Thursday, May 25, 2017

Britain's Second Empire, and More

“This is a story that really needs to be told and that needs to enter the public consciousness. The main danger in an overly dominant finance sector as it is in the UK, if we give it too much power what you end up with is a kind of dictatorship of finance.”
Michael Oswald, director of The Spider’ Web: Britain’s Second Empire
‘To all intents and purposes trusts are invisible arrangements. We’re not talking about a few million. We’re talking about trillions of capital which apparently belongs to nobody, for tax purposes and for any other purposes.”
John Christensen, Tax Justice Network


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ukrainian general calls for destruction of Jews

In the latest of a series of highly public antisemitic statements by prominent figures in Ukraine, a retired Ukrainian general affiliated with the country’s intelligence services this week called for the destruction of his country’s Jewish community.

In a post since deleted from Facebook, Vasily Vovk - a general who holds a senior reserve rank with the Security Service of Ukraine, the local successor to the KGB - wrote that Jews “aren't Ukrainians and I will destroy you along with [Ukrainian oligarch and Jewish lawmaker Vadim] Rabinovych. I'm telling you one more time - go to hell, zhidi [kikes], the Ukrainian people have had it to here with you.”

"Ukraine must be governed by Ukrainians,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian war hero-turned-lawmaker Nadiya Savchenko came under fire in March after saying during a television interview that Jews held disproportionate control over the levers of power in Ukraine.

More recently, opposition politician Yulia Tymoshenko was forced to apologise after being filmed laughing at an antisemitic comedy act at a gathering of her Fatherland party, and Volodymyr Viatrovych, director of the state-run Institution for National Memory accused Jewish activist Eduard Dolinsky of fabricating antisemitic incidents for money.

Viatrovych is also running a public awareness campaign whitewashing the participation of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), a Ukrainian nationalist militia, in the Holocaust.  (more...)

H/T to Spitfire List


New-look Nazi

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Guns of Constantinople

Take down this wall
Early in 1452, a Hungarian cannon founder by the name of Orban arrived in Constantinople, seeking his fortune at the imperial court. One of a growing band of technical mercenaries who plied their trade across the Balkans, he offered Emperor Constantine XI one of the most highly prized skills of the age: the ability to cast large bronze guns.

For Constantine and the Christian empire of Byzantium that he ruled, these were dark days. For 150 years the Byzantine frontier had been crumbling before the advance of the Ottoman Turks. By the time Constantine assumed the throne in 1449, his impoverished kingdom had shrunk to little more than the footprint of the city, surrounded on all sides by Ottoman land. The new sultan, Mehmed II—young, ambitious and hungry for conquest—was making ominous military preparations in his European capital, Edirne, 140 miles to the west. It was clear he was intent on capturing the prize that had eluded previous Ottoman rulers: Constantinople.

Constantine was extremely interested in Orban’s offer and authorized a small stipend to detain him in the city. But Constantine had few funds available for the construction of new weapons. Bronze cannons were ruinously expensive, well beyond the means of the cash-strapped emperor. Orban’s tiny allowance was not even paid regularly, and as the year wore on, the master craftsman became destitute. So later that same year he decided to try his luck elsewhere. He made his way to Edirne to seek an audience with the young sultan.

At the time, Mehmed was racked by indecision over Constantinople. The city was the ultimate prize; it would provide a fitting capital for the Ottoman Empire, and its capture was the subject of ancient Muslim prophecies, attributed to Muhammad himself, that predicted great honor for its eventual conqueror. However, Constantinople had repulsed repeated Muslim assaults from the 7th century onward. Its triangular site made it all but impregnable: Two sides were surrounded by sea, and the third landward side was commanded by the great Walls of Theodosius, a defensive line four miles long, the greatest bastion in the medieval world. In a thousand years the city had been besieged some 23 times, but no army had found a way to crack open those land walls.

Accordingly, Orban’s arrival at Edirne must have seemed providential. The sultan welcomed the master founder and questioned him closely. Mehmed asked if he could cast a cannon to project a stone ball large enough to smash the walls at Constantinople. Orban’s reply was emphatic: “I can cast a cannon of bronze with the capacity of the stone you want. I have examined the walls of the city in great detail. I can shatter to dust not only these walls with the stones from my gun, but the very walls of Babylon itself.” Mehmed ordered him to make the gun.  (more...)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Like Hollywood but with dirty money, welcome to London's richest suburbs

Roman Borisovich conducts a bus tour.
London: Roll up, roll up for the Kleptocracy Tour.

As media stunts go, this has to rank at the weird end of the scale.

For three hours, through heavy London traffic, a coach-load of journalists is taken past absurdly expensive mansions and flash apartments in the city's ritziest neighbourhoods: Chelsea, Kensington, Knightsbridge, Hyde Park.

It's like one of those Hollywood tours where you trundle past the homes of celebs, pausing to snap photos of featureless gates. Except this is rainy London, and they're famous for all the wrong reasons.

Here is the elegant terrace of a Russian oil industry middleman who scraped a multibillion-dollar fortune from mysteriously inflated contracts, we're told, and used it to pick up £250 million ($431 million) worth of properties in central London.

There's a grade-1 heritage-listed Regency building belonging to a chap with mafia connections, who fought his way to a virtual monopoly of a country's ore refining industry and bought political protection by bankrolling​ civic projects – with the favours returned in the form of cheap state loans and expensive state contracts.

Down this lane lives the son of one of Vladimir Putin's best and oldest pals from St Petersburg, wildly enriched through state contracts and commissions.

And up in this apartment building near Sloane Square lives the daughter of the Duma's poorest MP – if you believe his official declarations, though the Panama Papers revealed a substantial central Paris and London property portfolio.  (more...)

Greedy Sharks: The new rule for banking in Eastern Europe that makes fraudulent oligarchs billions

Years ago, people in America talked about the “3-6-3 Rule” in banking. Bankers paid out 3% interest on deposits, collected 6% interest on loans, and were on the golf course at 3 o'clock.

But now in Eastern Europe, bankers have a new rule. They collect deposits, book “loans” that are actually uncollateralized transfers to mysterious shell companies, then they ask taxpayers to pay back the deposits. These bankers don't waste time playing golf and instead buy giant palaces, airplanes, or superyachts.

The champion of this concept of banking is oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky. Based in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, but with his family kept safe in Switzerland, Kolomoisky is best known as the billionaire former owner of Ukraine's largest bank PrivatBank.

Kolomoisky is extreme and eccentric even by the standard of his peers, the other Soviet oligarchs who continue to control the supposedly-democratic governments of Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, and Latvia.

Perhaps because of watching too many James Bond movies, Kolomoisky installed a gigantic shark aquarium in his office, with a remote control on his desk that drops meat into the tank. Imagine sitting on the other side of that desk and trying to negotiate a business deal!

He also maintains a private army. The Wall Street Journal published an estimate that he provides $10 million per month to maintain militias in Dnipropetrovsk. Supposedly the purpose of these militias is to defend Ukraine, however this mission isn't always clear. His soldiers have been known to show up at board meetings of major Ukrainian corporations, armed, giving the directors advice they can't refuse.  (more...)

Strange people, these:

Really strange:

Stalk'n da troof

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Canadian banks dominate Caribbean's unsavoury financial sector

A recent photo in French daily Liberation hints at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce's role in facilitating tax avoidance, which is partly an outgrowth of Canadian banking prowess in the Caribbean and Ottawa's role in shaping the region's unsavoury financial sector.

Just before the second round of the French presidential election documents were leaked purporting to show that Emmanuel Macron set up a company in a Caribbean tax haven. The president-elect's firm is alleged to have had dealings with CIBC FirstCaribbean, a subsidiary of Canada's fifth biggest bank.

While Macron denies setting up an offshore firm and contests the veracity of the documents, this is immaterial to the broader point. If the documents are a fraudulent political attack, those responsible chose CIBC First Caribbean because it is a major player in the region and has been linked to various tax avoidance schemes.

CIBC registered 632 companies and private foundations in the tax haven of the Bahamas between 1990 and May 2016, according to documents released in the Panama Papers.

CIBC was named 1,347 times in a cache of leaked files concerning secret tax havens released by the Consortium of Investigative Journalists in 2013.

FirstCaribbean was implicated in the 2015 FIFA corruption scandal. To avoid an electronic trail of a $250,000 payment to former FIFA official Chuck Blazer, a representative of FirstCaribbean allegedly flew to New York to collect a cheque and deposit it in a Bahamas account.  (more...)