On May 11, 1999, HSBC, one of the most corrupt financial institutions of our time, announced a $10.3 billion deal to purchase Edmond Safra’s holdings including the Republic National Bank of New York and Safra’s shares in Bill Browder’s firm, Hermitage Capital. The announcement came only nine months after Russia’s economy collapsed and Browder’s firm, or rather, his clients, lost over $900 million. It was also nine months after $4.8 billion in IMF funds was deposited in an undisclosed account at Safra’s bank and well before the public became aware that that same money was dispersed and stolen through the Bank of New York, off-shore companies, and foreign financial institutions. According to Browder’s book, he didn’t find out about the deal until he read it in the Financial Times because apparently at no point in time did someone, including his own partner, pick up the phone and tell him, “By the way, Safra is ditching you.” Browder’s story seems absurd at best and one has to wonder if he and Safra had a falling out, if Safra was out to screw him, or vice versa. Perhaps Safra owed some powerful people, including the Russian mafia, a lot money and had been threatened, or maybe Browder found it in his best interest to distance himself because of Safra’s suspicious and untimely death mere days before the HSBC deal closed. Whatever the case may be, before the deal was finalized in December, 1999, Browder had other things to worry about like titanium.
On August, 19, 1999, Russian titanium company Avisma filed a RICO anti-racketeering suit in the U.S. District Court for New Jersey against a group of investors that included Bill Browder, Kenneth Dart, and Jonathan Hay. If you’re not familiar with Avisma which is known today as VSMPO-AVISMA it is the world’s largest titanium producer and is currently held by the Rostec Corporation. Boeing has been in business with them since 1993 and according to Rostec’s website, “all civil aircraft made by Boeing utilize Russian titanium.” Browder’s investment group became involved in Avisma after purchasing a majority share in the company from Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky in 1997. According to Avisma’s complaint, the investment group then engaged in a “scheme of fraud and money-laundering by which tens of millions of dollars were misappropriated from Avisma and diverted to bank accounts maintained by or on behalf of the Investors and/or their agents and co-conspirators.”
THE INVESTMENT GROUP: BROWDER, HAY AND DART
Avisma’s allegations should come as no surprise seeing that in usual Bill Browder fashion, he invested with some of the slimiest people around. I wrote about Jonathan Hay previously,
“Summers worked closely with Jeffrey Sachs, Russians Anatoly Chubais and Boris Nemtsov, and former World Bank consultant, Jonathan Hay, who was appointed H.I.I.D’s general director in Moscow. According to Janine R. Wedel via thenation.com, Hay ‘assumed vast powers over contractors, policies and program specifics; he not only controlled access to the Chubais circle but served as its mouthpiece.’ This cozy little group of co-conspirators helped direct everything from the Russian voucher program and the State auctions to IMF funds earmarked for Russia.”
So yes, Browder became business partners with the guy who was appointed general director of the H.I.I.D. which is code for “We’re here to f*ck up your country.” If you think I’m joking I’m not. Hay’s criminal activities in Russia eventually landed him in a courtroom facing three counts of violating the False Claims Act and he was eventually disbarred from working for USAID for two years. He probably should have faced more charges but geez, the disabarrment alone…I mean, how corrupt do you have to be to be disbarred from USAID? Good lord.
Then there was Browder’s other partner in the Avisma scheme, Kenneth Dart, a multi-billionaire who, like Browder, renounced his U.S. citizenship during the 1990s in order to avoid paying taxes. Interestingly, after Dart renounced his citizenship legislation was passed that “aimed at stopping others from doing the same thing.” According to the latimes.com, anyone who paid more than $124,000 a year in income tax and had more than $622,000 in assets at the time of renouncement “were required to pay U.S. taxes on worldwide income for at least five years.” Huh. It would be interesting to see if Browder qualified for that in 1998 and if so, if he paid his taxes for five years. But I digress. Dart, like Browder, was also a big player in Russia during the 1990s and at one point owned twenty-five percent of Yukos’ subsidiaries. He also owns Dart Management which is considered a vulture fund—a fund that usually buys up government debt at reduced prices and then later forces the government to pay it back in the full amount. Enter Argentina.
Before Argentina defaulted on its debt in 2002, Dart’s company invested approximately $120 million in Argentinean bonds at a discounted price. After the default, Dart sued Argentina in the Southern District of New York, demanding that he be paid full price for the bonds. According to businessobserverfl.com, “To the surprise of some observers, in September Judge thomas P. Griesa ruled in Dart’s favor.” The case didn’t end there but that’s not what’s interesting about this story in regards to Kenneth Dart and Bill Browder. What’s interesting is who Dart teamed up with to go after Argentina. Paul Singer. That’s right. That Paul Singer. The same Paul Singer that originally paid for the Dirty Dossier. Not only that, the Daily Caller reported that Singer hired Fusion GPS to “investigate the Argentine government and provide PR and media relations as part of the firm’s dispute over a multi-billion dollar bond investment.” So that happened and yes, according to liberals across America that officially makes Paul Singer a Russian agent.
RIGGS, VALMET, AND KHODORKOVSKY
But it isn’t just Dart’s ties to Browder, Singer and Fusion GPS that are disturbing. Like I mentioned this guy owned twenty-five percent of Yukos’ subsidiaries and as you may remember, Yukos was owned by Mikhail Khodorkovsky— the same Russian oligarch that was in bed with Soros and had direct ties to the Bank of New York money laundering scandal. It should come as no surprise then that titanium giant Avisma was connected to Khodorkovsky well before Dart, Browder, and Hay came along. And yes, now would be a great time to grab some coffee. We might be here awhile.
In 1988, CIA front Riggs Bank bought a controlling interest in a little known company based in Isle of Man called the Valmet Group. According to the 9/11 report, Riggs-Valmet “immediately began business contracts with Russian KGB operatives” and it was this relationship that led to the creation of Khodorkovsky’s Bank Menatep. Both Riggs-Valmet and Menatep then became conduits for moving KGB money out of Russia. In 1994, Riggs reduced it’s stake in Valmet after Menatep purchased a twenty percent share in the company and here’s where Avisma comes into the picture. A year after Menatep increased their stake, they obtained a controlling interest in Avisma and according to the First Amended Complaint in the Avisma case, Khodorkovsky,
“…compelled AVISMA to sell titanium sponge and other products at below-market prices to offshore companies, who resold the Avisma products on the international market and kicked back the resale profits to Menatep, and compelled AVISMA to purchase raw materials at inflated prices from the offshore companies, with profits again funneled back to Menatep.”
Welcome to Asset Skimming 101. In a New York Times article published in September, 1999, it was reported that Valmet not only stashed profits for Avisma but was also used to hide some of Yukos’ assets, you know, the same company that Kenneth Dart was involved in. According to the article, Khodorkovsky denied the allegations that Menatep was skimming profits but did acknolwedge that “Valmet has been the recipient of some of Yukos assets.” From the 1999 Times (UK) article, “Yeltsin ‘Family’ Tycoon Linked to Cash Scandal” via the 9/11 report,
“The Times has learnt that Roman Abramovich, a tycoon, controls the trading arm of one of Russia’s largest oil companies through an Isle of Man company that has figured in the Bank of New York affair. Mr. Abramovich runs the Siberian oil giant Sibneft, which sells its oil through a company called Runicom. His name has emerged after speculation that Swiss investigators are looking into the role of Runicom as part of the widening investigation into the laundering of up to $15 billion of Russian money through American banks. Runicom is owned by at least two offshore companies set up by the Valmet Group, a financial services concern partly owned by Menatep, a failed Russian bank that used the Bank of New York.”
So not only was Valmet allegedly used to stash both Avisma and Yukos assets, if you remember my last post, this means it was tied in with the Bank of New York money laundering scandal and the missing IMF funds. Nice. And listen, I don’t know how many of you have read the 9/11 Commission report but Part II (E)(1) reads (my emphasis),
“The group that initiated the attack most likely consisted of an international network of financial executives representing primarily the Bank of New York, the New York Federal Reserve Bank, Riggs Bank, Deutschebank and the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS), and should include representatives from Bank Menatep, Swiss-American Bank, Credit Suisse, Investor AB, and AUianz…This decision was meant to stop multiple money laundering investigations which would have traced illegal money laundering operations to accounts that held stolen national treasuries.”
I’m not saying the 9/11 report should be taken as gospel but it’s something to think about. Anyways, Khodorkovsky didn’t hold on to Avisma very long because in December, 1997, he sold his majority holding to Bill Browder’s investment group. According to Avisma, Browder purchased the company illegally when he used “interstate wires to transfer $2 million to Austrian Creditanstalt Bank (CAIB),” and not only that, at the time of purchase Avisma was in the process of being sold to VSMPO so they had to transfer their shares in AVISMA to VSMPO in order to continue Khodorkovsky’s asset skimming scheme. Jonathan Hay was accused of using his position as general director of H.I.I.D. “to structure the transfer of control of Avisma from Bank Menatep to the ‘investors’ and that he was elected to the board of VSMP “as part of the effort to retake control of Avisma and gain control of VSMPO in order to continue the scheme of kickbacks.”
The case against Browder and the other investors was eventually settled in February, 2000 for an undisclosed amount along with an agreement that Browder et al would sell their VSMPO shares. Two years later Harvard Business school did a case study on Hermitage Capital and you want to know what Browder to them about Avisma? I mean, I’ve got it right here,
“The worst thing that has happened to me is when we resolved an asset-stripping dispute by seizing money offshore, which had been taken by the corrupt managment. Instead of admitting defeat the people who organized the asset stripping launched a racketerring lawsuit against me in the U.S. Imagine this, a bunch of Russian crooks accusing me of rackettering. Of course the case was dismissed.”
Of course the case was dismissed? This guy is as fundamentally incapable of telling the truth as Hillary Clinton. Seriously. As of today, even Avisma’s attorneys have on the front page of their website a blurb about the case which reads, “The case was resolved with a favorable settlement for plaintiff.”
On August 20, 1999, the very next day after Avisma filed their suit against Browder, the New York Times dropped their article about the Bank of New York money laundering scandal. Interestingly, according to journalist Oleg Lurie, Edmond Safra met with Boris Berezovsky, another Russian oligarch who was implicated in both the money laundering scandal and missing IMF funds, sometime in the “early autum” of 1999, which would have been around the time the New York Times article came out and the September Congressional hearings on the money laundering scandal. Lurie reported that the meeting was tense, Safra seemed quite upset by it, and by December 3, 1999, he was dead, killed in suspicious fire that broke out in his Monte Carlo home. Although some believe that Safra was killed by the Russian mafia, Lurie reported that a Swiss prosecutor investigating the missing IMF money believed that Safra was killed “because of his revelations to the FBI and the Swiss Prosecutor’s Office investigating the disappearance and laundering of $4.8 billion of the IMF stablilization loan.” One of the more interesting things to note here is that the prosecutor implied that Safra not only spoke with the FBI about the missing IMF funds but with Swiss authorities as well. If true, it makes Safra’s death/murder even more intriguing especially since we know from a 1996 New York Magazine article that Safra was absolutely working with the Russian mafia. But what I find most strange in all of this is how Bill Browder is still alive. No, seriously. I mean…under the circumstances.
So let’s recap: Browder and two other guys, one who practically headed up the Russian privatization program and the other who had previously worked with Paul Singer who’s tied to the Dirty Dossier and Fusion GPS, bought a majority share of a titanium company that was once majority owned by Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Khodorkovsky was once the richest man in Russia because of Bank Menatep and Yukos which were both tied to the KGB, Valmet, CIA front company Riggs Bank, the Bank of New York scandal, and the missing IMF money. After purchasing a majority share in the titanium, Browder and friends were sued for essentially stealing millions of dollars from the company. In the meantime, Browder’s partner, Edmond Safra, who had a history more checkered than Altuzarra’s 2015 Spring collection, was working with the Russia mafia, his bank was tied to the missing IMF money, he sold his bank shortly after the IMF money went missing, and was killed days before the HSBC deal—where he was expected to pocket $3 billion—was finalized. And let’s not forget this was all happening on Bill Clinton’s watch who literally did nothing except pressure the IMF in sending Russia more money. Yup, that pretty much covers it.
So what are we left with? Yup, Browder’s silence. I mean, for the last eight years all we’ve heard from him is how much of hero Sergei Magnitsky was for calling out Russian corruption and how he was killed for it. Magnitsky, Magnitsky, Magnitsky, Magnitsky. Well, what about Safra? If Safra was murdered for whistleblowing on Russian money laundering at the Bank of New York why doesn’t Browder talk about? Is it because Bill Browder conspired with others? Is it because he was also funneling funds through the Bank of New York? Or maybe he knew that Safra (or himself) was involved with funneling the IMF money to the Bank of New York and the last thing he’s going to do is implicate himself. With Bill Browder it’s always hard to tell but what I do know is that his criminal shenanigans didn’t end with Avisma or his possible involvement with the IMF funds and Safra’s death. Browder had other fish to fry in order to get his money back from the 1998 financial crash and this wouldn’t be the last time he went silent on a possible whistleblower.