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Monday, January 25, 2016

‘Pure Fiction’: Kremlin Comments on BBC’s Probe About ‘Putin’s Money’

FYI, I fully understand that my source here, (RT), is Russian and is heavily influenced by the Russian government as a propaganda tool. Consequently, their denials of any wrong-doing are to be taken with a large grain of salt, if not outright mirth. Nevertheless, there are issues here that are rather disturbing as you will read below.

The Kremlin has dismissed as “pure fiction” allegations that Russia’s President is “corrupt” and has been “masking” his actual wealth. Both claims came from a US Treasury official quoted in a BBC documentary.

The US Treasury’s Acting Under Secretary for terrorism and financial crimes, Adam Szubin, was picked by BBC as an expert for the channel’s unprompted investigation into Putin’s income.

“He supposedly draws a state salary of something like $110,000 a year. That is not an accurate statement of the man’s wealth, and he has long time training and practices in terms of how to mask his actual wealth,” Szubin told BBC’s Richard Bilton.

When asked by Bilton “If Putin is corrupt,” Szubin simply said: “In our view, yes.”

In fact, Szubin continued, the US government has known for “many, many years” that Putin has been “enriching his friends, his close allies, and marginalizing those who he doesn’t view as friends using state assets.”

“Whether that’s Russia’s energy wealth, whether it’s other state contracts, he directs those to whom he believes will serve him and excludes those who don’t. To me, that is a picture of corruption,” Szubin said, though avoiding any specifics that would support his statement. 

Therein lies the problem, politicians and bureaucrats making statements they can't or won't substantiate, as with the Litvinenko assertions. Is this a new phenomenon? I don't remember governments making unsubstantiated assertions about other government leaders. 

Is this the American way of doing politics infecting the rest of the civilized world? If it is, it's dreadfully hypocritical, or have you forgotten the former Speaker of Congress passing out checks on the floor of Congress to Representatives who faithfully represented commercial interests at the expense of the American people?

Of course Putin has squirreled away money that came about as 'presents' from friends. Do you  think he would have lasted all these years if he were not cooperating with the oligarchs? Does anyone think the oligarchs are honest, upstanding citizens with unquestionable integrity? There may be the odd one but he would be very odd as oligarch corruption is as old as Russia itself.

But is there any country in the world where there is no corruption? I seriously doubt it. One thing to be said for Putin, he has not impoverished his people for his own gain. If you remember Goodluck Jonathon who was president of Nigeria when $6 billion worth of oil simply disappeared, and there was no inquiry, nor any attempt to find the oil or the money that came from its sale.

So while government officials, military brass and some business moguls socked away fortunes illegally, Nigeria's military was so poorly equipped and its men were so poorly treated financially that they would not and could not take on Boko Haram until there was a change in government.

How many thousands of lives were lost, often quite horribly; how many girls were abducted and used as sex slaves and suicide bombers under Jonathon's watch? And that was all he ever did was to watch, from a distance; he never went near northern Nigeria. 

How dramatic were the condemnations from the US and the UK over the Nigerian corruption? Did you hear any? Any at all? I didn't, and I watched the horror quite closely. Should I point out that most of the victims of Boko Haram were Christians? Shouldn't that warrant some interest from the west? Or was their being Christians nullified by their being black?

The Russian government has dismissed the allegations. When reached for a comment, President Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the BBC that “none of these questions or issues needs to be answered, as they are pure fiction.”

The comments were taken by Bilton while travelling to conduct interviews for a BBC Panorama documentary on Putin’s “wallet” dubbed “Putin’s Secret Riches.”

This is not the first time US officials have commented on Putin’s wealth. However, this might be the first time the President has been directly accused by a US government body.

In 2014, the US Treasury peered into Putin’s finances, alleging that “Putin has investments in Gunvor and may have access to Gunvor funds,” though it did not provide any evidence to back up its claims. Swiss-based Gunvor is the world’s fourth-largest oil trader. 

The Kremlin has previously noted a general trend in Western media to use unsubstantiated allegations of corruption in an attempt to demonize the Russian government and president. Speaking to RT in May of 2015, the head of the presidential administration, Sergey Ivanov, referred to it as to a “sort of blacklisting process... mostly in the American and British papers.

“I often read articles saying that President Putin and his ‘cronies’ – the language is not mine, but the papers’ – are fully corrupted, connected with criminality, they have huge profits which they successfully hide, and things like that,” Ivanov said at the time.

Holding himself up as an example contradicting those allegations, Ivanov wrote off the reports as “rubbish” that “can’t be respected by those who are serious enough to analyze the information.”

President Putin has been in the UK media spotlight since a public British inquiry into the death of Aleksandr Litvinenko, who died from radioactive poisoning in 2006, recently alleged that the Russian leader had “probably approved” the killing of the former Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) agent.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry denied those findings, saying that the inquiry had been “neither transparent nor public” and resembled a “shadow play… conducted mostly behind doors, with classified documents and unnamed witnesses contributing to the result.”