We’ve said that fraud is the fastest growing business in the US, but the US is far from having a lock on that market. One of the proofs is the way our Richard Smith has turned chasing international scammers into a full-time activity.
Scamming has strong links to money laundering. That seems to have exploded as more and more of the global rich seek to move cash across borders in ways not readily tracked by tax men and border officials. The New York Times, for instance, did a major expose on high end real estate as a money laundering vehicle, focusing on one building, the Time Warner Center in Manhattan.
John Helmer looks at another nexus, that of art and very high end collectables, through the lens of auction house Bonhams. However, there are intriguing extra wrinkles with Bonhams which puts it closer to the Graham Greene world of shadowy dealing than is the norm for the art world. And since Bonhams is a major dealer in Russian art, the collateral damage extends to the Russian art market, as well as Bonham’s efforts to sell itself.
One reason for our continued coverage of the IMF generosity to Ukraine isn’t simply to demonstrate how the institution is bending its rules to support US adventurism. It’s also to highlight the striking contrast with the treatment of Greece. While Greece has a class of oligarchs that specialize in tax-evasion, Ukraine is widely recognized as a spectacularly corrupt country, to the degree that it makes Greece look like a paragon of virtue.
For the first time, an IMF loan is funding a country at war, and one that is an impossible basket case economically. It’s hard not to conclude that the IMF largesse served to solve the wee problem of getting Congress to approve funding for US adventurism in Ukraine.
We’re offering two posts on Ukraine tonight, in part because Greece dominated our coverage last week, and each post covers a different aspect of this devolving situation. Ilargi focuses on the thin, as in WMD-in-Iraq-like, justifications for escalation
Ukraine is going into an IMF program in even worse condition that Greece with its various loans from the Troika in 2010, and we can see how well borrowing more when you were already overindebted worked out for Greece. In addition, this interview with Michael Hudson makes clear that the loan to Ukraine is wildly out of line with IMF rules, making it painfully obvious that this “rescue” is all about propping up the government so it can continue to wage war rather than economic development.
Helmer’s deep dives into Ukraine’s corruption are a cross between Graham Greene underworldliness with a contemporary veneer of financial wheeling and dealing, plus lots of think tank laundered influence peddling. For those not up on the dramatis personae in Ukraine, Igor (also spelled Ihor) Kolomoisky is one of the wealthiest men in Ukraine.
One of the sorriest chapters in recent American history was how we allowed an unprecedented opportunity to assist Russia in managing the end of its Communist era to turn into a looting exercise by well-placed insiders, including advisors under contract to Harvard.
onathan Hay ran the day-to-day operations of the Russia Project. He was found guilty of violating three counts of the False Claims Act and was debarred from serving in USAID. But he’s managed to resurface in Ukraine, working in the local operations of a Polish think tank. Nicely played.