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  • The Secret Caretaker Part 1
    OCCRP Roman Anin, Olesya Shmagun & Dmitry Velikovksiy 03 April 2016

    As he walked on stage last week for a performance of the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra in the Great Hall of the Conservatory, it was clear he was special. The casual black satin shirt and outdated hair gave him an air of nonchalance, but the musicians stood and the crowd applauded with respect.

    As he launched into Ernest Bloch’s Schelomo, the musical voice of the Jewish King Solomon, his eyes closed as if in rapture, far away from the mundane cares of the world.

    Afterwards he was mobbed by fans, one of whom tried to talk business. But the maestro stopped him. “Please, I’m so far from all this. See, even my cello is second-hand.” It’s a well-worn theme; the maestro told the New York Times in 2014, “I’m not a businessman, I don’t have millions.”

    Sergey Roldugin leads a double life.
    In his public life, he’s a recognized master musician, a Russian People’s Artist and professor. His other incarnation is as a lifelong friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The ramifications of that life, until today, have been hidden from the world behind trusts and offshore companies that moved around billions of dollars, funneled “donations” from Russia’s richest businessmen into palaces and investments and controlled the activities of strategic Russian enterprises.

    In a way, Roldugin has not been lying. He doesn’t have millions. He has billions.

    How did a cellist manage to build this colossal offshore empire and is it really his? Novaya Gazeta reporters found some of the answer in the Panama Papers, documents obtained from a Panama-based offshore services provider called Mossack Fonseca. The documents were received by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and Novaya Gazeta.

    It was this investigation, which took more than a year to complete, that was targeted by the president’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov this week, calling it an “information attack against Vladimir Putin.”

    The President’s Best Friend
    Roldugin isn’t just a friend of the Russian leader, a status shared by many of Russia’s most financially successful people. He is perhaps Putin’s closest friend. In Putin’s best-known early biography, First Person: An Astonishingly Frank Self-Portrait by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Roldugin describes meeting the future president of Russia.

    “Volodya (Putin’s nickname) studied with my brother. I lived in a different city and when I came to Leningrad, my brother told me about Vovka. … I think that was 1977. We met and then never split. He’s like a brother. Back in the day when I had nowhere to go, I went to him and slept and ate at his place. So, yeah, we met.”

    In the book, Roldugin is mentioned more than almost anyone. He doesn’t just have insight into Putin’s life, he took active part in many of the most important events in it, starting in young manhood.

    The inseparable pair backed each other up in street fights in Leningrad, then a rough city. They went AWOL together when Roldugin served in the army and would ride around Leningrad at night in a tiny, dingy Zaporozhets car, singing songs. They went to the theater together with “that cute girl Luda” before her last name was Putin.

    He remembers Putin bringing his first, newborn daughter—Roldugin’s goddaughter–to a family dacha near Vyborg. “We went there and stayed together: Volodya, Luda, me, my wife … of course we celebrated Masha’s birth … We danced so hard in the evenings.”

    Unlike Putin’s other friends, many of whom have joined the Forbes list of wealthiest Russians during his rule, Roldugin’s fortune remained unknown until today, except for a minority stake in Rossiya Bank, known widely as the “bank of the president’s friends.”

    But thanks to the leaked documents from Mossack Fonseca, Novaya Gazeta reporters discovered that Roldugin’s offshore companies likely received money from companies close to the Russian oligarchy: the Rotenberg family, Suleiman Kerimov, Alexei Mordashov and other big businessmen across the country.

    Roldugin, the humble musician earned tens of millions of rubles per day from deals that experts say are fictitious, often using the stock of Russian state-owned companies. Then they invested these funds into strategic assets in the country and personal “fun” projects connected to Putin’s relatives and friends.

    æ, !

    Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


    • The Secret Caretaker Part 2
      OCCRP Roman Anin, Olesya Shmagun & Dmitry Velikovksiy 03 April 2016

      An Offshore Empire
      Roldugin controlled directly or indirectly a group of affiliated companies that controlled a significant share of a business empire that usually did one of three things:
      --dubious over-the-counter transactions with shares of the largest state-owned Russian companies such as Rosneft;
      --“donations” from major Russian businessmen often laundered through paper deals;
      --or preferential loans from the Cyprus-based RCB Bank, a large stake of which is controlled by the Russian state-owned VTB Bank.

      Records from Mossack Fonseca show that Roldugin owned Sonnette Overseas from 2007 until 2012 in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and International Media Overseas (IMO) in Panama. In these two companies, Roldugin was represented by St. Petersburg businessmen Oleg Gordin and Aleksander Plekhov, both of whom are affiliated with the heads of Rossiya Bank. Plekhov and Gordin, in turn, were stockholders in the BVI-registered companies Sandalwood Continental and Sunbarn Ltd. (see chart for details).

      Each offshore had its own role in a larger scheme. Some took out unsecured and, according to experts, suspicious loans from RCB Bank, and then redistributed funds to other companies for various uses. Others were used to control large stakes in Russian companies. Still others played technical roles, serving as conduits for money or places where uncollectible debts were dumped.

      Together, the companies all worked in a coordinated network in a scheme run by the same people in Rossiya Bank, owned by Putin’s closest friends and relatives. The documents from various businesses were often sent together in one bundle implying their work was coordinated. Many transactions were carried out and signed in a single day.
      Where’s the money from?

      According to the Mossack Fonseca documents analyzed by journalists from various organizations, the combined turnover from 2009 until 2012 of Sandalwood Continental alone was around US$ 2 billion. The 2009 reports state that its assets were valued at almost 18 billion rubles (US$ 266 million). The turnover of other companies was smaller, but still in the hundreds of millions of dollars. But where did they get so much money?
      “Selling” stock

      Much of it came from simple stock and contract manipulation of Russian state companies.

      For example, in 2010 Rodulgin’s Panamanian company, IMO, agreed to buy Rosneft shares from another offshore company (Dino Capital S.A.). The lawyers handling Roldugin’s business sent two contracts to Mossack Fonseca on the same day. One was for the purchase of stock, and the other cancelled the first contract. According to the contract, Rodulgin would earn US$ 750,000 if the deal did not go through, which he in fact did since both contracts were executed at the same time.

      There were similar deals with other companies affiliated with Roldugin according to email exchanges in the Mossack Fonseca data. These operations allowed the president’s old friend to make millions of dollars out of thin air. The technique is a tried-and-true scam used in Russia for years to launder money, pay bribes or reward friends. (Curiously, a similar approach, non-performance of contracts for purchase and sale of shares, was used by the fraudsters in the Magnitsky case, to create fictional obligations and then steal the profit tax from the budget).

      In some cases the agreements did not involve a cancellation penalty but a stock trade, but in every one of these cases reviewed by Novaya Gazeta, the cellist earne
      d a profit from the trade, which is highly unusual. His company bought stock in Russian companies and the next day sold the same stock back to the same people, but at a serious profit, which allowed them to make $400,000-500,000. Roldugin’s contracting partners always lost in these operations.

      Roldugin’s managers seemed to know ahead of time how the market would act, and how the price of a stock would change. But it wasn’t due to their skill.

      Novaya Gazeta talked to experts who said that, in reality, many of these deals may not have ever been done. Instead, deals like this are often just fake paper trails to explain payments from other sources.

      Some of these companies were initially connected to the Troika Dialog investment fund, which was controlled and run by Sberbank after the bank bought the Troika Dialog investment bank. Troika and Sberbank declined to comment.

      Mossack Fonseca never reacted or raised any serious questions to the activities of these offshore that were documented in the file.

      Reporters from the Swiss newspaper Sonntagszeitung showed documents from these deals to Mark Pieth, Professor of Criminal Law and Criminology at the University of Basel and a former member of the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering.

      “These Transactions are highly suspicious. They should raise every red flag possible for a bank. Especially if there are Russian parties involved and even more so, if one of them is a close friend of President Putin,” he said.

      æ, !

      Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


      • The Secret Caretaker Part 3
        OCCRP Roman Anin, Olesya Shmagun & Dmitry Velikovksiy 03 April 2016

        Kęstutis Jucevičius, the head of the Lithuanian Financial Crime Investigation Service, was adamant: “These operations have signs of illegal activity, maybe money laundering,” he told the Lithuanian website Some of these operations went through the Lithuanian bank Ukio.

        One reason the banks did not react to these suspicious transactions was because Roldugin’s companies held the money in foreign subsidiaries of Russian banks, which, according to documents, didn’t fully follow client-vetting procedures.

        For example, when IMO opened an account in 2014 in the Swiss subsidiary of Gazprombank, Roldugin, as a beneficiary, had to disclose whether he was a PEP (Politically Exposed Person), or acquainted with a PEP. In both cases the Russian cellist said “no”, even though the information that he was friends with Putin was well-documented publicly.

        According to expert Pieth, Gazprombank should have followed Swiss law and verified Roldugin’s claims.

        “But there is no sign what so ever that this has been done. If they had, the bank would probably have refused to open an account for the client. If the Bank accepted the false declaration about the Background of the client, it would have violated Swiss law.” Pieth says.

        “Donations” from businessmen.
        The ways important Russian businessmen interacted with Roldugin’s companies are reminiscent of those described in 2010 by Sergey Kolesnikov, who worked for friends of the Russian president responsible for building “Putin’s Palace” in Gelendzhik, a lavish, royal Italianate palace overlooking the Black Sea.

        After Kolesnikov left Russia, he wrote an open letter to then-president Dmitry Medvedev where he explained that Russian oligarchs made donations to the president, and 35 percent of that money moved into offshore accounts. In Roldugin’s case, the payments were not literal donations, but transactions of such dubious financial usefulness that they might be considered direct payments. Here are a few striking examples:

        In July 2007, Roldugin’s company Sonnette Overseas received a loan from another offshore company, Levens Trading, for US$ 6 million at a 2 percent yearly interest rate. And just about one month later, the creditor, for a repayment of US$ 1, forgave Roldugin’s debt. Levens Trading is connected to Russian businessman Alexey Mordashov. According to data from the Russian company register (USRLE), this offshore company owned 100 percent of Severstal Vtormet, a major scrap steel company.

        Other companies close to Mordashov made payments to Roldugin related companies too. For example, in 2009-2010, the Rodulgin-connected Sunbarn Ltd. signed several contracts for consulting services totaling US$ 30 million with the offshore companies Jabiru Consultants and Pearl Kite Trading.

        According to these contracts, Sunbarn Ltd. was supposed to provide information “about investment opportunities in Russia.” At least one of the companies that paid, Jabiru Consultants, was previously a shareholder in Mordashov’s Severstal structures.

        Mordashov was mentioned in Kolesnikov’s letter as one of the businessmen that donated money to Putin’s friends. Mordashov declined to discuss the Roldugin deals with reporters.

        The Mossack Fonseca data includes emails which contain contracts to provide loans to Sunbarn Ltd. from three offshore structures owned by Putin’s close friend and sparring partner, Arkadiy Rotenberg, and his son Igor. In 2016, Arkadiy Rotenberg was first on the Forbes list of the biggest state contractors with a total sum of state contracts at 555 billion rubles (US $8.2 billion).

        The contracts are all dated on April 25, 2013, and say that the Rodulgin-connected company Sunbarn Ltd. would receive a US$ 185 million loan for 10 years at 2 percent interest from Rotenberg. There are no other documents regarding this issue in the database, so it’s not clear if the agreements were enacted. Rotenberg refused to answer questions from Novaya Gazeta.

        Companies connected to another major Russian businessman, Suleiman Kerimov, also made indirect payments to a Roldugin-connected offshore. In two complex deals with Kerimov companies, Roldugin effectively received the rights to receive 4 billion rubles (US$ 59 million) and US$ 200 million respectively for a payment of just US$ 2.

        How this happened was tricky.
        In 2007, Tokido Holdings, an offshore company, loaned 4 billion rubles to National Telecommunications JSC (NTC), the largest Russian operator of cable TV and Internet. At that time NTC, belonged to Kerimov’s Nafta group. In 2008, Kerimov sold NTC to the National Media Group that belongs to Rossiya Bank, the bank of “the president’s friends”. But the debt to Tokido Holdings wasn’t paid off at that time.

        And then on a single day, Sept. 20, 2010, two deals were made. First, Tokido Holdings passed the rights to claim the 4 billion rubles owed by NTC to another offshore company, Desmin Holdings. Desmin sold the same right to Sandalwood Continental, connected to Roldugin, for US $1. In 2011-2012, NTC was bought by the state company Rostelecom. And Rostelcom ultimately paid off the 4-billion-ruble debt giving Roldugin a mighty windfall for a $1 investment.

        A similar scheme was enacted with another US$ 200 million loan from the very same Tokido Holding. Also in 2010, this debt was passed on from one offshore to another, until it ended up with Roldugin’s Sandalwood Continental, which, after paying US$ 1, received the right to claim $200 million.

        Such deals also took place with companies other than Kerimov’s. For example in 2011 Roldugin’s IMO paid US$ 1 for the right to demand another US$ 200 million from another BVI offshore, Ove Financial Corp. Reporters could not determine who was behind that company.
        Bank loans

        Another important source of finance for Roldugin’s offshore group were loans from the Cyprus-based RCB Bank, controlled by Russia’s state-run bank, VTB. The documents say that from 2010 through 2012, a credit line for a minimum of US$ 650 million was opened for Sandalwood Continental. The deal gave the offshore almost unlimited access to cash for any purpose.

        At the same time, credit agreements were signed in such a way that even Mossack Fonseca lawyers pondered the question of whether the bank would get that money back. Mossack Fonseca employees exchanged worried emails questioning whether such a contract should be signed especially when there was no clear understanding of the purpose of the loan and no collateral was put up.

        “These Loans do not seem to have a commercial background. There is no adequate security mentioned, something that normally would be written in the agreement,” said financial crime expert Pieth. In most of the loan contracts in the data, there’s no mention of security or collateral for the loans. Roldugin’s company, without any risk, received hundreds of millions of dollars from a subsidiary of a Russian state bank.

        A representative of RCB Bank told ICIJ that the bank follows all laws in its operation, so the «the assumption that RCB Bank Ltd is a so-called “pocket” for highly-ranked Russian officials is utterly unfounded and certainly does not correspond to the actual state of affairs” Besides that, the bank notes that it voluntarily handed over a request from ICIJ to the body responsible for fighting money laundering in Cyprus, for independent investigation.

        According to Pieth, the deals are reminiscent of those used by former Russian Communications Minister Leonid Reiman, whom European law enforcement bodies suspected of money laundering. “The Minister was a friend of Putin as well and the deals took place between 2007 to 2008. The agreements in this case look like they are from the same scheme,” said Pieth.

        Where did the Money Go?
        Part of the fortune in Roldugin’s name accumulated by his offshore companies was invested in Russia. These investments can be divided into two groups: for fun, such as resorts, yacht clubs, and palaces; and for purchasing strategic assets.

        æ, !

        Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


        • The Secret Caretaker Part 4
          OCCRP Roman Anin, Olesya Shmagun & Dmitry Velikovksiy 03 April 2016

          In 2011, Roldugin’s Sandalwood Continental lent around 200 million rubles (about US$ 3 million) in two loans to the Russian company Ozon. These contracts had “friendly” conditions. One of the loans was for 10 years, the other for 20 years, both at an annual rate of 1 percent.

          The next year, in 2012, Ozon acquired a large piece of land in the Priozersk district of the Leningrad region. Today, it’s the location of the mountain ski resort Igora. Last year, Reuters reported that this was the location of the February 2013 wedding of Putin’s daughter Katerina Tikhonova and Kirill Shamalov, son of the long-time Putin friend Nikolai Shamalov.

          Also in 2011, Sandalwood Continental lent 40 million rubles (about US$ 590,000) on the same “gentlemanly” terms to another Russian company, Laguna. Laguna has the same address as the Igora mountain ski resort. The company itself owns a yacht club on the shore of Lake Ladoga.

          Sandalwood Continental also loaned around 50 million rubles (US$ 737,000), again on favorable terms, to Nord Haus, a company that owns land and a hotel complex in the city of Sortavala, Republic of Karelia. Today this real estate, according to Rosreestr (the Federal Service for State Registration, Cadastre and Cartography), is owned by Dacha Vintera Ltd.

          Local blogs in Sortavala report that this is the planned location of a holiday house for Putin, but there has not been any official announcement or proof.

          All these Russian companies are connected, in one way or another, to Rossiya Bank and its co-owner, Yuri Kovalchuk, an old friend of the president. Representatives of Kovalchuk declined to answer ICIJ’s questions.

          Strategic assets
          Roldugin’s offshore companies controlled stakes in the country’s largest companies, including truck production and TV advertisement sales.

          Video International (VI) is Russia’s largest seller of television ads controlling some 70 percent of the advertising market at one point. It was founded by Mikhail Lesin, the former Minister of Press, and a presidential advisor. Lesin died last November under suspicious circumstances in a Dupont Circle hotel in Washington DC and authorities are investigating the matter.

          In 2010, business trade publications in Russia reported that VI was bought by Rossiya Bank. This purchase was preceded by a new law that affected the value of the company by restricting the amount one company could own to 35 percent, half of VI’s existing share of the market. Rossiya bank bought control of the company after its value dropped. Among the buyers were Roldugin’s offshore companies.

          According to Rosstat (Russian Federal State Statistics Service), 20 percent of Vi belongs to the Cyprus-based Med Media Network. The Mossack Fonseca database reveals the sole owner of Med Media Network is Roldugin’s IMO. When IMO opened an account in the Swiss Gazprombank, Med Media Network was noted as the company’s only subsidiary. An account opening memo noted that Med Media Network has to pay almost 270 million rubles (US$ 4 million) in dividends to its parent company.

          Vi did not answer reporters’ questions.

          For many years a large stake in KamAZ, the largest producer of trucks in Russia, was owned by Cyprus-based Avtoinvest Ltd., owned by the Troika Dialog investment fund. In 2008, Troika increased its stake in the truck manufacturer to almost 51 percent. But the Mossack Fonseca documents show Troika used several hidden agreements to give away much of its interest to more influential players including Roldugin.

          In 2007 Troika handed over all the rights for managing Avtoinvest Ltd. to an offshore company named Avto Holdings Ltd. According to the agreement, Avto Holdings got the right to participate in Avtoinvest shareholders meetings, appoint and dismiss the director and to take 95 percent of the dividends. Basically, one of the main KamAZ stakeholders gave control away to an unknown offshore. And 15 percent of that unknown offshore belonged to the cellist Roldugin through his company, Sonnette Overseas.

          Avto Holdings also had a secret 10-year option agreement to buy 100 percent of Avtoinvest for just $100,000 allowing them to control the lagest KamAZ stakeholder.

          Similar agreements between Troika and offshore companies affiliated with Roldugin existed regarding the stock of AvtoVAZ, which manufactures the iconic Lada car. These agreements were different just in dates, names of the companies, stakes and sums of money. But the point remained: offshore companies affiliated with Putin’s friend had privileged rights to control large stakes in strategic Russian enterprises, to receive dividends, and to buy these stakes for laughable sums.

          The Kremlin declined to substantially answer questions related to this investigation.

          Instead Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary, called a special briefing where he warned of what he called “an attack on the president.” “We’ve received documents from an organization that calls itself an international consortium of journalistic investigations, which includes various publications and journalists from various countries. We’re confident that it’s not just journalists, but representatives of other organizations and services. They’re planning to publish some new opuses in the next few days in Germany, the US, UK, France, Switzerland, Russia and several other countries. We consider these articles to be “zakhazukha” (a paid article), Peskov said.

          Rodulgin Responds
          Reporters from Novaya Gazeta met Roldugin after his concert and the cellist invited them into his dressing room. When they asked him about offshore companies, he thoughtfully dodged the question: “Guys, honestly, I can’t comment at this time. I have to take a look and find out what I can say and what I can’t.”

          “I understand the topic is serious. Do you do business or not? Where’s the money from? Whose are they? I know all this. This is all delicate,” the cellist said.

          Reporters asked Roldugin about specific offshore companies, as well as their deals with well- known Russian companies such as KamAZ, the AvtoVAZ, Vi and others, and whether he had anything to do with it.

          “I was connected to this business long ago. Before Perestroika. It happened. And then it grew and these things happened,” he said.

          However, most of these transactions occurred between 2006 and 2009, many years after perestroika.

          “This money is also used to subsidize the House of Music,” he said, referring to a music school where Roldugin serves as director in St Petersburg. He promised to talk to reporters in a few days but did not answer calls after that.

          Novaya Gazeta asked a person from Roldugin’s circle for one word to characterize the famous Russian cellist. Without hesitation he replied: “Call him the ‘caretaker’. That works”. The Secret Caretaker - The Panama Papers
          Who knew that playing the cello was so lucrative?

          Reverberations around the American names yet. I suspect the US wave is yet to come.

          Last edited by Hannia; 4th April 2016, 19:32.

          æ, !

          Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


          • Report: $2 billion in offshore accounts linked to Putin
            UA WIRE Monday, April 4, 2016 1:32:16 PM

            Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle has developed a network of secret offshore companies that possess at least $2 billion in funds that were withdrawn from Russia as stated in the Panama Papers investigation, published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism (ICIJ) on Sunday, April 3rd. The organization includes, among others, three German media outlets; Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, NDR TV-channel and the magazine Stern.

            According to the journalists’ investigation, one of the participants in Putin’s offshore network is his friend, cellist Sergei Roldugin. It is he who is called the owners of the companies and arranged for the transfer of tens of millions of dollars into their accounts.

            The authors of the investigation refer to an anonymous source that provided the Süddeutsche Zeitung with information from Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian legal firm and one of the leading offshore recorders in the world. The information includes email correspondence, official documents, bank statements, copies of passports and other documents related to nearly 214,000 companies, most of which are located in Panama and the Virgin Islands. Now the journalists have at their disposal information revealing a total of about 140 world politicians with offshore accounts. UAWire - Report: $2 billion in offshore accounts linked to Putin

            æ, !

            Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


            • Report: Poroshenko created three offshore companies to evade taxes
              UA WIRE April 4, 2016 9:07:49 AM

              Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko still hasn't fulfilled his promise to sell his shares in the confectionery corporation Roshen, which he gave to Ukrainian voters on the eve of the presidential election. Instead, according to the materials released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism (ICIJ) on Sunday, April 3, the financial and legal advisers of the Ukrainian leader created several offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands, Cyprus and the Netherlands, to evade taxes.

              In addition, the investigators note in the so-called Panama Papers, Poroshenko could have violated Ukrainian legislation. In particular, the Head of State did not mention his new offshore company in his tax declaration in 2014. There is no information about this company in the declaration for 2015 too. According to the ICIJ, as of December 8th, 2015, Poroshenko remained a direct owner of shares of the company Prime Asset Partners Ltd, registered in the British Virgin Islands.

              According to Executive Director of Transparency International in Ukraine, Oleksii Khmara, this could be a violation of the Constitution, which forbids the President from engaging in business, as well as a violation of anti-corruption legislation, under which private commercial activity is banned for all officials.

              The trust is not there yet

              The investigators also reported that Poroshenko deceived Ukrainians on January 14th, 2016, when he stated that he transferred his shares in Roshen to a blind trust and no longer has control over the company. According to the responses received by the ICIJ, the trust is only spoken about in the future tense. Responding to the request of the journalists, a Financial Advisor of the President of Ukraine, Makar Pasenyuk, pointed out the difficulties with selling Roshen because of fears of potential investors related to a "very unstable political and economic situation." At the same time, the issue of trust management hasn't been removed from the agenda yet. "The corresponding shares of Roshen will be transferred to the trust after all legal formalities are settled," he said.

              The investigation published by the ICIJ mentions offshore accounts that belong to 12 other world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and the head of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev. Around 400 journalists from 78 countries were working on this project for about a year and more than one hundred publications participated The result of the investigation is called the Panama Papers, because it is based on the data that was received from the hacked servers of one of the leading offshore registrars in the world, the law firm Mossack Fonseca in Panama.

              The information includes email correspondence, official documents, bank statements, copies of passports and other documents connected to approximately 214,000 companies, most of which are located in Panama and the British Virgin Islands. UAWire - Report: Poroshenko created three offshore companies to evade taxes

              The company handling the sale of Roshen argued that using a foreign company was the only way to move it into a blind trust

              æ, !

              Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


              • Ukrainian Library director could get 10 years on new Russian charges
                04.04.16 | Halya Coynash HUMAN RIGHTS IN UKRAINE

                With the original ‘extremism’ and ‘incitement’ charges against Natalya Sharina, Director of the Ukrainian Literature Library in Moscow, proving just too sloppy and absurd, Russian investigators have come up with a new indictment. As her lawyer Ivan Pavlov puts it, once they’ve grabbed a person, a pretext will be found. One, unfortunately, that could bring a 10-year prison sentence.

                Sharina’s lawyers have been called to the Investigative Committee on April 5, and expect charges to be laid on two counts of alleged ‘appropriation or squandering’ under Article 160 (§ 3 & 4) of the Russian criminal code. Typically, the pro-Kremlin TV channel LifeNews has already reported details of these new charges. Citing the investigators, the channel says that there are two episodes involving Sharina’s alleged “unwarranted payment of lawyers’ services from state funds and fictitious employment of two legal consultants.” It is claimed that from 2011 to 2013 this involved the spending of over 1 million 400 thousand roubles.

                For the director of a library, the charges and the amount named are mind-boggling, but then, so were the previous ones. Pavlov says that the position taken by the investigators is familiar. The original charges are clearly falling apart at the seams, and they need to come up with something urgently. Or drop the whole shameful prosecution, but that, unfortunately, is not something Russia’s very politicized Investigative Committee does as the case of Ukrainian Serhiy Lytvynov has demonstrated.

                Natalya Sharina has been under house arrest since late October 2015. It was thanks to her lawyers Pavlov and Yevgeny Smirnov that the original attempts to hold her in detention were unsuccessful.

                As reported, on Oct 28, armed OMON police officers carried out searches of the Ukrainian Literature Library in Moscow, Sharina’s home, as well as that of the Head of the Association of Ukrainians of Russia, Valery Semenenko. Sharina was taken into custody.

                The following day Russia’s Investigative Committee reported that the 58-year-old librarian was accused of ‘inciting national enmity or hatred, and also denigrating human dignity” (Article 282 § 2b of the Russian Criminal Code) with those charges carrying up to 5 years. The Investigative Committee asserted that from 2011-2015, Sharina, as Director of the Ukrainian Literature Library, “circulated among visitors books by Dmytro Korchynsky designated by the court as extremist material and prohibited for use”.

                The Investigative Committee also claimed that printed matter containing “calls to anti-Russian state and anti-Russian propaganda” had been removed. There is no information as to what this was, and the library staff clearly believe only one book by Korchynsky, which was not in the library, was purportedly ‘found’.

                In its statement declaring Sharina a political prisoner, the Memorial Human Rights Centre pointed out that Korchynsky himself had on many occasions addressed a pro-Kremlin youth camp in the Moscow region during the 2000s. He and his ‘Bratstvo’ organization are fairly notorious in Ukraine as provocateurs, and are suspected, with cause, of having been used to provoke police backlash in the recent past.

                Only one book by Korchynsky is on Russia’s substantial list of ‘extremist’ materials, so the Investigative Committee’s mention of ‘books’ is already manipulative.

                “The criminal proceedings against Natalya Sharina have taken place against the background of the anti-Ukrainian campaign continuing since Spring 2014 in the state-run media and in utterances made by public officials holding high posts in the Russian Federation’s leadership. One of the parts of this campaign is to initiate criminal cases against citizens publicly expressing a position on what is happening in Ukraine that differs from the official position or in any way linked with Ukraine. In our opinion, it is specifically in the light of this anti-Ukrainian campaign that the case of Natalya Sharina should be viewed, ” Memorial said.

                It called criminal prosecution of the director of a library over material (allegedly) held in the library and deemed extremist as new repressive practice.

                Memorial and all other human rights groups will surely be just as unconvinced by these new charges. Ukrainian Library director could get 10 years on new Russian charges ::

                æ, !

                Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                • Eastern Ukrainian town caught in the line of fire
                  UT UKRAINE TODAY Apr. 4, 2016

                  Avdiyivka is a strategic point between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed separatist forces

                  This is Avdiyivka in eastern Ukraine. A frontline town caught in the line of fire. The battle rages on here, not on the outskirts but almost in the middle of Avdiyivka.

                  The fighting is non-stop. From the edge of the town the soldiers constantly hear a barrage of fire from the Russian-backed separatist forces. The Ukrainian military is trying to defend its position as much as it can, but servicemen say it's hard without knowing precisely how many enemy troops are out there.

                  'The Genie', Ukrainian soldiers: "They're somewhere across the line. Behind the building, that's where they're at... and our troops are trying to get them out of there."

                  The number of Russian-backed separatist forces is unknown to Ukrainian servicemen. They say, during the night there are usually two groups. Those, that attempt to surround them, and those that shoot at them simultaneously.

                  Locals claim the bullets are non-stop from both sides. They blame the Russian-backed separatist forces as well as the Ukrainian army. Most, just want peace and quiet back.

                  Ukrainian soldiers think the opponents won't leave Avdiyivka alone since the town is a strategic point between Ukraine and the occupied territory of Donetsk region. Eastern Ukrainian town caught in the line of fire - read on -

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                  • 17:19 04.04.2016 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
                    Poroshenko delegated management of his business assets to consulting companies

                    Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko has stressed that he transferred the management of his business assets to consulting and law firms and is expecting these organizations to provide explanations to Ukrainian and foreign media in response to their queries.

                    "On becoming president, I moved away from managing the assets, having entrusted this business to appropriate consulting and law companies. I expect them to provide exhaustive explanations for the Ukrainian and international press," reads a statement published on Poroshenko's official Facebook account on Monday.

                    Talking about declaring of his incomes, expenses and liabilities of a financial character, the head of Ukrainian state stressed that he took seriously official declaration of his income, expenses and liabilities of a financial character.

                    "I'm the first official in Ukraine, who has a serious attitude towards declaring of his assets, tax payment and the issue of the conflict of interests, which I settle under the Ukrainian legislation and international private law," he said.

                    According to an investigation by Ukrainian journalist Anna Babinets as part of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which was made public on the Hromadske TV channel, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko did not mentioned in his declaration of income, expenses and financial obligations for 2014 that he had established a company in the British Virgin Islands.

                    When asked why this company was not included into Poroshenko's income declaration, Makar Paseniuk, managing director of ICU investment company, who is authorized by the Ukrainian presidential administration to communicate with media in the matters related to Poroshenko's business affairs, said the shares of the Prime Asset Partners Limited have no par value. In accordance with the requirements for the declaration of incomes and property as of 2014, only the shares which had some nominal value needed to be included in the declaration, he added.

                    However, the documents obtained by OCCRP show that starting from the registration date of August 21, 2014, Prime Asset Partners Ltd.'s shares had a total value of $1,000 and Poroshenko was listed as the sole shareholder. However, in his declaration for 2014, the president left a blank space in the section 'contributions to the charter capital of the company, including those abroad.'

                    Meanwhile, Paseniuk said that there was more than one offshore company.

                    "Prime Asset Partners Limited was founded in the summer of 2014 in the course of corporate restructuring, which was a preparatory stage for the further sale of the Roshen Group. After its establishment, the company has not carried out any activities other than those mentioned below. In the fall of 2014, Prime Asset Partners Limited established CEE Confectionery Investments Limited in Cyprus, which in turn founded the Roshen Europe BV company in the Netherlands," the report says.

                    Poroshenko's legal advisers justify the creation of such a group of companies by the president. They say this was done "in keeping with the market practice in Ukraine for the companies which are to be sold to strategic investors."

                    According to editor for the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Program Drew Sullivan, the information about Poroshenko's offshore companies are part of the Panama Papers, which are the documents obtained from a Panama-based offshore services provider.

                    Roshen Corporation includes confectionery factories in Kyiv, Kremenchuk and Vinnytsia, and the dairy producer Bershadmoloko. It also runs confectionary facilities in Klaipeda (Lithuania), Lipetsk ( Russia), and Bonbonetti Choco (Hungary).

                    Poroshenko in January 2016 stated he signed a contract, according to which he transferred his stake in Roshen Corporation to an independent "blind" trust."
                    Poroshenko delegated management of his business assets to consulting companies

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                    • THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL Halya Coynash April 4, 2016
                      The New York Times Was Right about Ukraine’s Corruption Problem

                      Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko dismissed the recent New York Times editorial “Ukraine’s Unyielding Corruption” as “part of the hybrid war against Ukraine” at a press conference on April 1 in Washington, DC. The editorial’s tone and substance were certainly lightyears away from the President’s own rosy assessment given on March 31. So who’s right?

                      While many reforms have been carried out, others have scarcely begun. Some, including those aimed at injecting new blood into the prosecutor’s office, were sabotaged by Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, whose belated departure prompted The New York Times editorial.

                      The editorial board was, if anything, more charitable of the President’s motives than many Ukrainians who assume Poroshenko’s main criterion for the prosecutor general and the next prime minister is the candidate’s loyalty. Under every administration in modern Ukraine, the prosecutor’s office has been used to exert political control and settle scores with opponents. There is no evidence that Poroshenko plans to change that. There’s speculation that both acting Prosecutor General Yury Sevruk and Deputy Prosecutor General Yuriy Stolyarchuk who are seen as close to Shokin are likely replacements.

                      Reformers celebrated when Ukraine’s parliament sacked Shokin on March 29, although it took far too long. Plus Shokin managed to fire his last remaining corruption-fighting deputy, David Sakvarelidze, hours before he got sacked. (Poroshenko claims that he didn’t authorize Sakvarelidze’s dismissal, but he didn’t promise to reinstate him either.) Shokin’s office also recently launched criminal proceedings against another reformer, Deputy Prosecutor General Vitaly Kasko, who resigned in frustration on February 15. Kasko said that the office couldn’t be reformed from within. The Prosecutor General’s Office has also initiated a bizarre probe into the Anti-Corruption Action Center (AnTAC), which has publicly criticized Shokin and his closest allies.

                      The government deserves credit for finally setting up the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NAB) with well-chosen staff, but it too has faced obstruction from the Prosecutor General’s Office. Shokin tried to prevent prosecutors from coming under the jurisdiction of the NAB. On March 23, AnTAC board member Vitaliy Shabunin accused Shokin of issuing instructions that forbade prosecutors from passing cases to the NAB and the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor. The Prosecutor General’s Office has denied the allegations, however NAB Director Artem Sytnik stated in March that the Prosecutor General’s Office has not provided them with the cases it requested.

                      Progress has finally begun on investigations into the crimes against Euromaidan activists with the creation of a Special Investigations Department. But its head Serhiy Horbatyuk has experienced consistent obstruction from the Prosecutor General’s Office.

                      Poroshenko claims that several criminal cases have been launched against ministers, governors, and MPs. But criminal cases have also been terminated, so the launch of such cases doesn’t guarantee that they will actually reach the courts.

                      It would be unfair to deny the achievements that the Poroshenko government has made against huge odds. The Yanukovych regime left a hollowed-out judiciary and law enforcement bodies, and the recovery process is slow. But that’s all the more reason for decisive measures and zero tolerance for those who block reform. Two years on, only a third of the twenty-two judges identified as having taken part in persecuting Euromaidan activists have lost their posts. The Skhemy investigative team also discovered that the eight judges about whom NAB had voiced corruption concerns had been given permanent tenure.

                      In Ukraine, political power has always come with considerable influence over the courts, the prosecutor, and the police. This has to change.

                      The government’s reluctance to relinquish control over the judiciary crosses party lines and prompted parliament to adopt a bill that Ukraine’s election watchdogs condemned as the “party dictatorship law.” The law allows political parties to effectively override the will of the voter and remove people from the party’s candidate list after the elections. If this were not enough, Poroshenko’s faction then stripped MPs Yehor Firsov and Mykola Tomenko, who had left the faction, of their mandate, citing a highly contentious constitutional norm which has been slammed by the Council of Europe. Concern is especially high since Firsov’s resignation from the faction was over alleged corruption by the same Ihor Kononenko whom Aivaras Abromavicius had named as his reason for resigning as Minister of Economic Development.

                      The New York Times was merely echoing the popular mood in Kyiv. If Poroshenko hopes to enhance his credibility, he must ensure that the new prosecutor general serves only the people and the law.
                      The New York Times Was Right about Ukraine’s Corruption Problem

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                      • Dutch gear up for the other EU vote giving Brussels a headache - Wednesday’s referendum on association agreement with Ukraine exposes rifts in attitudes towards EU amid tense ties with Russia after MH17
                        THE GUARDIAN Jennifer Rankin in The Hague 5 April 2016

                        The dividing lines of the referendum are clearly drawn. Supporters say a yes vote will deliver security and trade; opponents see a chance to wrest back control from the so-called undemocratic forces of Brussels. Accusations of lies and spin are batted around on both sides. Many voters are confused or indifferent.

                        This is not Britain, but the Netherlands. On Wednesday the Dutch will take part in the other referendum that is sending shivers through the EU establishment, a vote that has exposed bitter rifts in attitudes towards Brussels – and Moscow.

                        It is the country’s first referendum since 2005, when voters rejected the EU constitution. This time, unlike their British counterparts, the Dutch will not be voting on whether to leave or remain in the EU, but on the more obscure issue of an association agreement with Ukraine that aims to deepen trade and cooperation.

                        The treaty has already been signed by 27 other EU member states, approved by the Dutch government and has partly entered into force.

                        But the Dutch government was forced to call a non-binding referendum on the agreement after a coalition of Eurosceptic groups gathered 420,000 signatures, enough to trigger a popular vote. The petition was organised by GeenStijl, a satirical website best known for its irreverent takes on Islam and immigration, working with two Eurosceptic thinktanks.

                        “It’s supposed to be a warning to the EU that they suffer from a democratic deficit,” said Bart Nijman, an editor at GeenStijl, which translates as “No Style”. “I don’t really care if it is a yes or no,” he told the Guardian. “We forced this referendum because we want people to have a say and more direct democracy.”

                        Thierry Baudet, another leading figure in the no campaign, says he originally wanted a version of the UK’s referendum lock, a measure introduced by David Cameron that means any treaties or significant changes to EU lawmaking have to be approved by a popular vote.

                        The referendum lock failed, but Dutch lawmakers did pass a law that allows referendums if a campaign picks up 300,000 signatures.

                        A lacklustre campaign
                        The Ukraine treaty is an almost random pretext for the referendum, the first to come under the new law. In many ways it is a strange subject for a popular vote: 2,135 pages of dense legal text covering lofty hopes on the rule of law and human rights, to the humdrum business of trade tariffs on apricots to uranium ore.

                        In Ukraine, this was the document that started a revolution, but it has not fired up much political debate in the Netherlands.

                        The campaign has been slow to start. The news agenda leading up to the campaign has been dominated by the Brussels attacks; then the death of football legend Johan Cruyff shunted everything else off the front pages.

                        The latest poll by I&O and Dutch newspaper Volkskrant, which has been shared with the Guardian, gives the no campaign the edge, with 47% against, 36% in favour and 18% undecided (rounding brings the total to 101). An earlier poll commissioned by the foreign ministry showed both sides running neck and neck, while analysts caution that motivated voters tend to be overrepresented in the country’s internet polls.

                        “If I had to predict based on what we see now, I would say against will win,” the I&O senior pollster, Peter Kanne, said. But he pointed out that polls putting the no side ahead could spur yes supporters to the polling stations. “Many people, especially higher-educated people, they don’t like this referendum at all, they will only vote when they think no is going to win.”

                        Turnout is likely to be low. Kanne estimates only about 30% to 40% of the electorate will vote, far lower than the 63% turnout in the 2005 vote on the EU constitution, although enough to clear the 30% threshold required to make the referendum valid. The EU constitution “was much more concrete”, Kanne said: “Now we have a subject that is so vague and it is so unclear for people what a vote means.”

                        That chimed with some voters in The Hague. “It is very complex, it is very difficult … I have to read about it,” said one undecided female voter on her way to the central station. Her companion, 65-year-old Harry Lufting, said he would be voting yes because “it gives a chance to Ukraine to develop economically”. “I hope it will work out in a positive way but it is much too difficult to say,” he added.

                        Some people don’t want to vote at all. Xander, a project manager in his 40s, said he supported the association agreement but would not be voting because he disagreed with the idea of a referendum. “It should be about the subject itself, not about whether a few people get a referendum. That is my problem with it.”

                        Frans, a 58-year-old civil servant, said he planned to vote no “because it is important for a stable Europe that we have a neutral Ukraine … We are interfering in the sphere of the Russians and this is not needed.”

                        The Russian question
                        Ukraine may have been the pretext for the vote, but the country’s fate has been a serious discussion point in the campaign, with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, getting a walk-on part. One poster for the yes side features a cartoon of a wrinkly-faced Putin brandishing a pen and standing by a map of Europe with Ukraine coloured red: “Don’t let Putin finish his colouring. Vote yes on 6 April”

                        Relations between the Netherlands and Russia have been especially tense since Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot out of the sky by a Buk missile, killing all 298 people on board, including 193 Dutch citizens.

                        The no side has been accused of rehashing Kremlin arguments about Ukraine. “What is very clear is that the message being put out by the no campaign is very similar, if not identical to some of the things the Kremlin has been saying,” said Michiel van Hulten, a former Labour MEP and a spokesperson for the yes campaign.

                        Baudet rejects that charge but does largely blame the EU for the crisis in Ukraine. The 33-year-old author contends that the current situation in Ukraine “could easily have been prevented by completely different attitude and behaviour of the European Union”.

                        “We are not taking into account the reality of the economy there. Russia has blocked free trade with Ukraine as a consequence of the [association] agreement. The country is utterly divided … and the reforms we are going to get are largely paper reforms and in reality nothing will change.”

                        Meanwhile, Eurosceptics are crossing their fingers for a no vote. Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence party, who will be addressing activists for the no campaign in Amsterdam on Monday, recently said: “If you win your referendum, my goodness me, that’ll help in Britain too.”

                        Another headache for Brussels
                        Unsurprisingly, the vote has caused apprehension in the EU establishment, grappling as it is with multiple crises from migration to how to deal with Putin’s Russia. The president of the European commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, warned that a no vote could cause “a continental crisis”. The former European council leader Herman Van Rompuy said a victory for no would be a disgrace for the Dutch government that would make the Netherlands “a less trustworthy partner”.

                        The Dutch government is trying to take the heat out of the campaign. “The word [sic] ‘continental crisis’ is an overused word these days,” the foreign minister, Bert Koenders, said in a recent interview with the Guardian and four other European newspapers.

                        “It would be arrogant and not very democratic” to dismiss the vote, he said, but “if we would say at this point yes we will automatically follow [it], then from now on, it wouldn’t look like an advisory mechanism.”

                        “What I think is important is to define what this question is really about. It is not about accession to the European Union; it is not about billions of euros to the Ukraine. It is not about visa liberalisation,” he added. “I believe in the sense of the Dutch people to give the answer they find appropriate.”

                        The vote comes at a difficult time for the government, a fragile coalition of the country’s main centre-right and centre-left parties led by the prime minister, Mark Rutte. The government’s popularity has slipped amid the febrile backdrop of Europe’s migration crisis that has seen poll ratings spike for Geert Wilders and his far-right Freedom party. With elections due in March 2017, analysts think the government is playing it safe.

                        “The current Dutch government is in favour of the treaty but is not willing to campaign too strongly,” said Simon Otjes, a researcher at Groningen University. “They fear that if they campaign too strongly it will become a referendum about them.”

                        The coalition is unstable, he said, but negative polls mean the two sides prefer to stick together. “The polls are particularly negative for the Labour party, so it is unlikely that they will let the government fall because then they will lose the elections.”

                        Yes supporters despair at the government’s lacklustre campaign. “If a government has signed an agreement in Brussels, they need to be outspoken in the Netherlands about why they signed,” said Stientje van Veldhoven, an MP for the liberal D66 party, which is one of the most active yes vote campaigners. And her advice for prime ministers hoping to win a referendum? “They need a clear stance, because people need to trust them and they need to be accountable.” Dutch gear up for the other EU vote giving Brussels a headache | World news | The Guardian

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                        • By taking over state archives, Putin makes a serious error
                          EUROMAIDAN PRESS Paul A. Goble 2016/04/05

                          Vladimir Putin has committed many crimes, but his political tactics at least from his own point of view have been brilliant, keeping his opponents off balance and ensuring that he will retain the support of the Russian population. But now he has made what can only be described as an unforced error, one that is likely to come back to haunt him.

                          Yesterday, the Kremlin leader announced that he was taking personal control of Russia’s Federal Archives Agency (RosArkhiv), declaring that he is doing so because of the “special value” of documents contained there.

                          The fact that Soviet and Russian politics has often been about controlling the past in the name of controlling the future is no news, and it is certainly the case that the chief current defender of that country’s security services and their dark history should want to ensure that he has absolute control over documents that might be embarrassing or worse.

                          But that was true of his predecessors as well, and none of them chose to take direct control of the archives, not only because they viewed this as a technical issue but also because they were confident that they had subordinates who would do their bidding in that regard. By taking direct personal control, Putin has raised two serious questions:
                          --On the one hand and most immediately, are there things in the archives that are so threatening to him and his regime that he cannot risk having anyone else be in charge?
                          --And on the other and more ominously, is the circle of people on whom he can totally rely now narrowing to the point that he has no choice but to assume personal control?

                          That such questions will now be asked is beyond question, and the answers, even if they are speculative or uninformed, will harm Putin.

                          Consequently, the Kremlin leader, in this regard, has done something even worse than a crime: he has committed a serious political mistake – and it is certain to haunt him in the future.
                          By taking over state archives, Putin makes a serious error -- EUROMAIDAN PRESSEuromaidan Press |

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                          • Reaction to the “Panama Papers” — how Ukraine differs from Russia
                            EUROMAIDAN PRESS Vitaliy Portnikov 2016/04/05

                            "By the way, 86% of us do not support this re Evolution." Cartoon by Serhiy Yolkin

                            Drew Sullivan, founder of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Program (OCCRP) promised that the publication of the materials investigated by his organization would “change the world.” But there is one small inaccuracy in this journalist’s promise. Only the world that he is accustomed to can be changed. A world where there is an independent judiciary, free media and public opinion. Where, after all, there are real elections and the transfer of power.

                            For such a world, the publication of information on the off-shore firms of government officials, on suspicious transactions and mysterious “custodians” serves as the grounds for front page articles in newspapers, headline stories on television shows, statements by investigators and prosecutors. And even if the published documents do not lead to any real court actions, the party of the politician whose honesty is questioned is very likely to lose in the next election and the politician to begin a more or less honorable retirement.

                            Sullivan promised the Russian president’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov that he would be working until late evening. I suspect Peskov probably spent Sunday evening in a much less stressful state than Sullivan himself. What really happened? Novaya Gazeta, which exists solely to denigrate the saintly image of the most popular politician in Russia has published another accusation? The Western media has launched a tiresome diatribe about the “president’s friends”? Most Russian citizens will not even hear anything about this attempt to discredit Russia. And if they do, it will be presented as vile slander they have to live with. And, most likely, they will sympathize with the victim of all this villainy –targeted simply because he dares to protect Russia from its enemies. If Russia’s Prosecutor General’s office and the Investigative Committee of Russia take up the Panama matter at all, it will only be to punish the disseminators of this “slander and baseness.” And Russian media will not report on Putin and his friends. They will talk about Poroshenko. After all, blaming Reagan on the Red Square is an established custom of Russian democracy.

                            By the way, the reaction of Ukrainians to the information that their president had registered offshore companies demonstrates how modern Ukraine differs from modern Russia. Practically no one argues that the head of state can do anything he wants. No, the discussion is mainly about the degree of responsibility. About the political consequences — whether there will be any or not. About what the recently formed anti-corruption bodies should do. And both the supporters and opponents of Petro Poroshenko have no doubt that he is a citizen like everyone else. A citizen who is responsible for his actions and misdeeds.

                            This is the kind of world that Drew Sullivan can really change. Because, after all, it is not information itself that is important — any politician can get embroiled in offshore networks even from the most non-corrupt countries. It is the reaction to the information that is important. It is the existence of a society that wants to know this information, to discuss it and to draw conclusions that is important — a society with media capable of developing a subject in order to separate the real meaning of the documents from emotion and propaganda. It is the readiness of law enforcement and courts to respond that is important. Both the professional level of this discussion and the legal consequences are indicators of the maturity of a society. And the political consequences of any revelations are proof that the voters have reached their conclusions and placed the responsibility for the country with those who were at a distance from the epicenter of the explosion.

                            Only a world that can change and wants to change can be changed.
                            Reaction to the "Panama Papers" - how Ukraine differs from Russia -Euromaidan Press |

                            Translated by: Anna Mostovych
                            Source: Radio Svoboda

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                            • Yes to security in Europe
                              EUROMAIDAN PRESS Timothy Snyder 2016/04/05

                              The choice that Dutch citizens will make on 6 April is not only about a trade agreement between the European Union and Ukraine. It is about the future of the European way of life to which the Netherlands contributes so much.

                              Russia has adopted an open policy of dividing the European Union and undermining the security of its members, of which the referendum questioning the Association Agreement is simply a small part. Since the faked Russian parliamentary elections of 2011 and the protests by Russian citizens that followed, Russian leaders have defined pluralism and civil society as alien to Russia, treating them instead as implants from Europe that must be suppressed. Rather than simply oppressing Russian citizens at home, the Putin regime identifies the European Union as the source of these values, and seeks to destroy it.

                              In 2013, Russians proposed a Eurasian Union as an alternative to the European Union. “Eurasia” sounds bland in Dutch, but in Russian it refers to a tradition of presenting the West as decadent and Russia as the source of all true values. The founder of the contemporary Eurasian movement, Alexander Dugin, is a self-proclaimed advocate of fascism.

                              Eurasianism as politics began with the attempt to coerce Ukraine into joining the Eurasian Economic Union. When this failed, Russia invaded Ukraine, first from the south in spring 2014, and then from the southeast in summer 2014. In violating the territorial integrity of a sovereign state and annexing some of its territory, and in supporting terrorist activity within Ukraine, Russia violated essentially every major element of the European security order.

                              Aside from bringing about some ten thousand deaths and two million internally displaced people, the Russian intervention in Ukraine involved other war crimes, one of which directly affected Dutch citizens. According to the investigations carried out by Bellingcat and Correctiv, one of the numerous Russian military convoys to cross the Russian-Ukrainian border in 2014 was a detachment of the Russian 53rd Air Defense Brigade, which brought a BUK anti-aircraft missile launcher for use inside Ukraine against Ukrainian forces. On 17 July 2014, this BUK launcher evidently targeted and destroyed Malaysian Airlines Flight 17.

                              The Europe of today depends upon historical lessons drawn from the wars and the totalitarianisms of the past. Putin has rehabilitated the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, the Nazi-Soviet alliance of 1939 that began the Second World War. Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union jointly invaded Poland that September, and, after a joint victory march, divided its territory between them. The Soviet Union was still Nazi Germany’s ally when Germany invaded the Netherlands in May 1940. In rehabilitating the Hitler-Stalin alliance of those years, Putin presents both Stalinism and National Socialism as normal political systems, and the Second World War as normal European politics.

                              This should give pause for thought, not least because so much of Russia’s current attempt to destabilize Europe involves alliances with the far right. Russia has organized meetings of European fascists and funds the Front National in France. Its media support separatism in the UK and elsewhere, and Putin and Dugin both support Donald Trump for president of the United States of America. The Russian bombing of Syria drives Muslim refugees into Europe, where Russian proxies can then organize religious conflict — as in the entirely fake “Our Lisa” scandal in Germany earlier this year.

                              In the past two years, Russia has crossed lines that seemed impregnable, and violated taboos that seemed permanent. That one European country would invade another? That the 1930s would be presented as a useful model for the future? The next line to be crossed is the manipulation of democratic societies so that they choose the path towards weakness and poverty. This involves the massive deployment of cleverly prepared lies, the handiwork of people who seek to export the permanent confusion of the Russian media to Europe itself. When a Russian weapon apparently downed MH17 during a Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russian television had the audacity to claim that what had transpired was a failed attempt by Ukrainians to assassinate President Putin. Even as the bodies of the true victims were scattered across fifty square kilometers of countryside, Russians were instructed that their leader, and by extension Russia itself, was the true victim.

                              The people who manufacture such lies are now at work in Europe, targeting similar lies at the Dutch public, in the hope of generating an atmosphere of confusion and fear. The referendum of 6 April will not be the first. In November 2013, Ukrainian students, young men and women, went out to the streets to protest in favor of the Association Agreement. Ukrainian protestors knew full well that Ukraine was not about to become a member of the European Union. They simply regarded, and quite understandably, an Association Agreement as a step towards the kind of life that Europeans take for granted. They could see the point of the institutions that their Dutch counterparts value: an open society, the rule of law, free trade.

                              Bohdan Solchanyk, a young scholar whom I knew, was indistinguishable from young Dutch or German or French peers in outlook, in appearance, in references. He read poetry and worked on local history and read Tony Judt. With his beard, his earring, his beautiful girlfriend, his multiple languages, his habit of thoughtful deliberation, he was unmistakably a European of his generation. Unlike his peers in the EU, he believed that he had to protest for a normal and decent future.

                              In late 2013 and early 2014, under Russian pressure, the government of Ukraine had many of the protestors beaten, or kidnapped, or tortured, or finally shot. Bohdan Solchanyk was killed by a bullet to the brain from a sniper. In his referendum, the votes were counted in blood. Yet people persevered. After the mass murder that claimed the life of Bohdan Solchanyk and a hundred other protestors, the Ukrainian president fled in panic to Russia. A new government, legitimated by free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections, and with the support of the vast majority of the population, did sign the Association Agreement. The protestors’ cause, from the first, was nothing more than the normality that Dutch citizens can take for granted.

                              In the difficult task of reforming Ukraine, the hard-won Association Agreement is one of the major victories. What might appear to be a local Dutch question now has general significance. To vote “no” is to endorse the Russian effort to destabilize the European Union from within, and to encourage the continuation of Russia’s wars in the EU’s neighborhood. Dutch citizens are fortunate that they can still vote for European freedoms in the ballot boxes, rather than having to risk their lives on the streets. May it remain so.

                              Timothy Snyder: Yes to Security in EuropeEuromaidan Press |

                              Timothy Snyder is the Housum Professor of History at Yale University. His most recent book is Zwarte aarde. Geschiedenis van de Holocaust.

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                              • The Economist explains - What are the Panama papers and why do they matter?
                                Apr 4th 2016, 23:21 by S.N. THE ECONOMIST

                                BENJAMIN FRANKLIN had not heard of Mossack Fonseca when he observed “nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” and the Panama-based law firm might have changed his mind. Mossack is at the centre of a huge tax and money-laundering scandal, now coming to light thanks to the so-called “Panama papers”. What exactly are these papers and why do they matter?

                                Companies such as Mossack specialise in helping foreigners hide wealth. Clients may want to keep money away from soon-to-be ex-wives, dodge sanctions, launder money or evade taxes. The main tools for doing so are anonymous shell companies (which exist only on paper) and offshore accounts in tax havens (which often come with perks such as banking secrecy and low to no taxes). These structures obscure the identity of the true owner of money parked in or routed through jurisdictions such as Panama.

                                But authorities (and disgruntled ex-wives) just caught a break. Over 11m documents have been leaked from Mossack’s secretive offices. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) this weekend went public with its findings that the firm had, wittingly or unwittingly, helped clients evade or avoid tax, launder money or mask its origins. More astonishing than their methods, which are well known, was the scale of activity and the people involved. The 2.6 terabytes of data are thought to contain information about 214,500 companies in 21 offshore jurisdictions and name over 14,000 middlemen (such as banks and law firms) with whom the law firm has allegedly worked. Although by no means all of these are criminal or even shady, the first public examples make for telling reading. On the naughty list are people such as Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, who promised to sell his business interests on taking office. He seems to have merely transferred assets to an offshore shell. Other heads of government, such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Iceland’s Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson are suspected of hiding ownership of offshore assets by putting them in the names of friends or relatives. Mossack denies any wrongdoing, as does Mr Gunnlaugsson. A spokesman for Mr Putin has denounced the allegations as a case of “Putinophobia”.

                                After the initial naming and shaming, it will become clearer in the coming weeks who was using these structures for dodgy reasons. While examples of the offshore industry enabling dictators, terrorists and drug cartels will (rightly) capture much of the attention, it would be a shame if other miscreants escape. The global industry of service providers, which sell financial secrecy to those who can afford it, have in some cases done more than just feast on poorly designed tax policies. The Panama documents suggest that some actively looked the other way when faced with a less-than-clean client. An estimated 8% of the world’s wealth ($7.6 trillion according to Gabriel Zucman, an economist) is stuffed away in offshore accounts, most of it done perfectly legally, as a raft of public relations people hasten to say as their clients’ names are flung around in the press. But legal or not, the newspapers taking aim at Mossack and the like will strike a chord. They are in tune with contemporary sentiment: the fundamental disconnect between global elites and the rest, for whom taxes are as certain as death. The Economist explains: What are the Panama papers and why do they matter? | The Economist

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