally from US-headquartered banks such as Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan. Why have you omitted to report on Mr Kerimov’s financial operations in Switzerland, where Millennium and another of his holdings, Swiru, are headquartered, and where his relationships with Credit Suisse have been reported to have been problematic? Credit Suisse has been reported to be the principal financier for Mr Kerimov’s stakes in Lucerne office buildings, as well as his motor-yacht Ice, an aircraft, and other real estate assets, which reportedly extend to London assets. Why have these assets and transaction records been ignored, especially since reports have circulated in the markets that Mr Kerimov has been under pressure from loan repayment calls from Credit Suisse and other Swiss institutions? Did you ask Mr Kerimov questions on these topics?

9. Recently, Mr Kerimov’s attempt to arrange a cash-out for himself and a merger of Polyus Gold with Polymetal failed. If as you say, your record of Mr Kerimov is that of a series of successful and lucrative comebacks, can you or Mr Kerimov contribute to the understanding of this outcome?

10. There have been public reports of allegations against Mr Kerimov by the Indian authorities pursuing an investigation of money-laundering charges against Hassan Ali Khan. Here’s some background to help familiarize yourself with the case: http://johnhelmer.net/?p=5334. Mr Kerimov has denied all the charges and claims. He also issued a statement in response to the Indian allegations, claiming he had ” filed a complaint to the Russian Prosecutor’s Office asking the Office to investigate the accusations made in those media reports with the Indian authorities.” Did you inquire what happened to that complaint?

11. US sources claim Mr Kerimov met with John McCain and Sarah Palin during their abortive Republican Party campaign for the US presidency in 2008. Did you ask Mr Kerimov what he discussed with them at the time, and why US sources report that he has no comparable relationship, no contact even, with President Barack Obama and his campaign group? Has Mr Kerimov taken sides in the US presidential race, because, as you report, his aim in life is “a wish to change something in the world for the better”?

I look forward to your responses.

With best wishes, as always,


Belton has responded that she would be willing to discuss the questions and answers off the record by telephone. On the record she has replied: “Responding publicly to your questions would in several cases risk violating our policy – which I’m sure you can understand – not to disclose the content of interviews with sources, beyond what is published. It is also not the newspaper’s practice to engage in line-by-line discussion of published material. The content was based on the information we compiled from our research, and discussion between me, senior editors and our legal advisers. This is not the only piece the FT will ever write on Mr Kerimov. The article was not intended as an exhaustive account of his group’s dealings, but focused on the story of his group’s investments in western financial markets and some of the risks this entails for global banks.”

Footnote for opera lovers:

The Beneficent Dervish was an opera composed to a fairy tale with the libretto by Karl Giedsecke and first produced in Vienna in 1791. That was the year Wolfgang Mozart’s The Magic Flute made its debut. Recent archive discoveries have confirmed that Mozart lifted chunks of plot and music from the earlier opera, which he didn’t compose himself. The plot of The Beneficent Dervish turns on an impoverished Turk, who’d like to marry money and status, but is warned off his target, a particularly nasty princess, by his dervish friend. So off into the world the Turk goes, with a magic fool’s cap to deal with danger by summoning more dervishes. It’s their job to dance around him, warding off raiders who want to steal his magic pouch. Its magic is that it generates endless wealth. But dancing doesn’t do the trick, and the princess and her villains make their getaway. In the nick of time, though, the Turk makes his comeback, this time with a magic fruit. The princess can’t resist. But the fruit causes a form of nasal distension and diarrhoea that brings the opera to a close, just before everyone shits themselves. Musicologists claim The Beneficent Dervish would have been forgotten if Mozart hadn’t plagiarized bits of it.

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