Our main topic today is Ukraine. But before we jump into that, let's look at some other noteworthy items.
The Democratic Primary.
I don't want to address horse race stories, because I'm still convinced that Trump will win in 2020. Nevertheless, it's interesting that Fox is presenting Biden
as Mr. Inevitable, the Chosen One, the Trump-destroyer. Meanwhile, more progressive outlets
talk about Biden as if he has already lost, even though polls still peg him as the favorite. I don't consider him Mr. Inevitable, but neither can I comprehend why progs discuss him in the past tense, as if he were already a footnote.
Will Biden lose in Iowa? Maybe. Probably. I'm old enough to recall a time when Democrats acted as though Iowa barely counted. It used to be thinkable for a candidate to enter the race after
Kamala Harris seems to be that
close to an admission that It's All Over. It took a few weeks, but voters and pundits finally understood that Dems will lose if they are tied to issues like forced busing and reparations. Even Barack Obama has slapped down the progs who perpetually preach purity above practicality.
I used to think this guy was one of the greatest writers alive. Now he's tweeting deranged, QAnon-istic shit like this
I don’t know, did the CIA/FBI abuse FISA, improperly use informants against a presidential candidate, leak declassified material, and spend two years spreading fake news stories about everything from pee tapes to a secret Alfa server?
My favorite response: "Is this a parody account now?" Marcy wrote: "This is lovely, in part for reasons I won't make public yet." That's
Matt, Matt, Matt...! What the hell
, dude? When you lived in Russia, did you strangle a hooker? Literally screw the pooch? What could Putin possibly have
New theory: Matt Taibbi is
Qanon, perpetrating the ultimate Culturefuck. (Hey, that's a potentially useful neologism. Gotta remember it.)
KGB recruitment manual.
I'm not saying that this
has any relationship to the above item, but I'd love to read it, nonetheless. Alas, it's behind a paywall. I'm pretty adept at hopping past such obstructions -- one of these days, I should write a guide -- but this one is beyond my ability to surmount. If you see it reprinted or summarized elsewhere, let me know.
Wendi Deng, Steve Bannon and the Mystery Billionaire.
Remember Rupert Murdoch's former wife? The Chinese national who (allegedly) dated Putin and vacayed with Ivanka? The woman whom nearly everyone
suspects of being some sort of secret agent? Turns out Steve Bannon
is among those who mistrust her.
Bannon knew Kushner was on vacation off the coast of Croatia with a Russian billionaire when Bannon took over the campaign. Kushner was with Wendy Deng, the Russian billionaire, and the Russian's girlfriend. Bannon said his friends in the intelligence community said the girlfriend was "questionable."
"Friends in the intelligence community"? Thanks, Steverino! I can always count on you to blab more than you should. Just like Donnie and Rudy.
So who is the mystery billionaire? All of the writers looking into this story seem stumped. But back in 2017
, evidence emerged that the enigmatic oligarch was our old pal, Dmitry Rybolovlev. Remember him? The guy who bought the Salvator Mundi, sued the man who sold it to him, then turned around and auctioned it off for $400 million -- and then the painting disappeared? Dmitry is also the guy who vastly overpaid for a Trump property in Florida.
He -- and his yacht -- were in or around Dubrovnik, Croatia, at the same time Jared, Ivanka and Wendi were partying there. Specifcally, they visited a remote island called Hvar, off of Dubrovnik. Y'think maybe they got a chance to see the Leonardo?
The "girlfriend" referenced above is probably Daria Strokous
, a model in her 20s, although he might have been with former model Anna Barsukova at that time. He likes 'em young, thin and blonde.
Dmitry Rybolovlev is, of course, very close to Putin. Trump claims to have nothing to do with him. Riiiight.
Oh, and lest we forget...
Want to add another wrinkle to the twist? Rybolovlev’s yacht was recently photographed and tracked next to the yacht of Trump backer Robert Mercer in the British Virgin Islands. Rybolovlev claims to not know him either.
On to Ukraine!
Trump seemed awfully smug this morning, which gives me a bad feeling. I got an even worse feeling when John Bolton backed out of testifying -- saying, in essence, "Make me." An ominous sign, that. It's just one of many signs indicating that the Trumpers intend to get out of this mess through kompromat, bribery and sheer thuggishness.
I'm sure that Zelensky will say whatever exonerative thing Trump wants him to say. Mr. Z wants those weapons.
He's also vulnerable to another form of pressure -- one which nobody wants to talk about.
Although many Americans consider him to be Mr. Clean, Zelensky is actually the creature of a crooked oligarch named Ihor Kolomoisky, a James Bond supervillain
under investigation by the DOJ. In other words, Barr has Kolomoisky by the balls (well, at least one
ball) and Kolomoisky has Zelensky by the balls (both of 'em). And that's how Trump can get what he wants from Zelensky.
For weeks now, I've been screaming: Why aren't more people talking about this?
I call Mr. K a "James Bond supervillain" because he committed one of the world's most impressive bank robberies ($5.5 billion), because he reportedly has had people killed, and because he kept a fucking shark tank in his office
. As an intimidation tactic, he would feed the shark while guests watched.
It's nearly impossible to convince Americans to pay attention to this stuff, but I keep trying. You can't understand the Ukraine scandal without learning more about Ukraine's seedy side. That's why I was gratified to see Wendy Siegelman offer this thread
, which draws, in turn from the work of Jack Laurenson
, a British journalist in Kiev who published this piece in the Kyiv Post
. My previous scribblings on this topic were largely drawn from that newspaper.
As noted above, Kolomoisky committed perhaps the world's greatest bank robbery -- a crime which exemplified a famous axiom: The best way to rob a bank is to own one
. He and another shady character, Hennadiy Boholyubov, ran the biggest financial institution in Ukraine, PrivatBank. Kolomoisky broke into his own piggy bank, absconding with billions.
A very brave woman named Valeria Gontareva -- the head of Ukraine's national bank (their version of our Federal Reserve) -- exposed his criminality. Kolomisky had to leave the country for a while, living mostly in Tel Aviv. Eventually, he got his revenge on Gontareva: Serious death threats forced her to relocate to the UK, where she barely survived an assassination attempt. In Ukraine, fascist thugs burned down her home.
I forgot to mention that Kolomoisky funded the fascist Azov battalion -- which, not-so-incidentally, has attracted a number of American volunteers from the neo-Nazi demimonde. Ponder that: The money-man behind the world's most vicious Nazi paramilitary force felt most comfortable residing in Israel, where he has citizenship. Israel didn't seem to mind having him there, and American Nazis didn't seem to mind being funded by an Israeli. Ponder that
Kolomoisky also ran the TV channel that brought Zelensky to power. Hilariously, Mr. Z ran as an anti-corruption crusader.
The fact that Trump praises his anti-corruption efforts tells you all you need to know.
Having placed his puppet in power, our supervillain returned in style to his homeland, where he is very unlikely to do time for that bank robbery. He told a reporter that Gontareva probably burned down her own house.
(Why? For the same reason the Democrats hacked into their own server. And Mary Jane Kelly
was, as Alan Moore once put it, "a very determined suicide.")
Laurenson's new piece explains how Kolomoisky pulled off the heist. Basically, the bank made "loans" (heh heh heh
) to on-paper offshore companies set up my Mr. K.
PrivatBank allegedly “loaned” the funds to 42 Ukrainian shell companies connected to the defendants and incorporated in different offshore havens in the Caribbean.
UK firms and Cyprus institutions were involved in this chicanery. PrivatBank had a tentacle in Cyprus. The UK firms, in turn, were owned by Cypriots in Britain.
Limited liability companies are popular tools in the U.K. because their accounts do not have to be audited, according to Graham Barrow, a London-based banking and anti-money laundering expert.
“Potentially, you could just shove a set of books in front of an accountant’s firm and they can say ‘on the basis of what we see, these are fine,’” said Barrow. Companies reviewed in this way would not be considered audited.
The article offers all sorts of details as to how the heist was perpetrated, for those who like to know how the sausage gets made. The way Heath Ledger's Joker did this kind of job was more exciting, but I have to admit that Kolomoisky's tactics are probably a lot safer.
When PrivatBank still belonged to Kolomoisky and Boholyubov, its Cyprus branch was an alleged key transit point for the billions of dollars extracted from Ukraine. Insider loans for bogus transactions would allegedly be transferred from Kolomoisky’s companies’ PrivatBank accounts in Ukraine to their PrivatBank accounts in Cyprus before being cycled through dozens of affiliated bank accounts and into external companies in other jurisdictions.
I think we're going to learn more about that shady money as we delve deeper into the various Ukraine scandals.
Aside from the flagship PrivatBank case, however, tax base erosion and profit shifting costs the Ukrainian economy some $50 billion per year, multiple tax experts told the Kyiv Post.
Have you ever wondered why so much of this corruption weaves through the UK?
And the U.K. is a perfect laundromat for looted money, as there is no compulsory auditing for LLCs and minimal disclosure is required when opening a firm.
Britain’s National Crime Agency estimates that money laundering in the U.K. may extend to hundreds of billions of pounds each year. “The ease with which U.K. companies can be opened, and the appearance of legitimacy that they provide, means they are used extensively to launder money derived both from criminal activity in the U.K. and overseas,” states a 2018 report by the crime agency.
The corruption of the UK remains one of the great untold tales of our age. British tolerance for financial skullduggery may explain why MI6, or a key faction thereof, became so Putin-friendly. Think of Cambridge Analytica (owned by Mercer) and Christopher Andrew. (This Mirror story
from last year has some interesting details about Russian recruitment of British spooks.)