Category Archives: Russia

The Gazprom Case: Good Timing or Bad Timing?

Just a week after having sent a Statement of Objections (SO) in the frame of the antitrust case against Google, EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager sent yesterday an SO in the frame of the case against Gazprom. The decision to send a charge sheet against the Russian gas company came after almost three years of investigations, which have also seen EU antitrust officials raiding Gazprom offices in central and eastern European countries.

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Why Putin Doesn’t Need To Pander To The West

When sanctions were imposed and tightened against Russia, and oil prices plunged, conventional wisdom in the US press was that the Russian people would not tolerate a decline in living standards and therefore Putin’s days were numbered. In fact, Putin’s approval ratings rose and even most of his opponents in the Moscow intelligensia fell in behind him. Some analysts pointed out that sanctions seldom succeed and were unlikely to work on Russia. That view has become more prevalent as Russia has proven to be less dependent on oil revenues than widely assumed and Russia’s foreign currency reserves have stabilized.

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John Helmer: Auction House Bonhams, Sued Over Frauds and Forgeries, Casts Pall Over Russian Art Market

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.

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John Helmer: IMF Loan to Ukraine Props Up Failing Banks, Enriches Oligarchs

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.

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John Helmer: IMF Makes Ukraine War-Fighting Loan, Allows US to Fund Military Operations Against Russia, May Repay Gazprom Bill

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.

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