The Magnitsky Myth & Other Keys
to the Geopolitical Hoax of the Century – Page 4
World of Illusion
Earlier 'chapters' in this series, (eg. pages 1, and 2, plus 3, currently an epic-under-construction), journey through a twilight world of penny stocks, intersecting with dodgy plays associated here in Canada with Edmond Safra's Republic National Bank of New York. It's a murky milieu populated by various networks of sometimes colourful, oft-questionable, characters routinely employing offshore "shell" companies in execution of a range of schemes and scams. It's a fabric of illusion exemplified by an entity that, before its absorption by HSBC, cast itself as a whistle-blower vis-a-vis illicit activities already under investigation by authorities+.
In “All Is Clouded by Desire: Global Banking, Money Laundering, and International Organized Crime” author/researcher team Alan A. Block and Constance A. Weaver point to RBoNY being “obnoxiously crooked for a long time”. To his protege Bill Browder, (BB, or, at least, as claimed by Browder's ghostwriter), Safra's "name was like gold".
Transition from RBoNY, (operations of which are assumed by HSBC following Safra's demise), to the Hermitage team's activities is publicly flagged in April 1996. Banker Edmond Safra (killed in 1999) and diamond-and-real-estate+ dealer Beny Steinmetz, (latterly besieged by accusations of bribery-and-money-laundering), are behind a start-up hedge-fund with Browder at the Moscow helm – together they launch Hermitage Capital Management and the Hermitage Fund.
In "Red Notice" (2015), a ghostwritten, fictionalized, account of Browder's story we're told by the BB character: "Edmond Safra and Beny Steinmetz would put $25 million in the fund and provide some seed money for the company's operations. Safra's bank would settle trades, value the fund and do all the paperwork. Most importantly, if I did a good job, Safra would introduce me to all his clients..."
Also in 1996, Safra's Republic National BoNY opened a wholesale bank in Moscow "to provide corporate finance, money market facilities, and fixed-income and equity brokerage." Right off-the-mark, and through succeeding years, Browder's team would gain assistance, and members+, from its backers eg. Hungary-born Andrew Pucher, after serving as President of RBoNY's Moscow branch moved to head Republic National Bank of New York Guernsey Ltd. (and, post-Safra's buyout and demise, HSBC's private bank operations in the Channel Islands.) By 2006, Pucher became a Director of Hermitage Capital itself.
Dave John Elzas – bridging business for the Edmond Safra and Beny Steinmetz-backed Hermitage
Dave John Elzas, a Dutchman schooled in engineering and economics, with a strategic focus on off-shore networks, (carrying on today via the Geneva Management Group/ GMG Financial which he founded in 2000), came to Hermitage through the Safra/Steinmetz stewardship. From 1994 to 2000, Elzas was a key executive with the Beny Steinmetz Group. He's a director of Hermitage Capital during 1996 - 1999.
Once set-up in Moscow, a key relationship's established with Yakir Daniel Sha'ashoua (numerous spelling variants incl. Jakir, Shashoua, Shashua). Sha'ashoua, "an Israeli ex-Mossad agent", (according to BB/Browder's ghostwriter), provided unspecified "security" services to Edmond Safra's Republic National Bank of New York (according to Browder's sworn testimony). His Visão Risk Management Group (VRMG) opened shop in Moscow in 1995.
The outfit takes its name from the Portuguese word "visão" meaning "vision". For Sha'ashoua, this translates to "the ability to imagine how a country, society, industry, etc. could develop in the future and to plan in a suitable way." Upon hanging its shingle in Moscow, it offered the following services: "Physical guarding. Private investigations. Analytical reporting. Providing personal drivers and vehicles."
These services were provided to such satisfaction that Hermitage Capital COO Ivan Cherkasov would provide Yakir Sha'ashou the following Visão/VRMG client testimonial:
"Hermitage Capital Management has used security and risk management services of VRMG since 1996. We are extremely pleased with the service we have been receiving from VRMG." Cherkasov attests: "The performance and conduct of the VRMG staff has always been professional and excellent. VRMG is a reliable and efficient company in every respect and we would recommend the service of this company to every company or individual."
Another key alliance forged is between Hermitage and the legal/accounting firm Firestone Duncan (FD Advisory in more recent times). American Jamison (aka "Jamie") Firestone, after graduating from Louisiana's Tulane University Law School had relocated to the USSR and reportedly busied himself selling used cars imported from the USA. In the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse, Firestone founded a law firm with college friend Terry ("Mike") Duncan, (graduate of George Washington University law school.) Duncan, tragically, was among those killed when a battle raged at the Ostankino television centre in October 1993 – felled by a stray bullet as he came to the aid of an injured photographer.
In 1995 OOO Firestone Duncan was formed amongst ownership partners: accountant Konstantin Ponomarev (51%); lawyers Jamie Firestone (24%) & Andrei (alt. spellings Andrey, Andre) A. Sandakov (24%); and auditor Igor Yesipov (1%) (alt. spelling Esipov, said to be a good auditor who'd served a multi-year jail-term for robbery before joining the firm). FD's accounting/auditing and legal practice grew – along with serious internal discord.
l - r: Jamison "Jamie" Firestone (lawyer); David Marchant (OA editor/publisher & presenter); Andrei Nekrasov (documentary film-maker); & Lucy Komisar (investigative journalist) gathered in London following "Sergei Magnitsky: Fact vs. Fiction" panel discussion (13.11.2018) at Offshore Alert Conference – click image for larger view – Photo courtesy: OAC London 2018
In 1997 The Moscow Times reported sensational back-and-forth allegations, esp. between Ponomarev and Firestone, that included major theft, extortion, and a threat of murder. This led to a new entity, ZAO Firestone Duncan, in which Sergei Leonidovich Magnitsky (alt. forms incl. Sergey Magnitskiy) gained a stake and was promoted in the auditing department. Out were Ponomarev and Yesipov (Esipov) who'd brought Magnitsky into FD in 1996 and employed his accounting skills as Yesipov's deputy.
Jamison (aka Jamie) R. Firestone and Andrei (alt. Andrey, Andre) A. Sandakov – partners-in-law at Firestone Duncan – click image for larger view
According to sworn-testimony of the
accountant Magnitsky, a graduate of
NB these activities and connections expose another key, false, pillar of the Magnitsky myth – con-man Browder makes out that Hermitage went looking for a lawyer in late 2007 and that's how/when Sergei Magnitsky's found. Such claims are yet more lies. Public record documents+ prove Magnitsky’s never a lawyer and he and Browder, Sha'ashoua et al worked together since the '90s. This deception, shifting forward the date of Magnitsky's association by nearly a decade helps maintain the fiction that he's a crusading lawyer – and covers up the fact he's, in actuality, a tax accountant/auditor in cahoots with Browder/Hermitage re illicit share purchases, tax evasion etc.
(The facts of the matter are corroborated by print evidence and sworn testimony of numerous parties – including those disabled people whom Magnitsky and Browder falsely claimed as employees under a tax scheme for which BB's convicted.)
Sidanco, BP and BB: Lessons of Statecraft & Stagecraft
"You have to understand that the press doesn't know about the stories, have the ability to understand some of these complicated activities, or can't afford to do research," says con-man Bill Browder. He and associates exploit these press weaknesses. For two decades now, in connection with Hermitage affairs, that void's been filled by a steady stream of false, exaggerated and/or otherwise misrepresentative claims delivered in verbal and writtten statements, PowerPoint presentations and/or via other devices – as the case of Sidanco (alt. Sidanko aka the Siberian Far Eastern Oil Company) illustrates.
l - r: UK Prime Minister Tony Blair applauds as John Browne, chief executive of BP, exchanges a signed trade treaty with Vladimir Potanin, chairman of the Russian bank, Unexim, at No. 10 Downing Street this morning (Tuesday). WPA Rota picture by Tony Harris/PA (Photo by Tony Harris - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Founded in 1909, British Petroleum, BP as the oil-and-gas giant's known in this era, is among those to enter the Russian market in the 1990s. It opened a representative office in 1990, and, in 1996, BP opened its first petrol / service station in Moscow. By mid-1997 the British multinational was in steady talks with Russia's Sidanco, the country's then fourth, (some-say-fifth), largest hydrocarbon group.
On Tuesday, November 18, 1997 this international landmark deal's sealed, with attendant pomp and ceremony, in the presence of then-British PM Blair and in the tony setting of 10 Downing Street – headquarters of the government of the United Kingdom.
In a November 21, '97 (page 21) article, "Putting Glasnost in the pipeline", Robert Corzine and Chrystia Freeland of The Financial Times (of London) note "the two sides quickly realized that they shared a common vision about how a modern oil company should operate."
British Petroleum partners with Sidanco. (pg. 21, Financial Times 21.11.97) FT reports vision of BP's chief executive John Browne meshes with thinking of Vladimir Potanin, head of Oneximbank (Sidanco's controlling shareholder) – click image for larger version of article
Acquiring a 10% stake in Sidanco itself and a still-larger (27%) interest in an huge Siberian gas play, BP execs tell FT "it was imperative that the two sides felt comfortable together and shared a similar strategic view. They explain the vision of John Browne, BP's chief executive, fitted in well with the thinking of Vladimir Potanin, head of Oneximbank" (alt. spelling Uneximbank), Sidanco's majority shareholder. (In 2002 BP increased its interest in Sidanco to 25% plus one share.)
The dissolution of the Soviet Union (at the end of 1991), and an historic shift from communism toward capitalism, it's well-documented-and-understood, attracted all manner of entities from "the west" looking to exploit opportunities, for better and for worse. Some came to partner. Some to plunder.
BP persevered, dealing with the attendant risks plus more than its share of challenges and intrigue, to be rewarded. Edmund John Philip Browne, aka Baron Browne of Madingley, FRS, FREng, FGS, FInstP, HonFRSC, HonFIMechE, HonFIChemE, CIMgt, FInstPet, FIMMM oversaw much of this period in BP's corporate history, serving as chief executive from June 10, 1995 through May 1, 2007. In contrast, as Hermitage chief, William Felix Browder characteristically lied and cheated while operating in Russia (April 1996 - November 2005) – and was exiled. (He's consequently convicted for some of his crimes.)
A few years back, BP reflected on its experience "Working in Russia". Its partnership with, and stake in, Sidanco evolved, in 2003, (in a wild way that merits its own telling another day), into a merger of Russian interests "with those of TNK (aka Tyumen Oil Company) to create TNK-BP, a successful joint venture employing around 50,000 people and operating in nearly all of Russia’s major hydrocarbon regions." The venture generated US $55 billion of net profit during BP's tenure (2003 - 2012) and "around $19 billion of net dividends for BP's shareholders, while paying more than $190 billion in taxes and duties to the Russian Federation." The company declared: "These achievements are a testament to the powerful partnership of BP and experienced Russian oil and gas professionals working together."
And, according to the British firm, it's not just about pecuniary values: "BP’s commitment to Russia goes beyond the development of oil and gas reserves. In line with its global practice BP views corporate social responsibility an integral part of its business in Russia. BP’s overall support of the local social, cultural, educational and charity projects has been the largest among foreign companies operating in Russia."
Just before Christmas 1997, the following financial mention appears in Moscow+ media:
"Oil company Sidanko will issue 16.89 billion rubles worth of convertible bonds in accordance with a decision taken almost a year ago, a company statement said. The issue was registered with the Federal Securities Commission on Monday. (December 22) Sidanko, controlled by Uneximbank and Russia's largest largest vertically integrated oil company, will issue bonds equivalent to 402,247,100 shares with a nominal value of 40 rubles each. The issue will be available for subscription to a closed circle of investors."
Sidanco organized this convertible bond issue in 1996 and by the date of registration the following year, (December 22, 1997), the company was partnered with BP (British Petroleum). As structured, majority shareholders BP and Oneximbank could participate in the debenture issue. Minority shareholders, holding a collective 4% of Sidanco's stock, could not. (This latter group comprised Hermitage and "allies". In 1996 Hermitage purchased some four million shares at US$3 per share giving it a 2% stake. Once BP entered this highly volatile market, in late '97, Sidanco stock was trading in the US$15 - $25 range.)
The Monday, February 9, 1998 edition of The Financial Times, (page 19, double-byline: John Thornhill & Robert Corzine), reports BP executives coming under "moral pressure" from Sidanco minority shareholders, (ie. Bill Browder un-named), to intervene in the debenture deal.
As it happened – Sidanco, Onexim, BP story in The Financial Times, page 19 - Monday, February 9, 1998 – click on image to see larger version
"A BP official yesterday (Feb. 8) accepted minority shareholders in Sidanco faced dilution but said the British company had no control or influence over the transaction, launched before its own links with Sidanco." The FT notes, "BP said its own shareholding, which brings with it 20 percent of the voting rights, would not be affected by the convertible bond issue as it was participating in the offer."
This item in the FT, and parallel reports in other financial journals, note that Russia's Federal Securities Commission, or FSC / Commission on Securities Market / FCSM, chaired by Dmitry Vasiliev (alt. spellings Dimitry, Vassiliev), on Friday, February 6, 1998, revealed it would investigate a pair of separate complaints, both involving questions of minority shareholder rights. These matters concerned OJSC Yukos Oil Company, (associated with Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Kenneth Dart et al – players with stories of their own, well-told by American investigative journalist Lucy Komisar), and the Sidanco deal about which Browder's complaining.
The Wall Street Journal discloses: "Hermitage was
notified of the precise terms of the bond issue before it bought
Sidanco shares." (A fact acknowledged by BB.) Regardless, the
times they are a changin' and altering the previously-established
and published terms, setting new
rules and tone, or code, of conduct, is now in
order. “To a
certain extent it was a mistake", Oneximbank's Vladimir
Potanin told reporters: “The issue is that the rules of the game
are changing in
Five business-days after announcing it would look into the Yukos and Sidanco issues, according to Hermitage Capital: "On February 13, 1998, the Russian FCSM cancelled the dilutive issue." Press reports of the annulment of Sidanco's closed bond offering followed the FSC/FCSM case-opening by seven business days, (= 11 calendar days), on Tuesday, February 17, 1998 (with word appearing in print media on Feb. 18).
The following week, Potanin says of the current state of Russia's evolving environment: "It is not possible not to respect shareholder rights”. (pg. 2, FT - Feb. 26, 1998) Potanin's quoted again, the next day, in the FT: "I think Mr Vasiliev's actions in defending shareholder rights are absolutely right." A revised deal for Sidanco's shareholders, to give "equal access", was in the offing.
"Basically, they are suggesting letting all the minority shareholders participate pro rata in the convertible bond," complainant Browder tells FT (his response appearing in print on 26.02.98): "We would accept that and we would be thankful to them for solving the problem so quickly."
"It will be found much better... to leave the past to history, especially as I intend to write that history," said British politician/statesman+ Winston Churchill. Examination of historical corporate, regulatory, press and other filings shows that con-man Bill Browder's made a mission of re-writing the record – multiple times. The Sidanco saga is typical.
"Seeing red", a lengthy profile of Browder appears in the September 1, 2002 issue of "Institutional Investor" (II by-line Paul Crowney). In this re-telling, "Browder had been invited to a party to celebrate the Russian New Year by the brother of Boris Jordan, the former star deal maker for Credt Suisse First Boston in Moscow and the founder of Renaissance Capital, Russia's premier investment bank." (btw, to be canvassed on a future page, in 2007/8 Browder's team originally aimed to hang a $200+ million tax-rebate scam on Renaissance – then cooked up an alternate story.)
By party time, January 13, 1998 (on the Julian calendar): "He (Browder) had heard rumours that Renaissance was about to issue a convertible bond on behalf of oil company Sidanco" and at the party "Browder pressed Jordan for an explanation". Told to drop by the Renaissance office "the following week", Browder does so and thereby learns "that Sidanco indeed was planning a convertible bond" of he then-and-there learns the details.
For whatever reason(s), perhaps underscoring Browder's analyses (and exploitation) of press corps weaknesses, "Institutional Investor" did not do the fundamental fact-checking that'd quickly enable it to report that the Sidanco-bond-related details had been published by Russian and western media prior to Christmas 1997. And, further, that Browder had himself been informed of the future-offering terms in 1996 – before he invested a total of some US $12 million in Sidanco stock and recommend shares to his "allies".
"Although Browder had already had plenty of exposure to sharp business practices in Russia, even he was taken aback by Sidanco's seeming audacity," says Crowney in "Seeing red" (and, to an honest person familiar with BB's m.o., ironically): "So Browder called his chief financial backer and confidant, Edmond Safra, the legendary banker to the wealthy, who died in 1999."
"Safra's counsel: 'If we want to fight this, we do it properly. We go to war'."
Following Safra's advice, recounts "Institutional Investor": "First, Browder hired bodyguards. Next, he talked to everyone he knew who had leverage with either Renaissance or Sidanco, including Safra's friend, hedge fund manager George Soros, a significant investor in Russia, and Sir John Browne, CEO of BP, which owned 10 percent of Sidanco."
II's Crowney, in expanding the narrative re Sidanco and other Hermitage stories, rounding up figures from Moscow-based broker Troika Dialog and others, includes some telling details: "Browder's tactics attracted the attention of Alexander Dyke (sic), a corporate governance specialist at the Harvard Business School. 'It's his use of the media I find interesting,' says Dyke (sic). 'It works in Russia, and what interests me is whether his approach could also work in the U.S. and other markets'."
A month after writer Paul Crowney's BB profile of appears in "Institutional Investor" one can witness the legend growing. On October 17, 2002, Harvard Business School publishes research paper N2-703-010 by Alexander Dyck, (more recently at University of Toronto), titled: "The Hermitage Fund: Media and Corporate Governance in Russia: The court of public opinion is much more effective than the Russian legal system and much fairer."
For his BB-related text, then Harvard educator Dyck relies heavily upon uncorroborated claims and content from Bill Browder, Hermitage Capital (including excerpts from one or more of the company's misleading PowerPoint packages), and "research" from brokerage Troika Dialog. Dyck's 24-page report cites, at three separate points, Paul Crowney's II profile published the previous month (ie. "Seeing red", a feature which quotes Dyck himself). In each of the trio of citations in his Harvard paper the Associate Professor credits the Institutional Investor article not to Crowney, (whose byline's attached to it in II), but, to an entirely different journalist – Andrew Capon.
Academic Dyck, just like journalist Crowney, appears to have failed to independently research matters on the public record. (Alternatively, he tried and failed. Or, if he tried and succeeded in learning the facts, then, the false and/or misleading content of his research paper raises more alarming concerns.) By the time of the Harvard paper revision of Sidanco history, it's no longer "rumours" which advanced Browder toward 'war' as counseled by Safra in early '98. Still not disclosing that he'd known the bond offering terms for over-a-year at that point, Dyck includes this capsule summation from the con-man Browder:
"I was on Christmas vacation and couldn't believe it. When I got back to Moscow in early January (1998), I arranged a meeting with an investment banker from Renaissance Capital, their investment bank, and was told, 'we're going to dilute you and there is nothing you can do about it.' I said, you don't understand, I'm going to have to fight you, which didn't scare them at all. I didn't want to have any conflicts but at the same time I was about to lose $60 million of my investors money. I called my partner, Edmond Safra and said I didn't think we have any choice, I suggested that we had to go to war. Safra backed me 100%. I hired bodyguards and went to work."
To participate in the Sidanco bond offering, a move contrary to what Browder/Hermitage knew were the terms at the time of share purchase in '96, their team's strategy, we learn from Harvard Business School, was "to shame those who had anything to do with the controlling group to tell their agents to stop doing this'. Browder contacted BP, the Harvard University Endowment, Unifund. Safra personally called up (George) Soros."
More than a decade later, Browder's barred from entering Russia, he's convicted of $US multi-million tax evasion in a well-documented criminal case supported by plenty of corroborating evidence available in print material formats, video-taped testimony, and more – such records as are studiously ignored by western journalists employed by the "legacy" media. And, the legend of Sidanco, like that of other Browder-land fables, akin to Pinocchio's nose, has grown to great lengths.
"I Was a Communist for the FBI", the 1951 movie starring Frank Lovejoy and the 1950s radio series with Dana Andrews playing "Red scare" propagandist Matt Cvetic, can be seen and heard as cultural antecedents to "Red Notice"
In the febrile imagination of Bill Browder and/or his ghostwriter, in today's version of 1998, the same year Lord Browne's knighted by Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, BB's own life landed in grave danger via the distinguished BP exec's reportedly like-minded Russian business-partner,Vladimir Potanin of Oneximbank. (One can do analyses of Potanin's business practices and aquisition of wealth that would be illuminating. The con-job of Simon & Schuster's book, is, instead, to strip actual elements of their true context so as to not make obvious the phoniness of the concocted drama eg. BB fearing for his life etc. – and to flat-out fabricate a narrative.)
On the plus side, readers are given opportunity to relish some hysterically over-the-top, hard-boiled, lines attributed to the Browder character/narrator eg. "I'd sliced open a vein and let the blood drain into the water, and by the end of the next week Potanin's shark, Boris Jordan, showed up." Unfortunately too little of "Red Notice" approaches standards of a Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler, or, even, of a lesser-light of noir such as Richard L.Breen, whose character "Pat Novak for Hire", (voiced on radio by the inimitable Jack Webb), is source of some highly-entertaining drama and classic lingo.
A key failing of "Red Notice" is it pretends to be true. This handcuff's BB's ghostwriter. In fact, on the cover of the paperback edition, Lee Child (aka Jim Grant), author of the fictional Jack Reacher series of novels, in what sounds a pre-emptive strike, declares "it's all true". The dissonance of being told that something so patently bogus is, in fact, genuine renders the book neither fish-nor-fowl when it comes to literary appreciation. Alas, it could'a' been a contender.
Accepting "Red Notice" for what it is – we can use it compare mythologies eg. those fictions of journalists, academics, bureaucrats, politicians and others engaged in the spreading of Browder & co. bollocks.
Simon & Schuster's 2015-cooked book gives us an expanded serving of the malarkey 2002 recipes of Peter Crowney ("Seeing red" in "Institutional Investor") and Alexander Dyck (Harvard Business School Research Report N2-703-010) – items which, more broadly, can help propagate the Magnitsky myth and other lies blooming in BB's garden of deceit. (And, of course, these writers are not alone. They, as with many others, simply provide more grist for the myth-mill.)
Editor's NB: Purple prose – a potential side-effect of ingesting Hermitage propagandus. btw, who among us swallowed the whopper cultivated re Alexander Perepilichnyy (alt. Perepilichny) and Gelsemium elegans, the poisonous plant known as "heartbreak grass"? It's elementary... a botanical-ingredient-as-weapon-of-murder found in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 1910 Sherlock Holmes tale, "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot" and planted recently in Surrey, England as a delivery-method for Russophobia eg. see "How Sherlock Holmes Inspired the KGB's Poisonous Methods". Should there be time/room, this florid scam story, which has been forensically debunked – but, which still, like numerous Browder-associated-lies, lives on in clouded minds incl. those parked at science websites (who really should know better) – will be up-rooted on another page.
Hermitage Research Dept. Head Vadim Kleyner (alt. Kleiner), according to fictional 2015 book "Red Notice", alarms con-man Bill Browder during Christmas season 1997 with terms of Sidanco's bond offering which Browder's Hermitage first learned in 1996
Browder deceives, yet again, as to when he learned terms of Sidanco's 'closed' convertible bond offering (ie. only available to the majority shareholders etc.). In "Red Notice" his character claims to first learn of the deal terms in a call from Vadim Kleiner (alt. Kleyner), head of Hermitage's research dept., when BB's on vacation in Cape Town, South Africa pre-Christmas '97. (Kleiner joined Hermitage Capital in October 1997 and became Director of Research in 2000.)
In the real world, quite apart from fictional books and PowerPoint presentions, Hermitage was informed of the future-bond-offering terms before purchasing shares in Sidanco the year prior. Yet, the Browder character in "Red Notice" is telephoned by Kleiner in December '97, and we're asked to believe Browder's response: "I didn't get it. 'Is that good or bad?' "
According to the writer(s) of "Red Notice", in response to matters associated with the Sidanco closed debenture offering – organized, and about which investors are notified, in 1996, and which is then registered with the FSC in '97, and effected in '98 – Browder becomes possessed by the idea that he's in mortal danger. ("Car bomb? Sniper? Poison?")
So fearing and fevered, the book's pseudo-hero character buzzes about for almost the entirety of two chapters – 12: "The Magic Fish" and 13: "Lawyers, Guns and Money".
In actuality, in 1998 Browder had expressed his group's thankfulness to Potanin/Oneximbank/Sidanco "for solving the problem so quickly." The administrative matter's tended in days by Russia's securities commission according to all news accounts of the actual time. In "Red Notice", however, the business week-or-so, (see the specific, detailed, chronology+, earlier on this same page), between the FSC launching investigation of Yukos and Sidanco issues, and the suspension and/or annulment of the latter's bond issue, is stretched out for weeks+ during which drama is ratcheted histrionically higher through exaggeration, manipulation and/or fabrication of details.
A decade+ before "Red Notice", Browder's Sidanco story cast his mentor and financier, Edmond Safra of Republic National Bank of New York, in a very different light in the Sidanco plot. In "Seeing red" (Sept. 1, 2002) 'war' was Safra's initiative: "If we want to fight this, we do it properly. We go to war," Safra counsels his protege. In the next draft of the story, appearing in Alexander Dyck's Harvard Business School report (Oct. 17, 2002), things start to shift – BB's quoted: "I called my partner, Edmond Safra and said I didn't think we have any choice, I suggested that we had to go to war. Safra backed me 100%. I hired bodyguards and went to work."
Now, when Browder and his ghostwriter assembled this decade for "Red Notice", the con-man BB was already committed to having recast the accountant who'd help arrange his criminal tax evasion entities+, Sergei Magnitsky, in the fictional role of crusading lawyer. The myths of Browder are writ larger and the fraud's playing out on a more global stage.
In the Sidanco episode, as re-written in "Red Notice", Safra does not initiate the "war" cry, nor does he now back Browder "100%" as stated in earlier BB renditions. Only through aggressive defiance and push-back does the Browder character get support to carry on and win his own declared 'war'.
According to BB and/or his ghostwriter, in the 2015 version he telephones Edmond Safra in New York and explains the situation and makes it clear that "we were about to get screwed out of $87 million." (In 2002 versions, Browder said, alternately, $60 million and $65 million – and even those, considerably smaller, numbers prove subjective under analyses.)
In this latest era of Hermitage revisionism, after the BB character finishes his spiel, Safra, RoBNY's chief, asks: "What are we going to do, Bill?"
"We're going to fight these bastards, that's what. We're going to go to war."
Edmond Safra, killed in his Belle Epoque, fortress-like, penthouse apartment, in the Principality of Monaco, on the French Riviera, in December 1999, warns Browder: "You're in Russia. You'll be killed." After more purported words of bravado from BB, the Safra character "slowly" tells him: "I can't be part of this, Bill."
The BB narrator remarks Safra's "safe in New York, 4,650 miles away." But, "I was not safe", he continues, "and it filled me with adrenaline." Before the pair in the book hang up, the BB voice reproaches: "Edmond, you're my partner, not my boss. I'm going to fight these guys whether you're with me or not."
We're told the Browder character "did not sleep at all that night". He shows up next day (Jan.14, '98), at Hermitage's new HQ "head down".
Hermitage employed Yakir Sha'ashoua's security firm, Visão Risk Management Group (VRMG), since 1996. In Bill Browder's ghostwritten novel, "Red Notice", Sha'ashoua introduces himself to Browder in 1998 – as "Ariel Bouzada" – click image to see larger size
"But when I reached the reception area," says Browder/Browder's ghostwriter: "Packed into the room were more than a dozen heavily armed bodyguards. The one in charge came up to me, his hand out-stretched, and in an Israeli accent pronounced, 'I'm Ariel Bouzada, Mr. Browder. Mr. Safra sent us. We have four armored cars and fifteen men. We'll be with you for as long as this situation lasts'."
In his video-taped NYC court deposition, under oath, in April of 2015, (see print transcript pages 87, 88+), Browder admits that "Ariel Bouzada" is actually Jakir (Yakir) Sha'ashoua – whose Visão/VRMG, (touted by Hermitage COO Ivan Cherkasov as being an exemplary partner "since 1996"), "liquidated" Hermitage-related companies Saturn Investments and Dalnaya Steppe (alt. Step), formed in the special-taxation territory of Kalmykia, Russia.
These same corporate entities are among those at the centre of the tax-evasion scam for which Browder's criminally convicted. Firestone Duncan-employed accountant Sergei Magnitsky, who set-up entities used for the tax fraud and conscripted disabled people falsely represented as employees etc., was also charged, but, in wake of his death, Magnitsky was never convicted. (NB this element – esp. the false claim that Magnitsky's post-humously convicted – figures in another cornerstone of Browder's progpanda – to be canvassed on page 5 of "J'Accuse News" – before then, you can't go wrong by clicking this link to read journo Lucy Komisar's clinical dissection of this particular BB & co. lie.)
Asked why he used a pseudonym for Sha'ashou in "Red Notice", (published February 3, 2015, just two months before his sworn deposition), Browder answers, "I don't recall".
(Yakir Daniel Sha'ashoua's Visao Risk Management Group – VRMG – tended security+ for, both, Edmond Safra & Browder's co. in the 1990s. Sha'ashoua's colleagues in the security field, in the 2000s, Shai Slagter & Avi Navama, run UK-based SQR Group. Navama was body-guard to another figure of legend who died in controversy, the late Boris Berezovsky.)
Back in "Red Notice", the BB character tells us: "I shook Ariel's hand. He was roughly my age and shorter than me, but everything about him was tougher, stronger, and more menacing than I could ever be. He walked with an air of authority coupled with the imminent threat of violence. Apparently, Edmond was going to join my fight after all."
O'er succeeding years, this tale's repeated, amplified even. Germany's Spiegel magazine recounts: "For a time, Browder employed 15 bodyguards who would sit with him in his living room, AK-47s resting on their knees."
"After meeting each of the senior bodyguards," reveals the Browder voice in "Red Notice", "I retreated to my office and sat down at my desk. I put my head in my hands. How am I going to take on an oligarch? How am I going to take on an oligarch? How am I going to take on a goddamned oligarch?"
A feature-length profile of Vladimir Potanin's published by The Financial Times short months before he and BP's Lord Browne pose for the paparazzi with PM Blair at No. 10 Downing Street, and not long before the proposed Sidanco bond issue to BP and Oneximbank is registered. (Such offering as is, years later, mythologized as a life-or-death stuggle by the mind of Browder and/or BB's ghostwriter.)
"Banking chief plays by new rules of Russian finance: Oneximbank could yet be a global giant," is the headline of this 07.08.1997 page 2 report from the FT's man-in-Moscow, John Thornhill.
Vladimir Potanin – bright-minded "successful entrepreneur" in view of The Financial Times (August 7, 1997, page 2) / homicidal-minded "goddamned oligarch" to Bill Browder and/or BB's ghostwriter in "Red Notice" – click photo to read larger version
"Like any successful entrepreneur, the 36-year-old Mr. Potanin has adapted his business tactics to his environment," explains Thornhill. The profile quotes a “foreign banker” in praise of Potanin and his Oneximbank: “They are a professional group who know exactly what they are doing. With a bit more experience they would easily match their western counterparts.”
Taken along for the ride in "Red Notice", readers are assured by the Browder character: "I trusted the fifteen bodyguards Edmond (Safra) had assigned to me. Throughout the conflict, whenever I moved around Moscow I'd travel in a convoy made up of a lead car, two side cars, and a trail car. Near my home, the lead car would peel off so that two of the guards could arrive a few minutes before the rest and check for bombs or snipers. Then the other cars would pull up and more guards would jump out, create a protective cordon, and take me safely into the building. Once I was upstairs, two men sat on my sofa with loaded submachine guns as I tried to sleep."
News reports of the time indicate, in the quarters of British Petroleum and elsewhere, this was tended as as a bond issue rather than a Bond, (James Bond), issue.
In "Red Notice", during the artificial window of "the following weeks" post-FSC decision to look into Yukos and Sidanco matters, Browder and/or his ghostwriter create room to inject another sub-plot, one in which BB learns that Safra has secretly sent his "top guy", Sandy Koifman, a "former Israeli fighter pilot", to meet with the enemy. "There was only one reason he would be in Moscow without my knowledge – to negotiate with Potanin behind my back."
Not only is it impossible to fit the story arc of "Red Notice" that occupies weeks-plus-at-least-six-more-days into the five-to-seven business days during which events unfolded in real-time, this version of events contradicts BB's 2002 story as preserved by Harvard Business School: "So the chief counsel of Republic National Bank came to Moscow and with a team of foreign and Russian lawyers wrote a brief to the securities commissioner".
In the 2015 revision, instead, Republic is working behind Browder's back to sabotage his strategy and, secretly, negotiate with Potanin – the man portrayed as having him fearing for his very life. "Red Notice" claims that, after meeting with Vasiliev at the FSC, Browder, fending off intrusion by Sandy/RBoNY, brings together a "two-hundred page document" brief: "I rushed back to the office, called in a team of lawyers, and had them draw up a detailed complaint."
Painted in BB's book as guilty of subterfuge (a plot too far re Potanin!), Alexander "Sandy" Koifman served Edmond Safra for 21 years, seven months (June 1978 – December 1999). In the wake of Safra's bizarre murder in Monaco and the takeover of Republic National Bank of New York by HSBC, Koifman moved to Geneva where he's "long-time office-mate" of Edouard Stern, one-time heir-apparent to Lazard Frères investment house, and, before his (Stern's) grisly murder in February 2005, head of "Investment Real Returns" (IRR) fund. In 2004, Koifman left IRR to found independent investment boutique, The Bedrock Group, along with a pair of fellow Safra-alumni – Ariel Arazi, whose career started in 1993 at RBoNY in Switzerland as a proprietary trader + David Joory who started at RBoNY in 1988 as an FX (foreign exchange / currency) trader – along with Maurice Ephrati who came to the new firm from Banque Privée Edmond de Rothschild SA in Geneva. (Koifman remains Advisor to Bedrock.)
Outraged by the betrayal we're told is signalled by the appearance in Moscow of Edmond Safra's "right-hand man" Sandy Koifman, the BB character calls RBoNY in NYC. He reaches Safra's general counsel who responds: "Bill, I'm sorry, but you're way out of your league here. This is serious business involving a lot of money. I think it's best if you let us take over from here." According to Browder and/or his ghostwriter, BB remains "emphatic", and, consequently, Safra's general counsel, though hesitant, checks with his boss and in the evening calls Browder to "grudgingly" relay: "Edmond will give you ten more days. After that, if nothing's happened, we're taking over."
According to "Red Notice", on "day six" of this extension granted after those "following weeks" to the FSC's opening of the case file, the same lawyer phones Browder to say RNBoNY's pulling the plug before the overtime period ends: "Sandy's going to come back to Moscow on Monday to see Potanin. We appreciate all that you've done, but it's not working."
"I went home that night feeling as bad as I'd ever felt." The Browder character agonizes "this was probably the end of my partnership with Safra. For all intents and purposes, this was the end of Hermitage Capital."
Dragging himself into the office the next morning: "Without any warning a fax arrived with a printout of the front page of the Financial Times. The headline read "Watchdog Annuls Sidanco Bond Issue".
Browder's world, as we're told it, is saved!
Hollywood movie-star and producer Meg Ryan's famously remembered for her verisimilitudinous acting scene in Katz's Delicatessen, Manhattan with actor/comedian+ Billy Crystal in the 1989 comedy-drama "When Harry Met Sally".
Those with a stomach to take-in "Red Notice" will discover, upon also digesting the historical record, Browder and his ghostwriter are inclined to fake a climax. Habitually. Their "Red Notice" is a Russophobe's wet-dream
Those charming characters of the Nora Ephron / Rob Reiner film engage in acts of love
The duplicitous characters of BB and/or his ghostwriter's fantasy engage in acts of hate. Our world really doesn't want to have what they're having
Drilling into Certain Gold Ltd. – going for the core truths
In 2013 the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) released “Offshore Leaks” – the first of four data-leaks that comprise its huge, public, "Offshore Leaks Database". “Offshore Leaks” (2013), exposing entities incorporated through two offshore service providers Commonwealth Trust Limited (CTL) and (then-so-named) Portcullis TrustNet, is since joined by: “Bahamas Leaks” (2016),“a trove of data from the official corporate registry of the Bahamas”; the “Panama Papers” (2016), records from Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca; and "Paradise Papers" (2017 & 2018), “from the offshore law firm Appleby and a trove of data from seven corporate registries.”
"The real value of the database is that it strips away the secrecy that cloaks companies and trusts incorporated in tax havens and exposes the people behind them." Notes the ICIJ: "While many of the activities carried out through offshore entities are perfectly legal, extensive reporting by ICIJ and its media partners for more than five years has shown that the anonymity granted by the offshore economy facilitates money laundering, tax evasion, fraud and other crimes. Even when it’s legal, transparency advocates argue that the use of an alternative, parallel economy undermines democracy because it benefits a few at the expense of the majority."
Echoing such concerns is Transparency International, a non-profit organization that solicits donations to fund a global anti-corruption campaign. "Getting away with corruption requires a safe haven and accomplices, but above all secrecy," TI stated in 2013.
It's no secret that con-man Bill Browder is part of the news-making process. In fact, he's made clear his m.o. helping the press understand and repeat stories the same way he and his team do – and, coinciding with "Offshore Leaks" breaking reports, he called out certain entities that would be identified in the ICIJ database. In an article published in The Sunday Times of June 23, 2013, Browder rails against GSL Law & Consulting, a legal+ services firm with offices and/or operations in Moscow, London, and Cyprus+.
Convicted tax-evader Bill Browder poses in land that's key to building his brand. Through his lawyers, BB denounces GSL Law & Consulting, (offering services used by his associates), as not "fit and proper" under HRMC rules. Click image to view Sunday Times newspaper article of 23.06.2013
As well as regurgitating standard (debunked) porkies of the Magnitsky myth he shares with Jon Ungoed-Thomas, writer of the Times piece, a letter sent by Hermitage lawyers (of unspecified degree) to the UK's Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs (HMRC). In it, Hermitage points to an US$ 200+ million tax-rebate scam and complains to regulators at HMRC that "GSL had acted as an agent for some of the companies involved in the fraud. The letter said GSL’s role meant it should not meet HMRC’s 'fit and proper' test for companies providing offshore company services."
American-turned-British con-man Browder, (himself
personally convicted in July 2013 of multi-million dollar
tax-evasion), tells us, via the Times, that the UK
government's failure to act upon his complaint "made a 'mockery'
of (then UK Prime Minister) David Cameron's call at last week's G8
summit for a crackdown on tax evasion". Seemingly incensed by
GSL's presence in London, or, perhaps, expressing gratitude in a moment of self-reflection
BB lobbed another sound-byte: “The
Along with branding Europe's GSL a facilitator of money-laundering, criminal tax-cheat Browder took aim at another "Offshore Leaks" service-provider under the media spot-light – British Virgin Islands (BVI)-based Commonwealth Trust Limited (CTL), a corporate registry+ that BB and longtime associate lawyer Jamison "Jamie" Firestone of Firestone Duncan (FD Advisory) would also implicate in the tax-rebate fraud
(Supplying a measure of Can-con, CTL's founded in 1994 by Tom Ward of Toronto, Canada, who reportedly "sold it to a Dutch company in 2009".)
Commonwealth Trust Limited (or CTL), housed on the first floor of the banana-yellow Yamraj Building, Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands (BVI), held appeal for Hermitage Capital partners and allies – as well as purported adversaries. Click image for larger view
Billing its "exclusive Canadian access" to select data, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, (aka the CBC – Canada's national, public, broadcaster), looks into this "shadowy world" ahead of ICIJ's public data release. The mostly straight-up content of the televised portion of this particular CBC News feature, (airing April 5, 2013), is delivered hy Frédéric Zalac, reporter national à CBC/Radio-Canada (the French-language side of the bi-lingual outlet).
No byline is attached to the text copy of the story appearing online, which welds onto the CTL-BVI details some of the boiler-plate falsehoods that frame the Magnitsky myth (eg. the accountant and auditor Magnitsky is called a lawyer, corporate seals & records are falsely said to have been used/needed to transfer Hermitage holding co.'s, the truth/fact of Browder + Magnitsky+ tax-evasion is omitted etc.)
The video-story includes mention of Russia's "Billion Dollar Don" Semion Mogilevitch, (who's described as "a Russian mobster on the FBI's '10 Most Wanted' List" – and is shown but not named), and other figures said to have used CTL (Commonwealth Trust) admin services, including for registering of offshore companies that longtime "Justice for Sergei (Magnitsky)" campaigners, Browder and Firestone, maintain are employed nefariously by a major criminal conspiracy in Russia.
The Hermitage + FD players double-team the verbal righteousness – telling CBC viewers that Commonwealth Trust, aka CTL, played a pivotal role in enabling financial crimes and their cover-up.
" 'In a sense, CTL became a really good tool in the toolkit of organized criminals,' said Jamison Firestone, a lawyer who represented the company victimized in the Russian heist," CBC tells us,
Firestone explains: "Organized criminals figure out, 'Who can we contact to help us move money? Who can we contact to set up offshore companies and help us open bank accounts abroad?' It's because firms like CTL exist that this stuff can go on."
"William Browder, Hermitage Capital's founder," says that while he mostly blames the Russian criminals for Magnitsky's death, he believes that offshore-service providers like CTL, as well as Western banks and tax authorities, should bear some of the blame."
"In our case, what it did is it created a real obstacle to getting to the truth behind a major crime," con-man Browder tells CBC News. "If they hadn't blocked that information, we might've been able to do something that would have saved Sergei Magnitsky's life."
The best thing Browder and Hermitage could have done, of course, was to not engage in a large, criminal, tax-evasion scheme and involve their accountant, Magnitsky. Had they not been engaged in illegal activities, and/or on such a scale, it's reasonable to consider a chain of consequential events would not have unfolded as they did. Tragedy could have been averted. Until, naturally, the truth is told about acts and events, the real context and accountability will remain a dodge.
Select data published by Canadian Broadcasting Corp., (and provided by ICIJ), mentions entities alleged to have "victimized" Browder/Firestone co.s, plus characters such as "Billion Dollar Don" Semion Mogilevitch (pictured here). Excluded is any mention of those allies of Browder and Firestone et al employing offshore services of Commonwealth Trust Limited (CTL). Click image above to view CBC News items (video-story + different text/copy).
Thus, in the first rush of media coverage of global off-shore leaks, by mid-2013, a picture's framed by con-man Browder, his FD side-kick, Jamie Firestone, and an accommodating press dynamic. Via media amplifying the Hermitage version, we're told that GSL Law and Services, (said by BB's legal counsel to facilitate money-laundering), along with Commonwealth Trust enabled a giant tax scam and/or the laundering of proceeds from same, and, ultimately, this fraud led to the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. On top of this, we're told, Commonwealth Trust, by its secretive nature and conduct, may have prevented the Hermitage team from saving Magnitsky's life.
By investigating the record, independent of convicted tax-evader Bill Browder, using public documents, we can quickly know that much of what he claims is plainly false eg. Magnitsky's never a lawyer, nor was he a whistle-blower found by Browder & co. in 2007. He was, in fact, working with/for Hermitage since the 1990s and engaged in the team's fraudulent tax schemes. And on.
With respect to such entities as GSL and Commonwealth (CTL), there's ample evidence which shows there's a much fuller, truer, picture yet to be presented to the world. Remarkably, as it hosts the data set and is a source of ideas and packaged stories on common threads disseminated by news agencies around the globe – and despite "extensive reporting by ICIJ and its media partners for more than five years", the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists watchdogs are yet to point out the well-marked trail of offshore connections and dealings of convicted tax-evader Bill Browder and/or his network(s).
. The Washington, DC-based ICIJ boasts "a global network of 190 investigative journalists in more than 65 countries". One can only imagine the public good that will flow once the attention of such a potential pool of writers on related matters is drawn. The ICIJ represents an awful lot of journos separated only by their own desire and discretion from exposing the numerous, and obvious, elements of the geopolitical hoax of this century to date.
(In the spirit of this season, when it comes to this number, maybe it's no surprise there's more lords a-leaping and more drummers drummin' than there are investigators investigatin'. But what's everyone doing post-New Year's Eve?)
Launching an unblinkered look into this "secret world", highlighting those elements not illuminated by the popular press, in the ICIJ data we find Certain Gold Ltd. (first indicator of more riches to come). Incorporated in the British Virgin Islands on July 28, 2004 – this offshore entity is double-trouble. We can tell that much from reports of the Sunday Times, CBC and ICIJ transmitting the unassayed claims of Hermitage's Bill Browder and FD's Jamie Firestone.
Certain Gold's offshore agent is Commonwealth Trust of the BVI – according to BB and JF, an enabler of organized criminals. And, just creeping into the picture, we can see the name of GSL Law & Consulting – denounced by BB's actual lawyers at Hermitage as not 'fit and proper' in a complaint to the UK government – GSL is Certain Gold's intermediary and supplier of addresses: for shipping in the Russian Federation; and for billing, in Nicosia, Cyprus.
Certain Gold Ltd., incorporated in BVI, with Commonwealth Trust (CTL) as its agent, and GSL Law & Consulting as 'intermediary' and fronting its addresses. Click image above to see enlarged view.
Opening wider our view, we can see who's aboard this vehicle. Visão Risk Management Group (VRMG)'s Yakir Daniel Shasoua (one of several alt. spellings for YDS), as detailed earlier on this page, for years providing "security" to Edmond Safra / Republic National Bank of New York and a range of services to Hermitage incl. liquidation of Saturn Investments and Dalnaya Steppe (alt. Step), holding companies central to the tax evasion scheme for which Bill Browder stands convicted. In sworn testimony, the accountant Sergei Magnitsky acknowledges receiving and following instructions and/or requests from YDS with respect to affairs of Hermitage's corporate entities.
Sha'ashoua, (the correct, Hebrew, spelling of the surname), is director and shareholder of Certain Gold upon incorporation (28.07.2004). He resigns as a director on June 3, 2005 – remaining a shareholder (according to data "current through 2010" says the ICIJ). Sha'ashoua's directorial departure comes on the same date as two new directors are appointed – one of whom, Alexandre Gaydamak, bears a family name instantly recognizable to global reporters on finance, football (of the kind played on-and-off the pitch by Portsmouth FC), arms-trafficking and other newsworthy fields.
Yakir (alt. Jakir) Daniel Sha'ashoua (alt. Shasoua, Shashua + other variants), Alexandre Gaydamak, Evgene (alt. Evgeny, Evgeni) Kogan, Antanta Holdings (BVI) Ltd., GSL Law & Consulting and Commonwealth Trust Limited (CTL) aggregate in Certain Gold Ltd. Click image above and image below to see enlarged views.
Additional names familiar to Hermitage/Firestone investigators appear throughout the Antanta group of companies. Antanta Holdings (BVI) Ltd. is shareholder of Certain Gold alongside Yakir Daniel Sha'shaou (var. spellings). Click image above and image below to see enlarged views.
Bill Browder's an "anti-corruption crusader" – in the way that Bill Cosby's "America's Dad" and Harvey Weinstein's "God". (And for more Canuck-centric audiences – Jian Ghomeshi's a "feminist".) It's a false construct. An illusion. A myth.
Coming next (here on Page 4+) – drilling deeper into truths overlooked, ignored and/or avoided, (some even studiously so), by (almost all) journalists, politicians, regulators and "authorities" engaged – knowingly, wilfully and/or unknowingly, innocently – in furthering the Magnitsky myth and spreading other harmful lies on today's world-stage.
– Con-man Bill Browder's
modus operandi deconstructed, yet again.
Under-oath #4 – Con-man Bill Browder's modus operandi deconstructed, yet again.
NB For the full transcript of Browder's examination which
debunks the myths - click on the thumbnail below:
NB For the full transcript of Browder's examination which debunks the myths - click on the thumbnail below: