Category Archives: Russia

The Dark Side Of International Finance

Shooting of Herman Gorbuntsov

Shooting of Herman Gorbuntsov

London is the world’s leading financial centre, ahead of New York, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore, according to the global financial centres index published last month (May 2019). The Report compiled by think tank Z/Yen, shows London leading the pack of 110 cities analysed for international rankings – writes James Wilson.

The ranking is based on 103 separate factors and draws on data from the World Bank, the United Nations and the OECD, as well as the survey responses of more than 2,300 financiers from around the world.

But a key factor that also needs to be taken into account in making any such a comparative analysis is the regulatory environment and the effectiveness of enforcement against fraud.

Because with global fame for an international financial centre also comes the unfortunate but inevitable corollary of attracting unscrupulous and unwelcome operators from the dark side, and financial centres have a global duty of care to protect their operators against criminal activity.

Take the case of businessman Alexander Mineev from Russia, who originally moved to London in 2015 for his own personal reasons to try and hide his assets from his former wife. Little could he have suspected that his business empire far from being protected by his professional advisers, was about to be kidnapped through a deliberate and ruthlessly planned sting and asset raid.

Mineev came from the “new Russian business” of the 1990s, and was a well-known businessman in Russia. He created the first electronics supermarket chain in Russia before his murder. He owned shopping centres in Moscow, warehouses, car dealerships, as well as real estate in different Russian regions. The estimated value of his assets was US $1 billion. The Hong Kong firm Crazy Dragon International Limited was the main holding company for his operations, and the primary beneficiary was Alexander Mineev.

In London, Mineev met an exiled Russian banker named Herman Gorbuntsov, who introduced him to his personal lawyer and friend Vadim Vedenin who offered to help him. Little could Mineev have suspected that his business empire far from being protected by his professional advisers, was about to be kidnapped through a deliberate and ruthlessly planned sting and asset raid.

It is even alleged by Moldovan politician and businessman Renato Usatii in an interview to the Russian daily Novaya Gazeta that the London based banker Herman Gorbuntsov began to prepare for the redistribution of Mineev’s assets, and the change of beneficiaries of his estate in advance of his untimely death.

“If he didn’t know that in a month and a week Mineev would be killed, why did he start preparing for the liquidation of his assets? Because, while Mineev was alive, there were no legal actions. I have terabytes of information about all the criminal activities of Gorbuntsov. throughout the period from 2013 to 2018. I am sure that the law enforcement agencies of the Russian Federation and other countries of the world where certain crimes were committed should be interested in this. There are a lot of them,” says Renato Usatii.

Alexander Mineev was shot by a Kalashnikov assault rifle in broad daylight in his own car in the city of Korolev in Russia. His murder is still unsolved, although there continue to be several lines of criminal investigation open.

Gorbuntsov used to own several banks in Russia and Moldova but has lived in the UK now for several years. He previously played an important role in  financial affairs in Russia and Eastern Europe, and helped launder money for many high ranking officials.

He is a seasoned international fraudster whose fingerprints are to be found on the dossiers of many financial scandals over the past two decades. He rose to notoriety for the first time following the disappearance of approximately $1 billion from STB Bank in 2008-2009 which belonged to Russian Railways.

In 2011, a criminal fraud case was opened against Gorbuntsov in Russia about issuing fake bank bills. He fled to London to escape prosecution, losing his banking assets in the process. His creditors came after him, and in 2012 he was machine-gunned in a botched gangland style execution in London’s Docklands which left him fighting for his life.

He appeared to gain traction with international secret services as a trusted informer, and was subsequently named as a witness in many high-profile cases of fraud. In 2015, Russian investigators originally intended to interrogate Gorbuntsov in the case of the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.

He was mentioned in the investigation of the case of the attempted assassination of the banker Alexander Antonov, and also the case of Dmitry Zakharchenko who was detained and arrested in Moscow in September 2016 on corruption charges.

“We are dealing with a very experienced and resourceful swindler. He has repeatedly appeared in various cases and has come out dry,” according to Russian political analyst Zurab Todua.

So far, in this complex web of deceit with rivals, investigators and the fraud squad, Gorbuntsov has emerged as a survivor. He has consistently been able to create the impression that he is a valuable witness who knows a lot and can be extremely useful – now and in the future. This ruse has repeatedly saved him from prosecution so far. But he is sailing very close to the wind, and playing a dangerous game.

The jury is out on the value of the contribution his inside information, operational intelligence and hard experience can actually provide to the track record of important financial centres like London.

Crimea Is Ukraine

U.S. Department of State

U.S. Department of State

Five years ago, Russia’s occupation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula fueled an escalation of Russian aggression. Russia attempted to upend the international order, undermined basic human freedoms, and weakened our common security. The world has not forgotten the cynical lies Russia employed to justify its aggression and mask its attempted annexation of Ukrainian territory. Russia’s use of force against a peaceful neighbor must not be tolerated by reputable states. The United States reiterates its unwavering position: Crimea is Ukraine and must be returned to Ukraine’s control.

The United States remains gravely concerned by the worsening repression by Russia’s occupation regime in Crimea. During the past five years, Russian occupation authorities have engaged in an array of abuses in a campaign to eliminate all opposition to its control over Crimea. As part of this campaign, Russia has arbitrarily detained and wrongfully convicted individuals for peaceful opposition to the occupation, and in some cases has forcibly transferred these individuals from occupied Crimea to Russia. The United States calls on Russia to release all of the Ukrainians, including members of the Crimean Tatar community, it has imprisoned in retaliation for their peaceful dissent. This includes Oleh Sentsov, Oleksandr Kolchenko, Volodymyr Balukh, Ruslan Zeytullayev, and approximately 70 others. We call on Russia to cease all its abuses immediately, to end its occupation of Crimea, and, in the meantime, to comply with its obligations under international law, including the law of occupation.

In the Crimea Declaration of July 25, 2018, the United States reaffirmed its refusal to recognize the Kremlin’s claims of sovereignty over Crimea. The United States also condemns Russia’s illegal actions in Crimea and its continued aggression against Ukraine. The United States will maintain respective sanctions against Russia until the Russian government returns control of Crimea to Ukraine and fully implements the Minsk agreements. The United States reiterates its unbending support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, within its internationally recognized borders, including its territorial waters.

Speech: Standing United Behind Ukraine’s Sovereignty

Statement by Ambassador Karen Pierce at the General Assembly debate on the situation in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine

General Assembly Seventy-third session: 67th plenary meeting

General Assembly Seventy-third session: 67th plenary meeting

Thank you very much Madam President,

We welcome this debate and the opportunity to discuss the situation in Ukraine. I would like to start by joining those colleagues who reiterated the unwavering support to Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, including within its internationally recognised borders and territorial waters.

Today marks the annual commemorations of the lives sadly lost during the 2014 Euromaidan protests. We offer our deepest condolences to the families of those who lost loved ones.

Today also marks the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the Russian military operation to illegally annex Crimea from Ukraine.

Madam President, last week my Russian colleague stood with Foreign Minister Arreaza and pledged to defend the UN Charter, this included ‘respect for the sovereign equality of members’ and ‘respect for the territorial integrity and political independence of all states’.

However, the forcible Russian seizure of 10,000 square miles from Ukraine broke the first principle of international law: that countries may not acquire territory or change borders by force. It also violated a number of international agreements and commitments, including; Article 2 of the United Nations Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, the Budapest memorandum and the 1997 Russia-Ukraine Treaty of Friendship.

The General Assembly reacted to Russia’s actions by passing resolution 68/262 on 27 March 2014, affirming the territorial integrity of Ukraine – within its internationally recognised borders and the absence of any legal basis to change the status of Crimea.

Madam President,

As my German colleague said earlier, in another context in the Security Council, to listen to the Russian account of what happened in Crimea, one would think it was Ukraine that had invaded Russia. And not the other way round.

Madam President,

We do not only oppose the illegal annexation because it violates international law, we oppose it also because of the serious human rights violations Russia continues to commit in the Crimean peninsula. This includes the widespread persecution of ethnic and religious groups such as the Crimean Tatars and those who express opposition to the illegal annexation of the peninsula. In detention centres, these victims have been mistreated and tortured to punish or to extort “confessions”. It is no coincidence that Russia continues to ignore calls in General Assembly Resolutions for the High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit Crimea.

Madam President,

The United Kingdom is also deeply concerned by the ongoing militarisation of Crimea and the Sea of Azov by the Russian Federation. In December last year the General Assembly adopted a new resolution calling on the Russian Federation to withdraw its military forces from Crimea and Russia has ignored this.

Only three months ago, the Russian Federation used force to seize three Ukrainian naval vessels and took 24 servicemen captive – including three who were severely injured during the incident. Russia’s use of force, including use of firearms against Ukraine’s vessels, constituted clear aggression and escalation. These unacceptable actions are not in conformity with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and they have no basis in international law.

We cannot and will not ignore such a serious challenge to the international rules based order. We call on the international community to continue to stand united and remain focused on Russia’s behavior and attempts to consolidate its illegal annexation of Crimea.

Madam President,

Turning to eastern Ukraine, the conflict there remains volatile, fueled by Russia’s total disregard for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Russia has incited and then supported military activity by armed formations, including through the deployment of Russian troops into Ukrainian territory. Russia’s refusal to allow the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to carry out its mandate within non-government controlled territories gives the impression she has something to hide and it threatens both the security of Ukraine and the wider region.

Russia’s concerted campaign to destabilise Ukraine includes its support, last November, for illegitimate elections that do not represent the will of the people in the non-government controlled territories. Such action unnecessarily fuels tension between parties to the conflict. Moreover, it is a clear breach of the Minsk Agreements.

Madam President,

As with all conflicts, it is sadly the civilians that suffer the most. Since the fighting started, over 10,000 people have lost their lives, almost 25,000 have been injured, 3.4 million are in need of humanitarian assistance and there are around 1.5 million internally displaced persons.

Ukraine’s crisis is not a frozen conflict. Russia created this conflict and, rather than use its considerable influence to ensure Russian-backed armed formations comply with their Minsk commitments, Russia continues to supply weaponry and personnel to these armed formations. Russia needs to withdraw its military personnel and weapons, cease its support for the armed formations and abide by the Minsk Agreement commitments she signed up to. This would be a much more convincing way to demonstrate commitment to ‘the principles of the founding charter that governs the behaviour of the international community’ than by giving a press conference.

Madam President,

The United Kingdom once again calls on the international community to stand united behind Ukraine and oppose Russia’s continued attempts to destabilise another Member State of the UN, undermine her sovereignty and steal her territory.

Thank you.

Establishment Of The Orthodox Church Of Ukraine

U.S. Department of State

U.S. Department of State

The United States congratulates Metropolitan Epifaniy on his election as head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. The establishment of the Church was a historic moment for Ukraine. The United States maintains unwavering support for Ukraine and respects the freedom to worship unhindered by outside interference. The right to religious freedom extends to all Ukrainians, including those choosing to join – or not to join – the new Orthodox Church.

Deputy Secretary Sullivan’s Participation In U.S.-Russia Counterterrorism Dialogue With Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Syromolotov

U.S. Department of State

U.S. Department of State

The below is attributable to Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino:‎

Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan participated today in a U.S.-Russia Counterterrorism Dialogue in Vienna, Austria. The Russian Deputy Foreign Minister responsible for counterterrorism, Oleg Vladimirovich Syromolotov, attended on behalf of his government.

Despite our continued concerns with Russia’s destabilizing activity, the United States seeks to facilitate the sharing of any information that can protect the United States, its people, and its interests; against terrorist attacks. In addition to discussing the reciprocal exchange of information, the Deputy Secretary raised a number of issues, to include foreign terrorist fighters, preventing terrorist travel, and the protection of major international sporting events. Deputy Secretary Sullivan also addressed Russia’s attempts to undermine democratic institutions and its continued aggression in Ukraine. Going forward, U.S. and Russian experts will meet at the working level to explore whether further cooperation on counterterrorism will be possible.

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