Reports & analysis by award-winning investigative journalist Lucy Komisar “”

Archive for the Category ‘Russia’

Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton bans Lucy Komisar from Wm Browder speech

Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton bans Lucy Komisar from Wm Browder speech

Dec 2, 2016 – Today, the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton banned me from attending a talk by William Browder, a controversial American-born investor whose undocumented stories about the theft of several of his Russian companies and the death of his accountant have led to a ban in the U.S. (2012) against people he has accused — again without proven evidence — of human rights abuses and the theft of those companies. The result has been to damage relations between Russia and the U.S.

NY Review of Books reports this comment, but won’t print it

NY Review of Books reports this comment, but won’t print it

Jan 15, 2015 – Anne Applebaum wrote an article about Putin’s Russia in the Dec. 18, 2014 issue of the New York Review of Books that was filled with distortions. When I saw NYRB editor Robert Silvers at a Dissent magazine party in New York Dec. 5th, I told him my opinion. He said to send him my comments. But then he declined to print those comments and said that he would run this editorial statement:

Lucy Komisar has written to us that she has a statement to make about the article by Anne Applebaum in our December 18, 2014 issue. This statement is available on her website, The Komisar Scoop. — The Editors.

Russian Deputy PM says 1,000 Russian banks are money-launderers

Russian Deputy PM says 1,000 Russian banks are money-launderers

April 4, 2011 –

Sergey Ivanov, the Russian deputy prime minister, spoke at a Council on Foreign Relations lunch today. I asked if he thought the U.S. and Russia should get together to put a stop to offshore tax evasion. He smiled and agreed that the two countries need to deal with the international offshore system. That was something to consider in the future. And then he said, “There are more than 1,000 banks in Russia. They are not banks but launderers.”

A Russian spook operation? “Khodorkovsky” film mysteriously stolen twice

A Russian spook operation? “Khodorkovsky” film mysteriously stolen twice

Feb 5, 2011 – The final edit of a film about the jailed Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a film to which I contributed, has been stolen from the offices of German director Cyril Tuschi. The documentary, “Khodorkovsky,” is to have its world premier at the Berlin International Film Festival Feb. 14. I did reporting for the film and also was video-interviewed for it. The film tells Khodorkovsky’s story from his youth to the build-up of his oil empire and his political challenge to then President Vladimir Putin. Putin had told the “oligarchs,” men who had stolen the Russian patrimony to build their wealth, that he wouldn’t bother them as long as they stayed out of politics. Khodorkovsky, however, sought to influence the Duma election. He was arrested in 2003 and then tried and jailed for tax evasion.

The Real AIG Scandal: How the Game is Rigged at Wall Street’s Casino

The Real AIG Scandal: How the Game is Rigged at Wall Street’s Casino

AlterNet, March 26, 2009 –

Congress has deftly avoided the real story of AIG’s collapse, which will make a few million in bonuses seem like peanuts.

Most legislators at a House Finance subcommittee hearing last week deftly avoided the real story of AIG’s collapse. Instead, they homed in on the public relations disaster of hundreds of top AIG officials and staff getting $165 million (later revealed as over $218 million) in bonuses.

The key issue ignored by the congressmen and women was the potential catastrophe represented by as much as $2.7 trillion in AIG derivative contracts and how AIG and the U.S. government are dealing with them. To put that number in context, we’ve so far provided the company only about $170 billion.

Western critics: Khodorkovsky stole Yukos fair and square

Western critics: Khodorkovsky stole Yukos fair and square

March 28, 2007

Russia, through its energy company Rosneft, has started to recover the multibillion-dollar oil company Yukos logoYukos that was stolen from it in the mid-90s. It is buying the assets in auctions. Indignant protests are heard from westerners.

Funny there was no indignation from western officials when Mikhail Khodorkovsky and other “oligarchs,” with the help of crooked President Boris Yeltsin, were appropriating Russian national oil and mineral wealth for kopeks on the ruble.

A Khodorkovsky company ran an auction at which a Khodorkovsky shell company “won” Yukos, paying $309 million for a controlling 78 percent. Months later, Yukos traded on the Russian stock exchange at a market capitalization of $6 billion.

Poisoned Russian linked to investigation of possible bribes by ex-Yukos official

Poisoned Russian linked to investigation of possible bribes by ex-Yukos official

Dec 27, 2006

Who might have killed former Russian spy Litvinenko? Julia Svetlichnaya, a Russian living in London, told the press there that she had met Litvinenko and learned that he was collecting information about mega-rich Russian entrepreneurs to use for blackmail.

It has not been reported before that Litvinenko’s collaborator, Yevgeny Limarev, had visited Elena Collongues-Popova (shown here), a Russian woman in Paris, to seek information connecting ex-Yukos official Alexei Golubovich to bribery of the former president of Lithuania. And Svetlichnaya hasn’t told the press that she worked for the very same Golubovich.

Yukos Kingpin on Trial

Yukos Kingpin on Trial

CorpWatch, May 10, 2005

In mid-May a Moscow court will issue a verdict in the trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the figure behind Yukos Oil, who was once known as Russia’s richest man. Khodorkovsky, who a few years ago was worth more than $15 billion, is on trial for fraud and tax evasion, much of it made possible through the use of offshore shell companies.

Khodorkovsky has been in prison since 2003, when he was charged with embezzlement and for rigging a privatization auction of the petrochemical company, Apatit. Some critics argue that Khodorkovsky is being held up as a symbol of Russia’s ruling class of exorbitantly wealthy businessmen, and that his trial is politically motivated.

But Western corporations and, by extension, the Western media may in fact be equally motivated to obscure the facts and make Khodorkovsky into a capitalist martyr.

Study: “Russia loses $9 billion through phony import – export priced trade with the United States”

Study: “Russia loses $9 billion through phony import – export priced trade with the United States”

The Russia Journal, July 1, 2004

Three U.S professors, analyzing import and export transactions between Russia and the U.S., have found that phony prices led to as much as $8.92 billion in capital flight from Russia to the U.S. in 1995-1999.

Even with calculations providing the most conservative estimate, at least $1.86 billion illegally left Russia during that period. Assuming a 25 percent average tax rate, the lower figure would mean nearly half a billion dollars in illegal tax evasion, and the higher one more than $2 billion in taxes lost, just in trade involving the U.S.

Offshore Banking: The Secret Threat To America

Offshore Banking: The Secret Threat To America

Hound-Dogs, March 2004
(Same title but not same article as in Dissent 2003)

This is a story about a massive money-laundering operation run by the world’s biggest banks. It hides behind the “eyes-glazing over” technicalities of the international financial system. But it could be one of the biggest illicit money-moving operations anyone has ever seen. And it’s allowed to exist by the financial regulators who answer to Western governments.

In these days of global markets, individuals and companies may be buying stocks, bonds or derivatives from a seller who is Clearstreamhalfway across the world. Clearstream, based in Luxembourg, is one of two international clearinghouses that keep track of the “paperwork” for the transactions.

Legal problems for Alexei Golubovich in Switzerland

Legal problems for Alexei Golubovich in Switzerland

Dec 2003

Alexei Golubovich, longtime partner of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, is the target of legal action in Switzerland by his former associate Yelena Collongues-Popova and is being investigated by a Geneva judge on her charge of forgery.

Golubovich has not been indicted by Russian prosecutors, though they are interested in talking to the former Yukos finance director who has reportedly fled to London. However, he could be indicted by the Swiss.

Collongues-Popova, who for half a dozen years ran some 30 offshore companies for Golubovich, got a court order in Switzerland that froze $4.2 million she says represents loans he owes a company she owns. Swiss investigative magistrate, Claude Wenger, is looking into her criminal complaint that Golubovich forged her signature to avoid paying the loans.

Criminal complaint filed against Khodorkovsky, Lebedev, and Golubovich in Switzerland

Criminal complaint filed against Khodorkovsky, Lebedev, and Golubovich in Switzerland

The Russia Journal, Nov 28, 2003

Two ex-bankers on Wednesday, Nov. 26, filed a criminal complaint with the Swiss attorney general against Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Platon Lebedev, and Alexei Golubovich, accusing them of money laundering and support for a criminal organization.

The Russia Journal has obtained a copy of the report. The Journal asked Yukos press office to comment on the charge but no comments were received.

The former bankers have requested the federal officials in Switzerland to open an investigation into the charges and to search the records of the Swiss offices of Menatep SA, Menatep Finances SA and Valmet (in liquidation) and of Bank Leu related to investigate claims of fraud against the Russian company Avisma and money laundering by Menatep in Switzerland.

Menatep paper trail

Menatep paper trail

The Russia Journal, Nov 5, 2003

The charges against key shareholders in Yukos are enormous and very varied in scope. The Yukos tale is a long, complex and controversial one, requiring lengthy and painstaking substantiation. Public interest in the Yukos controversy is very high.

However charges and counter charges, mostly of a political nature, are being flung so wildly about in the media that The Russia Journal believes it essential at this stage to focus on the evidence in the accusations against Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his partners. His innocence of the charges that have been filed against him must be presumed until a competent trial is held.

Those who support his innocence of the charges are invited to review and comment on this, the first in a Russia Journal series on the case against him and others in Menatep Group.

The richest crook in Russia

The richest crook in Russia

Nov 2003

A business group headed by Russia’s richest man, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was arrested in October for allegedly defrauding the state of $1 billion, stashed money in offshore centers, including Switzerland, Luxembourg, the British Virgin Islands, the Seychelles, Panama and the Bahamas, according to Yelena Collongues-Popova, who worked for one of Khodorkovsky’s associates. Lucy Komisar, a New York investigative reporter who is writing a book about the offshore bank and corporate secrecy system, interviewed Collongues- Popova. This is her story.

PARIS — A French woman of Russian origin, with thousands of papers related to the Menatep business group and its offshore banking and dealings over the past decade, has been providing information to Russian prosecutors who are building a case against oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the richest man in Russia, who was arrested in October for tax evasion.

She says she set up numerous offshore companies and bank accounts in the Caribbean and Europe to help the Menatep group cheat Russian company shareholders and tax authorities. Her registered agent in the Caribbean was Icaza Gonzalez Ruiz and Aleman in the British Virgin Islands and Bahamas, against which she now has a legal action. She says she used Bank Leu (Bahamas), a subsidiary of Bank Leu, Geneva, to deposit funds in fiduciary accounts to have the benefit of withholding tax exemptions.

Are criminals in Russia sending missiles to Iraq?

Are criminals in Russia sending missiles to Iraq?

Sacramento Bee, Feb 23, 2003

American officials fear that Belarus is the middleman for Russian weapons sales to Iraq, according to last week’s Newsweek. The magazine noted that Leonid Kozik, a Belarus official who visited Iraq last fall, is on the board of a Russian-Belarussian company that markets weapons from those countries.

Iraq is subject to a U.N. arms embargo. If Iraq is getting Russian weapons through Belarus — either with the approval of Russian officials or via corrupt private firms — it refocuses attention on the destabilizing impact of the criminalization of the Russian state and the uncontrolled expansion of the world’s arms bazaar. Both developments have been largely ignored by Washington, with failure to confront Russian corruption a legacy of the Clinton administration and refusal to deal with weapons sales a result of the longtime political influence of arms-makers.

U.S. Investigators Missed Russian Mob in N.Y. Bank Scandal

U.S. Investigators Missed Russian Mob in N.Y. Bank Scandal

Pacific News Service, Aug 6, 2002

An aggressive European investigation of international crime has revealed alleged Russian mafia leaders operating in the United States. The U.S. Justice Department dropped the ball three years ago during the Bank of New York scandal, which now threatens to explode.

NEW YORK–Nearly three years ago, the Justice Department called the Bank of New York (BoNY) money-laundering scandal “just” a Russian tax-evasion scheme. Now, European investigations show that BoNY was a channel for organized crime. And according to a document obtained by Pacific News Service, some of the alleged Russian mafia leaders have operated freely in the United States.

SVP-Politiker dealte mit Uran

SVP-Politiker dealte mit Uran

Von Lucy Komisar*, Beat Kraushaar Und Henry Habegger, Mitarbeit: Laurent Duvane SonntagsBlick (Zurich) 9 Dezember 2001 BERN – 600 Kilo nukleares Material wollten Ex-SVP-Nationalrat Bernard Rohrbasser und Notar R. verkaufen – an die Saudis. Verwickelt in den dubiosen Handel ist auch das Departement für auswärtige Angelegenheiten. Jetzt ermittelt die Bundesanwaltschaft. Diesen Mittwoch erhielt die Bundesanwaltschaft […]

Mobster on Thin Ice

Mobster on Thin Ice

Featurewell.com, Aug 6, 2002

For Alimzhan Tokhtakhunov, 53, called Taivanchik (the Taiwanese) because of his Asian features, the plot to get an Olympic gold medal for Russia’s top figure-skaters was small-time.

The Russian mafia don who was arrested July 31 for fixing skating contests at the Salt Lake City summer Olympics reminds one of Al Capone, who was put away for tax evasion, because the government couldn’t get enough evidence against him for murder, extortion and criminal racketeering.

After Dirty Air, Dirty Money

After Dirty Air, Dirty Money

The Nation, June 18, 2001

When Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill said after the February meeting of the top industrialized countries, known as the G-7, that a European initiative to clamp down on money laundering “is not about dictating to any country what should be the appropriate level of tax rates,” it was clear that the game was over.

For about eighteen months the United States had signaled that it was serious about joining the Europeans in modest efforts to deal with the tide of illicit money that washes around the world. Now, the Bush Administration was saying that it was backing off the US commitment to reform the offshore banking system. Instead, the “tough on crime” Republicans would stand shoulder to shoulder with the shady characters in Nauru, Aruba, Liechtenstein and elsewhere who offer state-of-the-art financial services for crooks.

While Washington Denies Any Problem, Swiss Probe “Missing” $4.8 Billion Loan To Russia

While Washington Denies Any Problem, Swiss Probe “Missing” $4.8 Billion Loan To Russia

Pacific News Service, Oct 16, 2000.

Washington denies any problem, as does the International Monetary Fund. But Russians who should know are sure that a $4.8 billion loan never reached its destination. They have been joined recently by Swiss prosecutors who are equally skeptical. PNS contributor Lucy Komisar is a freelance journalist who, sponsored by PNS, spent three months in Russia on a U.S. National Research Council grant to investigate the impact of offshore bank and corporate secrecy.

What really happened to the $4.8 billion?

Money Trail

Money Trail

The Moscow Times, Oct 3, 2000

When news broke in August 1999 that somewhere from $7 billion to $15 billion had been spirited out of Russia through the Bank of New York, in what looked to U.S. investigators to be money laundering, American bankers professed shock. A month after those revelations, Bank of New York CEO Thomas Renyi told the U.S. House Banking Committee “how dismayed I have been by the suggestions in the press that the Bank of New York has been involved in, or been used as a vehicle for, money laundering or other illicit activities.”

Russian Cons and New York Banks

Russian Cons and New York Banks

The Village Voice, Dec 7, 1999

After it was revealed in August that $7 billion to $15 billion had been siphoned out of Russia through the Bank of New York, the nation’s influentials were shocked, shocked. America’s most sophisticated financiers were vulnerable to tawdry Russian fraudsters? The press gasped at the scale, congressional committees mobilized, and the Clinton administration trumpeted an anti-money-laundering strategy.

But the scandal was no surprise to federal immigration agent Thomas D. O’Connell. Nor was it the first time a New York bank had been soiled by money believed stolen by Russian con men. Though it has not been reported until now, the Bank of New York and other New York banks—including Chemical, Chase Manhattan, and Citibank— were and most likely still are conduits for the proceeds of a still-to-be-tallied series of crimes, with at least a thousand shell company bank accounts laundering dirty cash.

Fool Me Twice

Fool Me Twice

The Progressive, Dec 1999

The Russian banking scandal should have been no surprise to Western financial experts. The Bank of New York laundered some $7 billion in Russian money through the offshore system.

The sudden attention by U.S. government officials and the mainstream media to the $7 billion or more of Russian money laundered through the Bank of New York might make you think this is the first time that multimillions have been stolen from Russia-or elsewhere-and washed through the international offshore system. In fact, it’s not even the first time for the Bank of New York.

Does the G-8 care that criminals are hijacking Russia?

Does the G-8 care that criminals are hijacking Russia?

Earth Times News Service, June 22, 1997

Will people one day talk about the looting of Russia the way they recently talked about the looting of Zaire?

Western leaders meet this weekend (June 20-22) in Denver at the G-8 Summit on economic policy. They have the chance to take the drastic action needed to combat the criminalization of the Russian economy which threatens not only Russia but their own countries as well.

The G-8, which includes the US, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia, probably won’t do anything to deal with this problem, but it won’t be for lack of knowing about it.