In the 1990s, when Boris Yeltsin began privatizing vast swaths of Russia’s industrial output, he essentially permitted a group of thuggish entrepreneurs to purchase these state assets for a pittance. They in turn, turned their companies into behemoths with a guaranteed monopoly, thus allowing them to become vastly wealthy oligarchs in the process. They were aided in the process by the political elite, like Vladimir Putin, who both profited from their wealth and commanded their fealty when collaboration was necessary to pursue his interests. A particular group of these oligarchs was Jewish. Among them were Mikhail Fridman, German Khan, Leonid Nevzlin, Yuri Milner, Viktor Vekselberg, Len Blavatnik, Boris Berezovsky, Arkady Gadaymak, Lev Leviev and, most successful of all, Roman Abramovich.
After they consolidated control of their respective industries and amassed fantastic wealth, they turned their attention to burnishing their reputation. Or put another way, to whitewash all their rapacious piracy with good deeds. They charity-washed themselves by investing in liberal Zionist news media (Blavatnik/Haaretz). Or they bought premier football clubs to showcase their beneficence to sports fans of the UK (Abramovich), Israel (Gadaymak). Or they created medical school institutes in their name (Blavatnik again/Harvard Medical School).
In return for state authorities winking at their predatory behavior, Putin will often call in favors. For example, in the 2016 U.S. elections, Vekselberg, Oleg Depraska (another non-Jewish oligarch) and others made illegal donations to the Trump campaign, making similar payments to Trump capo, Michael Cohen.
Abramovich was known to be close to former Russian oligarch, Lev Leviev, who underwent a series of major financial reverses ending with charges of diamond smuggling which led him to flee his posh London digs for Russia. He’s not been heard from since; which is not surprising considering he’s wanted for questioning by Israeli police and Scotland Yard.
Leviev was particularly close to Chabad and one of its most generous donors–when he was flush. His jewelry business was known for costuming Hollywood and Broadway stars with lavish diamonds. His Israel Africa real estate company also built settlements in the Occupied Territories. Leviev, known for his right-wing politics, might have facilitated Abramovich’s interest in supporting the settlement enterprise.
A Congressional investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U. S. election turned up a vast trove of documents about figures who played key roles. They were given to Buzzfeed, which shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The Israeli reporter associated with the Consortium is Uri Blau, who broke the Elad-Abromovich part of the story in Haaretz. He also collaborated on the BBC report.
The documents are banking reports of suspicious account holder transactions filed under a regulation called FINCEN. Through them, Blau learned that Abramovich was the largest single donor to the Israeli settler ethnic-cleansing enterprise run by Elad. He donated $110-million over a fifteen-year period, which amounted to half the total donations the organization raised.
Abramovich, who also owns the Chelsea Football Club, is worth an estimated $13-billion. The Jewish Chronicle estimates he has given about $3-billion to charity “over the years” including $600-million to Jewish causes. He became an Israeli citizen in 2018. Considering his charitable giving was over an extended period of possibly two decades or more, this is not an especially impressive record.
Abramovich began his business career in exceedingly modest circumstances:
[He began by] selling imported rubber ducks, retreading tires – but he subsequently set off on a path that many other oligarchs followed.
In 1995, with the help of Moscow-born Jewish tycoon Boris Berezovsky and his Jewish-Georgian partner, businessman and politician Badri Patarkatsishvili, Abramovich acquired the controlling interest in Sibneft, one of Russia’s largest oil companies. According to associates, he did that in stages: At first he gave the Russian government a $100 million loan in exchange for shares, and later went on to buy the entire company by winning a series of tenders.
…Over the years, Abramovich entered Russia’s aluminum market, characterized at the time by fierce competition over control of the profitable mines.
The FINCEN reports were filed by Deutsche Bank, which apparently provided banking services for the Abramovich offshore accounts, and transferred the funds to the Israeli group. News reports say that $1.3-billion in suspicious transactions were uncovered for a single Dutch bank. For a guy worth $12-billion, that’s a considerable portion of his wealth. It’s worth noting that this is the same bank which loaned Donald Trump hundreds of millions to finance his real estate holdings.
Returning to Elad, it is a shady outfit which steals Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem through legal subterfuge and evicts tenants and replaces them with nice kosher Jewish families. It also sponsors archaeological digs designed to “prove” historical Israeli Jewish claims to full sovereignty over Jerusalem. It also builds slick tourist magnets designed to promote “heritage tourism,” bringing Jews and evangelicals to museum-style exhibitions touting these same supposed historical claims. Elad’s goal is to completely eliminate a Palestinian presence in Jerusalem.
It is exceedingly well-financed through tax deductible contributions made by wealthy Diaspora Jews like Abramovich. In 2018, Elad spent $30-million on its activities. Its U.S. non-profit affiliate, Friends of Ir David, raised $4-million in that year. The charity has real estate holdings worth nearly $100-million, of which $35-million is properties maintained for Jewish settlers. During the fifteen-year period covered by the banking reports, Elad doubled the number of settlers living in East Jerusalem and increased the number of tourists visiting its “heritage sites” by almost three times.
Abramovich donated $110-million to Elad through a murky web of four offshore entities registered in the Virgin Islands. This in turn financed the group’s fraudulent “purchases” of Palestinian homes, lawsuits designed to secure properties from Palestinians, the resettlement of Jewish settlers in them, and security necessary to protect the settlers living amidst tens of thousands of hostile Palestinians.
Abramovich is not alone among Russian oligarchs in supporting right-wing Israeli causes. But his wealth dwarfs that of most others in his class, and so this development especially resonates.
Linda Furr says
It’s discouraging to know even more of how the world’s wealthy are undercutting any semblance of morality developed through history. When will the moment arrive when the masses will demand that natural resources belong not to greedy individuals but to the people of a nation to preserve for future generations?
Roman Abramovich may have to explain source of wealth to get UK visa | The Guardian – May 21, 2018 |
Chelsea owner Abramovich immigrates to Israel, becomes country’s richest citizen | Times of Israel – May 28, 2018 |
As a new citizen, Abramovich is exempt from taxes in Israel on income earned abroad for 10 years, and need not declare the sources of that income for the same period.
After Soviet Union collapsed there were two instances which could provide the protection and start capital to these new “entrepreneurs” in their absurd successful wealth collection (=stealing) projects. The most important was organised crime (Russian Mafia) and later the heirs of the old security apparatus who mamaged to return the states role. The leaders of Russian Mafia in Russia and Ukraine were Jews. They did choose the suitable people with a flexible moral to be in the focus in the performation the “collection and concentration” operations. That explains the incredible huge amount of Jewish oligarchs from Russia, Ukraine and other soviet states.
In the 90’s it was not difficult to establish a successful business in the region. The problem came when the new business begun to make money and grow. Then emerged those “people” who made the business proposition – give us the majority ownership of your business or prepare for the funeral of your family. That made possible to create in a couple of years those massive concentrations of Soviet assets in hands of those oligarchs. When the concentration was performed much of the financial assets and ownership was transferred to western/international tax havens and the oligarchs got new citizenship in western countries and Israel. When Putin’s gang managed to get the power this massive asset reorganisation management system was partly stopped and Russian economy begun to get more normal “western” forms and oligarchs had to adopt new more state respecting “rules” in the game or leave the country permanently. However total reorganisation the financial and industrial order created in the wild years of 90’s was already to late.
Richard Silverstein says
I agreed with everything you wrote in your comment up to the passage above. Whoa, that’s a wild bit of revisionist history. Putin introduced “more normal western forms?” Is that what the Russian economy is today? A “more normal western economy?” The oligarchs are respecting the “rules of the state?”
It’s also worth noting that Jews were not the only oligarchs. There were/are non-Jewish oligarchs as well.
I don’t want to get into a disputation about Putin as we’ve had our disagreements on this in the past. Nor is Putin the subject of my post. Do not reply to this post.
Not all Soviet oligarchs were/are Jews, nobody claimed that. Jews represented about 0.4 percent of Soviet Union’s population in 1989. The majority of those oligarchs created in the 90’s are Jews. The seven oligarchs who controlled 50% of Russia’s economy during the 1990s, six were Jewish: Boris Berezovsky, Vladimir Guzinsky, Alexander Smolensky, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Mikhail Friedman and Valery Malkin.How they managed to get their economical power is essential and the role of organised crime is avoided in the analysis of this “process”.
I have worked as a bank economist, studied also soviet trade as one of the subjects in university. I live 200 kilometres from the Russian border, I have visited several times Soviet Union and Russia. I know some Russians and people who have made business in Russia. Russia is hardly today a total dictatorship. Equally USA (or Israel) is today no model of democracy and equality.
Richard Silverstein says
@ SimoHurrtta: While you mentioned the Jewish oligarchs you neglected to mention those who enabled them, and without whom they could never have become oligarchs: Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin. Neither Jewish. Oh and btw, Putin’s wealth far exceeds the wealthiest of the oligarchs. Estimates put it in the range of $50-200 billion.
Well, of course it maintains the vestiges of democracy. There are elections, of sorts. THere are a few dissenters (those who haven’t yet been poisoned to death). As for Israel and the U.S., I would never proclaim either a “model” of anything. But the U.S. is a far freer country despite its many failings.
As I wrote earlier, I do not wish to prolong this. Putin is not the subject of the post or of this blog generally. I’d like to keep it that way.