Frank Giustra’s Uranium Deal, Kazakhstan Corruption, and the Boston Bombers’ Uncle

(Original published on January 27, 2017)

Let me start by saying that this post in no way proves or even suggests that the Clintons were familiar with the Boston bombers’ uncle, Ruslan Tsarni.  Nor does it prove that Tsarni and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were working for the CIA and/or Russia—which many of us suspect, including Senator Grassley, and that I undoubtedly believe.  So for the conspiracy theorists out there don’t get too excited.  But I will say this:  Although this post (and all of its parts) is in desperate need of the grammar police and an editor because of my usual ramblings it does show that Ruslan Tsarni had particularly close ties with some of the most powerful men in Kazakhstan and, more specifically, to the Kazakh man who directly sold the uranium to Frank Giustra’s company, UrAsia.

Some of the main players:

  • Mukhtar Ablyazov:  Kazakh. Wealthy. Political dissident.  Head of BTA bank (2005-2009)
  • Mukhtar Dzhakishev:  Kazakh. Long-time friend of Mukhtar Ablyazov. Head of Kazakhstan’s uranium agency, KazAtomProm
  • President Nazerbayev:  Kazakh. President of Kazakhstan since 1991.
  • Frank Giustra:  Canadian. Billionaire friend of Bill Clinton. Made his money in minerals, uranium, oil.
  • Timur Kulibayev: Kazakh. Unbelievably wealthy.  Son-in-law of President Nazerbayev.
  • Ruslan Tsarni:  Chechen. Uncle of the Boston bombers. Works in the oil sector.
  • Canaccord Genuity:  Previously known as Canaccord Capital and then Canaccord Financial.
BTA BANK AND MUKHTAR ABLYAZOV

After the fall of the USSR, Kazakhstan, a newly independent country where, ironically, ethnic Kazakhs had long found themselves a minority, faced the daunting task of restructuring the state, including the financial sector.  The government converted the Almaty branch of Russia’s Gosbank into the Kazakhstan National Bank after which they then transformed the banking sector by legalizing public and private financial institutions. These changes created forty-four commercial banks in the process. However, by 1998, half of those banks were no longer operating and major commercial banks like Turanbank-Kazakh Bank and Alembank struggled to stay afloat. Rather than shut down these two banking giants the government merged the two creating the BankTuranAlem. The bank was later branded “BTA,”  privatized, and purchased for $75 million dollars by a group of Kazakh investors led by Mukhtar Ablyazov’s “Astana-Holding” group, the third largest industrial group in Kazakhstan at the time.

KAZAKSTAN ENERGY SECTOR

In 1997, the Kazakhstan government also established KazAtomProm, the “national operator of Kazakhstan for import and export of uranium, rare metals and nuclear fuel components for power plants,” as well as the Kazakhstan Electricity Grid Operating Company (KEGOC), both of which are owned and operated by the National Welfare Fund “Samruk-Kazna.”  At the time, Mukhtar Ablyazov was quickly making a name for himself within political circles and was appointed head of KEGOC.  In the following year he was appointed Minister for Energy, Industry, and Trade and his close friend, Mukhtar Dzhakishev, was also appointed head of Kazakhstan’s uranium agency, KazAtomProm.

It appears that both men were in President Nazarbayev’s favor. However, in 2001 Ablyazov established a political opposition party called the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DCK) —a move not entirely shocking because of President Nazarbayev’s well-known history of authoritariansim, nepotism, and human rights violations but a dangerous one nonetheless.  As Jonathan Winer, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State during the Clinton administration once said, “We’ve known about his [Nazarbayev] corruption for at least 15 years…The information on him was open, notorious and present.”  Yerzhan Tatishev, also a long time friend of Mukhtar Ablyazov who once served as vice president of Ablyazov’s Astana-Holding group and was the current president of BTA bank at the time, also joined Ablyazov’s political party.  However, he soon decided that it was inappropriate for him (aka the banking sector) to be involved in politics and in 2002 he broke away from the DCK at the same time the government arrested, charged, and sentenced Ablyazov for illegal business dealings and misuse of office—a move that was obviously politically motivated.

 

ABLYAZOV PARDONED, TATISHEV MURDERED

Mukhtar Ablyazov was pardoned a year later by President Nazarbayev in exchange that he publicly promise to stay out of politics.  Ablyazov conceded and after a stint in Russia he returned to Kazakhstan only to have his friend and BTA bank president, Yerzhan Tatishev, shot and killed in December 2004.  In what was described as a hunting accident, Platt’s Oilgram (Volume 84, Number 87) reported the following:

“Tatishev had been reported to own from 20% to 60% of BTA, which has spread in recent years into Ukraine, Azerbaijan and other Central Asian venues. Tatishev was shot in the back of the head while driving his own Jeep on a hunting trip in December 2004. While reaching for a loaded rifle, the security-conscious marksman, known to always use a driver, reportedly hit a bump and the gun went off.”

That sounds legit.  According to a Wikileaks cable, Tatishev was set to complete a multi-million dollar financing deal with Leningrad Oblast, inferring that perhaps that was why he was eliminated or that it was his ties to Ablyazov’s political party that did him in. Others say he stashed BTA money in the U.S. a year prior but many believed Ablyazov himself was behind Tatishev’s demise.  Rumor had it that Tatishev held Ablyazov’s stake in BTA bank after he was arrested and charged in 2002.  When Ablyazov returned to Kazakhstan he not only wanted his shares back, he wanted Tatishev to take part in a criminal financial scheme but Tatishev refused.  I’m thinking Arkancide?

 

2005:  BILL CLINTON, FRANK GIUSTRA, AND KAZAKHSTAN URANIUM

While someone was plotting Tatishev’s murder, President Bill Clinton’s close friend and mining billionaire, Frank Giustra, was busy assembling a financial team in the hopes of landing a fat uranium deal out of Kazakhstan.  The team included Phillip Shirvington, Ian Telfer, Robert Cross, Frank Holmes (U.S. Global Investors), Douglas Holtby, Dr. Massimo Carello, Canaccord Capital, BMO Nesbitt Burns, GMP Securities, Ltd., and Russian Sergey Kurzin.

Many of these guys were chumming around long before the team was assembled. Giustra and Telfer knew each other previously through Wheaton River Minerals—a mining company now known as Goldcorp that both men bought into back in 2001. Endeavour Financial, Guistra’s mining investment firm and Petroworld, both companies listed at the same Cayman Islands address as Giustra’s UrAsia Energy (B.V.I.),  employed Ian Telfer and John Zaozirny, Vice-Chairman of Canaccord Capital Corporation.  Founded in 1988, Endeavour Financial’s filings state that the company assisted with the “creation, development, and growth” of UrAsia Energy, Wheaton River Minerals, and Silver Wheaton Corp.  Canaccord was involved with Wheaton’s merger with Goldcorp and news reports indicate they may have been involved with Giustra as early as 2001, if not earlier.  As for Douglas Holtby, he is both the director at Silver Wheaton Corp, a subsidiary of Wheaton River Minerals as well as director of Lions Gate Entertainment, a company Giustra helped form back in 1996. Lastly, Giustra had already crossed paths with Sergey Kurzin, a sketchy Russian with a basketful of Kazakh contacts, back in the early 1990s.  It was rumored that Kurzin was once employed by Marc Rich—you know, that guy who was eventually pardoned by President Bill Clinton.

Giustra had other Russian pals, as well.  Listen to this shady business: From 2004 – 2008, Giustra’s Endeavour Financial entered into a financial agreement with Gold Reserve, a Toronto Stock Exchange-listed gold mining company whose major asset was the Brisas gold property in Venezuela. During this time period Gold Reserve paid Endeavour $1.2 million dollars in consultation fees while Endeavour, in turn, became privy to Gold Reserve’s confidential information regarding the Brisas property.  No big deal, right? Well, in 2006, Russian mining company, Rusoro Mining, a company that was created by Gordon Keep and Russians Vladimir and Andre Agapov also hired Endeavour Financial and then, in turn, attempted a “hostile bid for control of Gold Reserve Corp.”

If you’re not familiar with Gordon Keep who was involved with this hostile takeover, he’s basically Frank Giustra’s right-hand man and has been for years.  He is also the Director of Rusoro Mining as well as the former Senior Vice-President of Lions Gate Entertainment (Giustra), former Vice-President of Finance of Yorkton Securities (Giustra), former Managing Director at Endeavour Financial (Giustra), current CEO at Fiore Management (Giustra), and Director at Catalyst Copper (Giustra).  As for the Russians, Vladimir and Andre Agapov, there is not a lot of information about them besides some more shady business involving them supposedly taking down an entire Thai bank through fraudulent means, Andre Agapov’s alleged past employment with the KGB, and the fact that no one in the mining business had any idea how an off-the-radar company like Rusoro managed to land a huge mining contract out of Venezuala back in 2008 (sound familiar?).

Oh, I almost forgot. Andre Agapov also donated more than $25,000 to the Clinton Foundation.  As did Russian Sergey Kurzin.  So there’s that.

At the end of the day, Rusoro Mining was ordered to pay Gold Reserve over $1.2 million dollars for its “conflicts of interest and confidentiality violations.”  One website quoted a mining industry insider as saying, “Endeavour’s double-dealing was ‘unprecedented,'” and the company’s business had suffered because “people were literally appalled.”

But I’ve completely digressed.

The bottom line is that when President Bill Clinton and Frank Giustra finally touched down in Kazakhstan in September, 2005, Giustra had long had a financial team in place and was prepared to shell out the big bucks for Kazakhstan uranium.  His Kazakh accomplices in the infamous uranium deal turned out to be none other than Mukhtar Ablyazov and Mukhtar Dzkhakishev.  Ablyazov had become chairman of the board at BTA bank four months prior (after the murder of Tatishev) and his long-time associate, Dzhakishev, as you may remember, was heading up Kazakhstan’s state uranium agency, KazAtomProm.  So here’s how it all allegedly went down:

Mukhtar Ablyazov and Mukhtar Dzhakishev formed two corporate entities, UrAsia London Ltd. and Jeffcott Group Ltd., which in turn created the joint ventures TOO Kyzyikum and TOO Betpak Dala.  Dzhakishev supposedly transferred state-owned mining rights to the Kharasan Akdala and South Inkai uranium fields which were then sold by Ablyazov to Frank Giustra.  In the end, Giustra (UrAsia) bought a 70% stake in TOO Betpak Dala (Akdala and South Inkai projects) and a 30% interest in TOO Kyzyikum (Kharrassan project). Ablyazov reportedly received $350 million in the deal while UrAsia became one of the world’s largest uranium producers overnight.

The MSM generally makes the story out to be this:  Clinton and Giustra headed to Kazakhstan in Giustra’s luxury jet in 2005 (I think they actually travelled separately) where they met with President Nazarbayev and yadda, yadda, yadda, a few days later Giustra (UrAsia) became the world’s largest uranium producer.  In 2008, the Canadian news outlet, The Globe and Mail, also reported that days after arriving in Kazakhstan and after Clinton had dinner with President Nazarbayev, Guistra was offered the above uranium deal for the same $350 million.  But according to the article, Giustra was “adamant that neither Nazarbayev nor Clinton had anything to do with the transaction.” Guistra added that he had bought the shares from “private individuals” and “we paid full price”

All of this begs the question then of whether or not President Nazarbayev signed off on the deal?  I mean, private individuals?  Didn’t the Kazakhstan government own the uranium that Giustra bought?  Interestingly, in a 2005 article entitled, “The Third Term,” written by Joe Conason, Conason wrote that after Bill Clinton had dinner with President Nazarbayev on September 6, 2005, he also had a 2:30 a.m. meeting with “Kazakh opposition leaders to hear their complaints about the authoritarian Nazarbayev.”  Hmm.  If this story is true then perhaps Clinton indeed pulled some strings—but not with Nazarbayev.  Rather, with Ablyazov and Dzhakishev.

Giustra, on the other hand, really wanted drive home just how “uninvolved” Clinton was in all of this by donating $31.3 million dollars to the Clinton Foundation mere months after the deal was inked because that’s not obvious.  Even more astounding was the fact that Clinton and Giustra teamed up in 2007 to create the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative (CGSGI) after which Giustra pledged $100 million dollars and half of all his future earnings from the mining business to the foundation. Of course Canaccord Capital committed a percentage of their resource-related commission fees to CGSCI, while Mexican drug lord and billionaire, Carlos Slim Helu, also signed on as a donor. Maybe the “Clinton Giustra Super Greedy Initiative” would have been a more appropriate name?

 

URANIUM ONE AND U.S. URANIUM HOLDINGS

Meanwhile, in February, 2007, Frank Giustra’s company, UrAsia, merged with Uranium One, a Canadian uranium and gold resource company with a primary listing on the Toronto Stock Exchange and a secondary listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. Uranium One obtained 100% ownership of UrAsia’s uranium assets in Kazakhstan and Ian Telfer became CEO of the company. That same month, Mukhtar Dzhakishev, who initially and, perhaps, illegally, transferred those uranium assets to UrAsia via Ablyazov, flew to the United States for a meeting with Frank Giustra and President Bill Clinton at Clinton’s home in Chappaqua, New York—a meeting that Clinton initially denied.  But hey, they were probably just catching up on golf and grandchildren.

Three months later, it was reported that Uranium One had purchased the Shootaring Canyon uranium mill in Utah from U.S. Energy Corp.  They also acquired White Canyon, Henry Mountain, Libson Valley and Sage Plains all of which were wholly-owned by U.S. Energy.  Uranium interests jointly held by U.S. Energy and Uranium Power Corp. were also snatched up (Sheep Mountain, Green River North, Burro Canyon, Breccia Pipes) as was Energy Metals Corporation, a company with substantial uranium holdings in Wyoming, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Oregon, and Arizona.  And yes, in case you’re wondering Uranium One’s acquisitions added up to 20% of all U.S. uranium deposits.

 

ABLYAZOV FLEES, DZHAKISHEV IS ARRESTED

In 2008-2009, things got more interesting.  First, Russian atomic energy agency Rosatom began negotiating terms to invest in Uranium One through its subsidiary ARMZ while at the same time UrAsia/Uranium One investors were busy donating over $8.65 million dollars to the Clinton Foundation (Becker’s NYT’s article is an excellent read about the foundation’s donations during this time period) .  And back in Kazakhstan, Mukhtar Ablyazov was being pressured by President Nazarbayev to transfer BTA bank’s shares over to the State citing financial problems within the institution. Ablyazov refused so Nazarbayev simply nationalized it in 2009, dismissing Ablyazov for “acting in a manner detrimental to the interests of depositors and creditors, and in violation of the law” in the process.  The National Welfare Fund, Samruk-Kazyna, which also owned both KazAtomProm and KEGOC took control of the bank with President Nazarbayev’s son-in-law, Timur Kulibayev, at the helm.  Remember that name.  We will be revisiting it later.

After the Kazakhstan government seized BTA bank in February, Ablyazov filed proceedings on April 24, 2009, claiming compensation for the “unlawful expropriation of its shares in BTA bank.”  What had happened was this:  Allegedly unbeknownst to the Kazakhstan government, Ablyazov had acquired a controlling stake in BTA bank (75.18%) over time through shell companies like KT Asia Investment Group B.V., each of which only held a 10% stake in the bank.  Ablyazov  claimed that after his 2002 imprisonment he concealed his stake in the bank for political reasons and that “the arrangement was common knowledge.”  At some point shortly before or after this (depending on the news source), the Kazakhstan government filed proceedings against Ablyazov claiming he had embezzled $6 billion dollars (yes, billion) although Ablyazov maintained that the accusations were in retaliation for the political opposition party he started back in 2001. Ruslan Tsarni, the Boston bombers’ uncle, would later claim it was because the government wanted to get their hands on his assets.

Ablyazov eventually fled to London and by May, his friend Mukhtar Dzhakishev at KazAtomProm was arrested on embezzlement and corruption charges stemming from the UrAsia uranium deal with President Bill Clinton’s associate, Frank Giustra (there were other charges against Dzhakishev that were unrelated to UrAsia as well). According to a Wikileaks cable,

“Dzhakishev collaborated with former BTA bank chairman Mukhtar Ablyazov to sell state shares in key uranium mines such as Akdala, South Inkai, and Khorasan ‘for nothing’…uranium mines were sold to Ablyazov’s company Betpak Dala LLP, which was run by Rifat Rizoyev….”

But in an interview with Uranium One CEO at the time, Jean Nortier, he claimed that the Kazakhstan government had “conferred its blessing on the deal”—a statement that completely contradicted what Giustra had said in the 2008 interview with The Globe and Mail. Others believed that Mukhtar Dzhakishev’s arrest was politically motivated. Again, according to The Globe and Mail, a group of prominent Kazakh businessmen including Nurzhan Subkhanberdin and Serzhan Zhumashev, wrote an open letter to President Nazarbayev stating, “His arrest seems to be inexplicable…”

With Ablyazov and Dzhakishev’s actions under scrutiny so too then were Uranium One’s Kazakhstan uranium licenses.  Another Wikileaks cable shows that “Uranium One execs contacted U.S. Embassy officials in Kazakhstan to help ensure the validity of their mining licenses.” Meanwhile, undisclosed donations poured in the Clinton Foundation. Records show that Uranium One Director Ian Telfer alone donated $1 million dollars to the Clinton Foundation through his family charity, the Fernwood Foundation during this time period. Tefler would go on to donate a total of almost $5 million dollars all of which went undisclosed by the foundation.  Additionally, only days after Uranium One execs contacted the U.S. Embassy in Kazakhstan, the company released a statement announcing they had signed a purchase agreement with Rosatom’s subsiderary, ARMZ, which gave them a 50% interest in the Karatau uranium mine in Kazakhstan leaving ARMZ with a 17% stake in Uranium One.  Jo Becker from The New York Times wrote,

“We want more than a statement to the press,” Paul Clarke, a Uranium One executive vice president, told the embassy’s energy officer on June 10, the officer reported in a cable. “That is simply chitchat.” What the company needed, Mr. Clarke said, was official written confirmation that the licenses were valid.

The American Embassy ultimately reported to the secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton. Though the Clarke cable was copied to her, it was given wide circulation, and it is unclear if she would have read it; the Clinton campaign did not address questions about the cable.

Three days later, a wholly owned subsidiary of Rosatom completed a deal for 17 percent of Uranium One. And within a year, the Russian government substantially upped the ante, with a generous offer to shareholders that would give it a 51 percent controlling stake. But first, Uranium One had to get the American government to sign off on the deal.”

And so it appears that days after the American Embassy was contacted someone, somewhere in the Kazakhstan government reassured Uranium One that their uranium licenses would be honored.  This again begs the question of whether or not President Nazarbayev signed off on the deal in the first place.  If he did not and the licenses were invalid (and sold for half their worth) why did the Kazakhstan government give in to Uranium One so quickly?  If he did sign off on it then why was Dzhakishev arrested in the first place and charged with illegally transferring the uranium licenses?  

ROSATOM TAKES CONTROL

Whatever President Nazarbayev’s motives it still does not answer the question of why the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS) signed off on Russia’s attainment of U.S. uranium.  The CFIUS is a U.S. government agency that reviews foreign investments in American companies to determine whether or not it will impact national security. Although many of us would happily place blame for the Uranium One deal squarely on the shoulders of Hillary Clinton who was head of state at the time, the CFIUS is actually composed of nine different agencies.  I’ve listed the agencies below along with the head of each agency from July 20, 2010 – October, 2010 (the time period during which the Rosatom proposal to acquire 51% of Uranium One was reviewed and approved) through January, 2013 (when Rosatom acquired 100% Uranium One).  You know, just so you know exactly who else to blame for selling out America to the Russians (the Democrats):

  1. Department of the Treasury (chair):
    • Timothy F. Geithner (2009-2013)
  2. Department of Justice:
    • Eric Holder (2009-2015)
  3. Department of Homeland Security:
    • Janet Napolitano (2009 – September, 2013)
  4. Department of Commerce:
    • Gary F. Locke (2009 – August, 2011)
    • Rebecca M. Blank (August, 2011 – October 21, 2011)
    • John E. Bryson (October, 2011 – June, 2012)
    •  Rebecca M. Blank (June, 2012 – June, 2013)
  5. Department of Defense
    • Robert M. Gates (2006 – July, 2011)
    • Leon Panetta (July, 2011 – February, 2013)
  6. Department of State
    • Hillary Clinton (2009 – February, 2013)
  7. Department of Energy
    • Steven Chu (2009 – April, 2013)
  8. Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
    • Ron Kirk (2009 – March, 2013)
  9. Office of Science & Technology Policy
    • John Holdren (2009 – present)

To be fair, Homeland Security was not on board with approving the uranium deal—at least not publicly.  On July 20, 2010, Uranium One announced that ARMZ intended to take 51% of the company.  Less than three months later, U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner asking the CFIUS to block the sale of uranium to ARMZ.  She was joined by other state representatives, the Ranking Members of the House Committees on Financial Services, the Armed Services, and Homeland Security. However, a few online posts suggest that Homeland Security did indeed approve the deal and that the other affirmative votes supposedly came from the Attorney General and the Secretaries of Defense, Commerce, Treasury, Energy, and the State—leaving  John Holdren and Ron Kirk as the only ones that didn’t sell America out.

So just to wrap things up on the uranium deal:  On December 27, 2010, Rosatom, through its subsidiaries Uranium One Holding (previously known as Effective Energy N.V.) and Uranium Mining Company obtained 51.4% controlling interest in Uranium One for $610 million dollars.  On January 14, 2013, they announced they had inked another deal to acquire the other 48.6% which they did after the U.S. approved (again) the deal on March 7, 2013—all the while millions of dollars poured into the Clintons’ coffers.  The deal was completed on October 18, 2013. 

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For Uranium One’s company structure before the deal ➝ HERE

For Rosatom’s company structure after the uranium deal ➝ HERE

Part Two ➝ Ruslan Tsarni’s Witness Statement

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