‘Londongrad’: spy attack shines spotlight on kleptocratic haven


“Kleptocracy at its worst” is how US Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently characterized dealings at 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a heavily indebted state development fund currently under investigation for fraud by the US Department of Justice (DoJ), the Asia Times reports:

The fund, created and until recently oversaw by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, has been at the center of ongoing embezzlement probes in multiple countries since 2015. But while the embattled premier plays down the evolving scandal in an election campaign season, new overseas asset seizures are keeping it in the headlines.


The apparent poisoning of former KGB colonel and MI6 double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the UK shines a spotlight on London’s role as a kleptocratic haven, AFP reports.

Roman Borisovich, an anticorruption campaigner, who organizes “Kleptocracy Tours” says ‘Londongrad’ is attractive “primarily because of the ease of acceptance of dirty money“.

The spy attack followed a deeply sinister statement by President Vladimir Putin, notes one observer. In a wide-ranging attack on the West, he said: “Those who serve us with poison will eventually swallow it and poison themselves.”

The attack is also a reminder that, following the Soviet Union’s collapse, “rather than embrace free-market capitalism that could have brought liberty and prosperity to the Russian people, the governing elite – the ‘nomenklatura’ and party apparatchiks – turned their country into a kleptocracy run by the Russian equivalent of the mafia.”

As a KGB spy during the Soviet era, Putin maintained ties to organized crime, according to Karen Dawisha, author of Putin’s Kleptocracy; Who Owns Russia? As Russia’s president and leader since 2000, he made himself one of the wealthiest men in the world, with an estimated net worth of tens of billions of dollars.


The Global Magnitsky Act is a powerful new tool for deterring human rights violations and fighting corruption, the Helsinki Commission adds:

Presence on this list freezes any U.S. assets an individual may hold, blocks future transactions within the U.S. financial system, and bans any travel to the United States. By sanctioning individuals who engage in the worst abuses of power, the United States at once hardens its own system to external abuse while extending moral support and solidarity to those whose fundamental freedoms are curtailed or denied.

At a forthcoming workshop, sanctions experts will describe, from an operational perspective, how the U.S. government identifies, vets, and ultimately sanctions individuals. They also will discuss the evidentiary standards for sanctioning human rights violators vs. those engaged in serious acts of corruption. Finally, panelists will share investigative techniques, communications strategies, and responses to aggressive tactics used to intimidate human rights and transparency advocates.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018 3:00 p.m.  Capitol Visitor Center, Room SVC 212-10, Capitol Hill, Washington, DC.

Panelists include:

  • Rob Berschinski, Senior Vice President, Human Rights First; former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
  • Brad Brooks-Rubin, Managing Director, The Sentry; formerly with the Departments of State and Treasury
  • Bill Browder, Founder and Director, Global Magnitsky Justice Campaign
  • Mark Dubowitz, CEO, Foundation for Defense of Democracies
  • Adam Smith, Partner, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; formerly with the National Security Council and Department of Treasury
  • Josh White, Director of Policy and Analysis, The Sentry; formerly with the Department of Treasury

Live Webcast: www.facebook.com/HelsinkiCommission

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