POLICE JOIN FBI IN RUSSIAN MAFIA LAUNDERING INQUIRY
The Independent (London)
August 26, 1999, Thursday
Copyright 1999 Independent Print Ltd
Section: NEWS; Pg. 5
Length: 412 words
TWO BRITISH detectives have flown to the United States to help to investigate allegations that the Russian mafia was laundering money through the Bank of New York. The officers from the National Crime Squad are to assist the FBI in New York.
The FBI investigation follows a tip-off from British intelligence that large sums of money were being transferred through accounts at the bank.
British intelligence authorities have been monitoring the activities of Semion Mogilevich, a 59-year-old Ukrainian who has been called “the most dangerous mobster in the world” and who is believed to specialise in laundering money from East to West.
Evidence is also mounting that British intelligence, alongside other European law agencies, is monitoring massive money laundering out of Russia by individuals close to the Russian government.
Swiss law enforcement authorities said earlier this year that Russian organised crime had been actively laundering money in banks there and Swiss prosecutors have been investigating the allegations of money laundering involving members of Boris Yeltsin’s administration.
The source of this laundered money is not yet clear. However, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Monday launched an inquiry after claims that tens of millions of dollars of IMF aid to Russia was illegally laundered out of the country during the political crisis last year.
Switzerland’s banking commission said it was assisting with the American investigation into the Bank of New York accounts. It was revealed on Tuesday that the FBI was also looking into the activities of five European banks.
Two vice-presidents of the Bank of New York have been suspended. London- based Lucy Edwards, 41, who was born in Russia and now has American citizenship is on paid leave. Her husband, Russian businessman Peter Berlin, controls the account in the name of Benex through which $ 4.2bn (pounds 2.6bn) is said to have passed in just six months. In total some pounds 10bn is involved in the investigation.
A vice-president of the bank based in New York, Russian-born Natasha Gurfinkel Kagalovsky, who supervised the suspect accounts, has also been suspended.
Last week the British National Crime Squad raided and searched a West End apartment owned by Mr Berlin and Ms Edwards. Noboyd was arrested.
According to The New York Times the Bank of New York case has now come to the attention of the US House of Representatives banking committee and the US Attorney General, Janet Reno.
HOW THE MOSCOW ‘MAFIYA’ GANGS TOOK A GRIP ON LONDON
The Independent (London)
September 12, 1999, Sunday
Copyright 1999 Independent Print Ltd
Section: FEATURES; Pg. 17
Length: 1267 words
Byline:Paul Lashmar, Nick Anning And Andrew Mullins
They call it the octopus – the tentacles of Russian corruption that entwine businessmen, politicians, prostitutes, bankers and contractors across the former Soviet Union and beyond to the West.
Last week came the sensational revelation that its tendrils had embraced even the President himself. A central figure in an investigation of corruption in the Kremlin claimed that Boris Yeltsin and his family received paybacks from the Swiss-based company Mabetex, involved in renovation work at government buildings. Earlier it emerged that Russian businessmen and officials were involved in a suspected international money- laundering scheme worth up to $ 15bn, including possible loans from the International Monetary Fund. Aeroflot revenues have gone missing; Albanian companies, too, are alleged to have paid bribes to the President’s family.
And there are money launderers, mafiosi, people who have fleeced state businesses, and on-the-make entrepreneurs right here in the heart of London. So big is the community of new breed Russians that there are at least 40,000 of them living here; it could be as many as 150,000. So keen are they on the English way of life that their children now make up 20 per cent of the foreign pupils at private schools.
Much of the source of the money funding these lifestyles is under suspicion. US and British investigators are trying to unravel how up to $ 15bn came to be laundered – siphoned out of Russia through banks and companies while disguised as to exactly where it came from. They are particularly interested in the Bank of New York, one of whose officials, Lucy Edwards, was recently fired from its London HQ at Canary Wharf. Ms Edwards worked in the Eastern European division of the bank and was responsible for Russian business. Her husband, Peter Berlin, is alleged to be the holder of five accounts at the bank which may have been used for laundering.
Key to allegations about what was happening at the Bank of New York was Semion Mogilevich, once dubbed “The Most Dangerous Mobster in the World”. Ten years ago, Mogilevich, a 53-year-old Ukrainian, was just a petty criminal in a Moscow gang. He was one of the first to realise that London would be a key centre for laundering the dirty money from East European rackets into clean money in US bank accounts. Now he deals in billions and has associates around the world.
So how has this transformation taken place? In the last decade, the fall of Gorbachev, the break-up of the USSR and Boris Yeltsin’s rise to power removed any restraint in the growth of organised crime and corruption. People who had been involved in dubious business activity in Russia – wily ex-cons, tough former sportsmen, embittered veterans of the Afghan conflict and young martial arts exponents – even occasional biker gangs – moved on to bigger things.
From 1990 the new breed of Russian entrepreneurs began to arrive in London, flashing huge amounts of cash, and seeking access to Western money markets through the City and its financial institutions.
“London is not Berlin,” explains ‘Dima’, one Russian businessman working in London. “It has the City and access to the world’s banking channels. The mafiya wanted that, they wanted prestige and respectability. These are not silly boys. They do serious business, they want their money to work for them. They have huge resources and they want profit. If they can’t do it themselves, they hire the best they can get. Money no object.”
Not all money was the proceeds of rackets – the former Soviet Union in the early 1990s was a Wild West where fortunes could be made or lost overnight, and much was. Often brash and free-spending, the new Russians rubbed shoulders uncomfortably with London’s small but long-established Russian community, consisting mainly of political emigres. While many “White Russians” congregated around suburban Chiswick, the wealthy new arrivals prefer Hampstead, Knightsbridge, or the flashier parts of Surrey. In some neighbourhoods, one in four houses costing over pounds 1m went to Russian families. Lucy Edwards and Peter Berlin reputedly bought their luxury apartment in W1 for pounds 500,000 cash last year.
Antony Wardell of estate agent Knight Frank’s office in Ascot, Surrey, has housed a dozen Russian families in properties varying from pounds 1.5m to pounds 4.5m. He finds them particularly keen on the Wentworth Estate, near Virginia Water.
“They are very discreet people,” said Mr Wardell. “They tend to be into hi -tech industries, oil and gas, banking and even property. They favour anonymity and they’re conscious that their countrymen have previously had unfavourable media coverage.”
Richard Humphreys, a director of Goldschmidt & Howland, one of the biggest agents in north-west London, said: “When they are here, for whatever reason, they like to keep themselves pretty anonymous, but they do like houses that make a bit of a statement. The amount of marble that might appeal to a Russian would perhaps be a little over the top for some Western European buyers.”
Many Russians are anxious to take advantage of the British education system. According to the Independent Schools Information Service, Russian pupils made up only 3 per cent of overseas students at private schools in 1994 but the latest figures show that the proportion has swelled to 20 per cent.
Not all the new money is spent in such a savoury way. “Michelle”, a petite and attractive 24-year-old mother, was kidnapped in her Lithuanian home town last year after she placed an ad in a newspaper looking for work. She fell into the hands of a East European mafia gang specialising in trafficking prostitutes to London. She ended up imprisoned in a flat in Lisson Grove in Marylebone and forced into prostitution. Police raided the flat and others run by the Russian gang, dubbed “The Doctors”, and found one girl as young as 15.
British detectives and intelligence services now closely monitor signs of Russian mafia activity. A variety of routes is used to get money out of Russia, many of them passing through London, while the offshore tax havens of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are favourites too. Putting money through accounts in Cyprus, Antigua and other Caribbean countries has also been popular.
Since 1993 the Antiguan authorities alone have licensed at least a dozen Russian banks, several of which have been associated with the Russian mafia. Earlier this year the British Treasury warned City financial institutions that Antigua had watered down its money-laundering regulations. The world’s first internet bank, the European Union Bank, was based in Antigua. Its two Russian founders took off with their depositors’ money.
But, by comparison, the City of London is supposed to be the epitome of financial rectitude. Why have British banks failed to spot money-laundering transactions going through their London accounts? In the early 1990s there were none so blind as those who didn’t want to see. But money-laundering laws are tougher now, so astute mafia money-launderers often use “respectable” Russian bank accounts to disguise the dirty origins of the money.
In the vital early years of the 1990s, when the embryonic mafia could have been nipped in the bud, governments and law enforcement agencies across the world failed to heed many warnings.
Jeffrey Robinson, an expert on the Russian mafia, has warned in his latest book, The Merger, that the Russian mafia formed alliances with organised crime groups across the world. He says this has created a “wealthy cabal destined to become the most powerful special interest group on earth”.
Here’s some information.
The Independent (London)September 16, 2000, Saturday
‘THE FEW’ WHO SAVED BRITAIN WERE EVEN FEWER IN NUMBER THAN ANYONE IMAGINED
BYLINE: Paul Lashmar
“THE FEW” who knocked the Luftwaffe out of Britain’s skies in 1940 were even fewer than anyone previously realised. Six out of 10 RAF pilots in the Battle of Britain never shot down an enemy aircraft, new research suggests.
Christopher Shores, the author of Aces High, says a relatively small number of pilots was responsible for most of the German aircraft shot down during Britain’s “finest hour” and that the top 17 RAF “aces” – less then 1 per cent of “the Few” – shot down 10 per cent of all enemy aircraft.
The RAF pilots, whose victory forced Hitler to abandon his invasion plans, became known as “the Few” after Churchill’s speech in which he said: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
The Battle of Britain was fought between 10 July and 31 October 1940. RAF pilots claimed to have shot down about 2,600 German aircraft, but figures compiled later suggest that Luftwaffe losses were more likely nearer 1,700.
Of the 2,332 Allied pilots who flew fighters in the battle, 38.85 per cent could claim some success in terms of enemy aircraft shot down, but the number claiming more than one victim amounted to no more than 15 per cent of the total.
To qualify for the description of “ace”, a fighter pilot has to shoot down or be involved with others in shooting down at least five hostile aircraft. During the Battle of Britain just 188 pilots achieved that performance – 8 per cent of the total involved. A further 233 of those claiming successes during the battle became “aces” later in the war.
Mr Shores says: “It is particularly illuminating that the 17 most successful pilots (0.7 per cent of those involved) claimed 220 victories between them (8 -9 per cent of the total claimed), a quite disproportionately high level of achievement.”
The 188 “ace” pilots claimed approximately half of all the victories. The most successful were Sgt Josef Frantisek (from Czechoslovakia) 17; Pilot Officer Eric Lock (England) 16; Flying Officer Brian Carbury (New Zealand) and Sgt James ‘Ginger’ Lacey (England) 15 and 1 shared each; Pilot Officer Bob Doe (England) 15; Flt Lt Pat Hughes (Australia) 14 and 3 shared; Pilot Officer Colin Gray (New Zealand) 14 and 2 shared; Flt Lt Archie McKellar(Scotland) 14 and 1 shared; Flying Officer Witold Urbanowicz (Poland) 14. Eight others claimed 10 or 11 individual victories, with varying numbers of shares.
These included the well-known Flt Lt Bob Stanford-Tuck and Flt Sgt George “Grumpy” Unwin (both of whom were English).
The findings complement research published in Aeroplane magazine that examined which were the most effective RAF squadrons during the Battle of Britain. The most prolific were: 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron – a Spitfire squadron based at Hornchurch, Essex – which shot down 57.5 enemy aircraft; 609 Squadron, another Spitfire squadron, based at Middle Wallop, Hampshire, with 51.5 kills; and the Polish -manned 303 Squadron and 41 Squadron, which were close to being equal with 45 and 44.75 credits. Douglas Bader’s 242 Hurricane Squadron achieved 22 kills.
A recent television programme debunked the widely held belief that nearly all the fighter pilots in the Battle of Britain were ex-public schoolboys from an upper-class background. Of the 3,080 airmen awarded the Battle of Britain Clasp, only 141 (6 per cent) were educated at the top 13 public schools, the largest contingent having attended Eton: 22 pilots (0.9 per cent).
Aces High, Christopher Shores’ account of the battle is published by Grub Street.
There is a nice reference by Robin Ramsay to our book in the latest edition of the online parapolitical magazine Lobster. He as discussing the BBC website story ”revealing’ that the Treasury had subsidised a British covert propaganda news agency in the middle east in the 1960s.
“Regional News Service (Middle East) rang a very faint bell, so I went back to
Paul Lashmar and James Oliver’s 1998 book about IRD, Britain’s Secret
Propaganda War 1948-77, and there it was. In so doing, I was reminded
what a wonderful book that is – and still available from Amazon and
To read Ramsay’s full item Lobster April 2020
Excellent article from the intrepid Ian Cobain at MEE.
Religious operations’: How British propagandists used Islam to wage cultural Cold War
Ian has been digging into the tranche of documents from the Foreign Office’s Information Research Department released into the National Archives.
Back in 1989 it got into severe quality production problems with the 747-400. Here’s an investigation I did in Seattle (Boeing’s base)
David Leigh and I broke this story in 1982 about the Prime Minister’s son acting as a middle man in Oman. This story is so interesting that the official UK public records have been withheld until 2053.
The backstory of how the Sultan overthrew his father in 1979 is an interesting one. He was helped by Sandhurst chum Brigadier Timothy Landon who was the connection with the Foreign Office. Landon went on to be the Sultan’s fixer and when he died a few years back had a huge home counties estate and left £200m. Not bad for a Brigadier.