Russia’s anti-corruption protests ‘likely to be large’ as ‘Laundromat’ highlights kleptocratic rule


Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny today declined Moscow city authorities’ proposal to hold an anti-corruption rally on 26 March in the Lyublino or Sokolniki districts of the capital, instead calling for his protesters to hold the rally on Tverskaya Street in the city center.

Navalny, who in December 2016 announced his bid for the 2018 presidential election, called on his supporters to hold anti-corruption protests in over 70 cities across Russia, mostly in regional centres. This follows the publication of a video by Navalny on 2 March, in which he alleged top-level corruption in the Russian government, IHS Jane’s Country Risk Daily Report adds.

Credit: NY Times

Three years after the “Laundromat” was exposed as a criminal financial vehicle to move vast sums of money out of Russia, journalists now know how the complex scheme worked – including who ended up with the $20.8 billion and how, despite warnings, banks failed for years to shut it down, according to the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project. Research for the first time paints a fuller picture of how billions moved from Russia, into and through the 112 bank accounts that comprised the system in eastern Europe, then into banks around the world.

Black cash for black ops

Most of this appears to be the run-of-the-mill fraud, tax evasion, and capital flight of a kleptocracy. But for Russia, crime and corruption are also often simultaneously used as weaponized tools of statecraft, notes RFE/RL analyst Brian Whitmore:

And it’s hard to imagine a money-laundering operation of this magnitude, involving major Russian banks and figures with ties to the Russian government and security services, that isn’t at least tacitly Kremlin-sanctioned.

Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russian organized crime and security services and a senior research fellow at the Institute of International Relations in Prague, notes that “most of this $20 billion haul was, of course, just the corrupt proceeds of corrupt people doing corrupt things,” but some of it “seems to have been put to political use by the Russian security services.”

As the Kremlin continues its crackdown on journalists, activists, and civil society, voicing opposition in Vladimir Putin’s Russia is not only becoming more challenging, but a matter of life or death, notes The Atlantic Council. It will bring together a panel of experts to discuss the current state of human rights in Russia and shed light on the great challenges that Russian human rights activists continue to experience.

Welcome remarks:

Ambassador Paula Dobriansky, Senior Fellow, The Future of Diplomacy Project, John F. Kennedy Belfer Center for Science, and International Affairs, Harvard University. Keynote remarks: The Hon. Benjamin Cardin US Senator for Maryland US Senate; The Hon. Marco Rubio US Senator for Florida US Senate. A conversation with:   Mr. Carl Gershman (right) President National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group; Mr. Vladimir Kara-Murza (left) Vice Chairman Open Russia; Mr. Tomasz Malinowski Former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor US Department of State. Moderated by:  Dr. Alina Polyakova Director of Research, Europe and Eurasia Atlantic Council


Print Friendly, PDF & Email