Friday, December 2

"Applying the lessons they learned from Marc Rich, they bankrupted Russia"

"Pundita, dear, your post on Stephen Curtis shows the instincts of a mud wrestler but I have trouble reconciling this with my image of you as a schoolmarm in the frontier West. What set you off, may I ask? Was it Gary Kasparov's latest prose for the Wall Street Journal?
Boris in Jackson Heights"

Dear Boris:
That wasn't mud wrestling. This is mud wrestling: Marc Rich and the Russia Connection.

By the way, your note caused me to recall the accidental death of another man who knew too much. Oh but wait -- Vince Foster's death was deemed a suicide. There are so many accidental deaths and suicides related to the plunder of Russia that it's hard to keep them sorted.

The Wall Street Journal and the entire Get Putin crowd are in another snit because the Kremlin is getting ready to buy back control of Russia's metals industry.

The capitalists can lecture all they want about the evils of Russia returning to a Commanding Heights economy; people such as Marc Rich cannot be termed "capitalists," they are government-backed crooks. So until an economist figures out how a poor country can prevent conquest and plunder by rich countries through the mechanism of dirty financial deals, nationalization of a poor country's key commodities is the lessor of two evils.

Vladimir Putin is still up against the Seventh Ring of Hell. So it's a good time for a review of recent history. A place to start is the golden oldie article I mentioned above.

Mark [sic] Rich and the Russia Connection
Christopher Ruddy
February 19, 2001

"Marc Rich may have a pardon clearing him to enter the U.S. at any time, but don't expect him ever to return.

Washington sources tell me that congressional investigators would love to slap him with a subpoena upon arrival and haul him before congressional hearings and the cameras for interrogation. The Clinton pardon deal may just be one small part of what Congress may want to find out from Rich.

Perhaps the most serious concern for congressional investigators is Rich's longstanding ties with Russian intelligence agencies, the Russian mafia, and some of the old communist states of East Europe.

Last week the New York Post's Rod Dreher reported that Rich made tens of millions of dollars helping Russia’s communist bosses loot their country, leaving it bankrupt.

Rich’s role in ruining Russia’s economy was detailed in the book "Godfather of the Kremlin," by Paul Klebnikov, who Dreher describes as an expert on Russia and a Forbes magazine senior editor.

The book reveals how Rich and Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky and associates stole untold sums from the Russian people through corrupt international financial manipulations.

In 1983, the year he fled the United States to avoid prosecution, Rich took advantage of the grain embargo the United States imposed on the USSR because of its war in Afghanistan.

Rich ignored the embargo and imported grain into the Soviet Union, winning friends in the Soviet hierarchy with whom he would ally himself when the Communist government collapsed.

According to Washington sources, from then on Rich was associated in his business dealings "by the Communist Party and KGB senior figures. Everybody in that carousel, commie and KGB, got personal benefits ... commissions in Western accounts."

It is widely believed by intelligence experts that today's powerful Russian "mafia" is nothing more than an arm of Russian intelligence agencies, such as the former KGB.

Other evidence suggests Rich had more than a casual business relationship with Russia's spy agencies.

Appearing on CNN's "Larry King Live" earlier this month, former head of the U.S. Marshals Service Howard Safir revealed efforts by East Germany, then a Russian satellite state, to get Rich off the hook.

Safir said, referring to Rich, "You are talking about an individual, when I did a spy exchange in 1986, he had a lawyer from East Germany offer $225 million for him and Pinky Green if the prosecutions were wiped out."

According to Klebnikov, Rich came into the picture again as a major wheeler-dealer in Russia around 1990, when the Soviet Union began to open up to outsiders, Dreher wrote.

"Governmental authority began to crumble. All these local Communist Party bosses got to strike deals on their own," the author told Dreher.

Working out of Switzerland, which has secretive banking laws, Rich was in a prime position to help Russia's plunderers carry out their dirty work," Dreher wrote.

"Klebnikov reported that Rich dealt in oil, aluminum, zinc and other raw commodities.

"He'd strike a deal with the local party boss, or the director of a state-owned company," Klebnikov told Dreher. "He'd say, 'OK, you will sell me the [commodity] at 5 to 10 percent of the world market price. And in return, I will deposit some of the profit I make by reselling it 10 times higher on the world market, and put the kickback in a Swiss bank account.' "

"He made a complete mint off of Russia," says Klebnikov.

Rich began buying Russian aluminum at absurdly cheap prices, with his hard currency. Rich then dumped the aluminum onto Western industrial markets, causing a 30 percent collapse in the price of the metal, as Western industry had no way to compete.

There was such an outflow of aluminum from Russia that there were shortages of aluminum for Russian fish canneries. At the same time, Rich reportedly moved in to secure export control over the supply of most West Siberian crude oil to Western markets.

Rich's companies were under investigation for fraud in Russia, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal of May 13, 1993. As a result, for at least two years, while the Soviet Union was writhing in its death throes, Rich was that nation's largest trader of aluminum and oil on a spot basis.

According to Dreher, a former foreign-trade minister told the author that Rich taught the robber-baron elite how to get around the law by running secret deals through shell companies and the like.

In an interview with Forbes magazine, a former Russian trade minister, Oleg Davydov, told Klebnikov that in the rush to privatize government-owned industries the Russian government made a serious mistake by immediately dismantling the government foreign trade monopolies.

"These organizations had decades of experience and representatives all over the world," Davydov explained.

"They charged 0.5 percent commission and remitted all the difference [between domestic commodity prices and world prices] to the government. When these legal channels became inconvenient [for Russia's new businessmen], there appeared a huge mass of foreign entrepreneurs, mostly crooks like Marc Rich, who began to teach us various ways of taking the money out through offshore companies."

"Marc Rich ended up being a mentor to all these young kids who came out of the Communist Party establishment, and who made billions off these schemes themselves," Klebnikov charges.

"Applying the lessons they learned from Marc Rich, they bankrupted Russia," Klebnikov alleges.

"As a result, you have a ruined economy, bankrupt government, and an impoverished population."

Rich, headquartered in Switzerland, was well situated to help the Russian mafia. Switzerland has already been identified by international police agencies as a major center of Russian money laundering.

If it is true that Rich and his intermediaries were willing to spend more than $200 million for a pardon for U.S. crimes, it raises questions of whether a lot more money may have changed hands than the few million suspected as donations to the DNC, Hillary's Senate campaign or the Clinton Library.

Could money, for example, have been transferred to an offshore bank account? It's a good question investigators need to ask. Especially since the Clintons have had their own Switzerland connection. Several years ago London's Sunday Telegraph reported that Vince Foster, onetime White House deputy counsel, made frequent trips to Switzerland before the Clintons entered the White House."

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