WHY US?

I was amused and bemused in equal measure by the photograph of Tatiana Akhmedova, a Russian, so no surprises there, with her solicitor Baroness Shackleton of Belgravia, formerly known as Fifi Charkham, otherwise known as the old slapper. Whatever else, Fifi is a character, how else can you account for her outfit on the steps of the Court of Appeal?  She is sporting a Tyrolean hat which no self-respecting Tyrolean would be seen dead in, and a top to toe black plastic outfit which squeaks like a scalded cat every time she moves.  I suspect she was elevated to the peerage for services to black bin liners.  No offence Fifi, but you look ridiculous.

That said, back to the plot.  Tatania is the wife of yet another oiligarch who has made her home here in Merry Olde England, quite why is not satisfactorily explained.  Without wishing to sound unwelcoming, why here, and why us?  What’s wrong with Uzbekistan?  Indeed, what’s right with Uzbekistan? How long have you got? We are awash with oiligarchs, these oileaginous Russians of dubious antecedents who rose to great wealth from humble origins, buying up great swathes of the Motherland’s natural resources with money they never thought they had.

Tatania’s husband is Farkhad, to be pronounced carefully, which presumably means something east of the Urals, and of course is a close friend of Vladimir Putin, the Tsar of all the Russias. He is also a close friend of yet another domiciled oiligarch Roman Thingamajig, who is also a close friend of Putin.  With friends like these, who needs enemies? Anyway, Farkhad started out in life selling sable furs, and it wasn’t long before he was collecting all the oiligarch trinkets so beloved of the vacuous super rich, such as homes here and there, and of course the mandatory super yacht and helicopter. How so I hear you ask, and I doubt if you’ll get a straight answer.

I don’t want to sound envious of oiligarchs and their shed-loads of money, and far be it from me to suggest any of it is ill-gotten gains, but they leave me cold.  Give me the likes of Bill Gates, until recently the richest man in the world before being pushed off his perch by Mr. Amazon, and their transparent acquisition of huge wealth.  Beyond that, and certainly the case with Bill Gates, it’s the use of his huge wealth to fund the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest private charitable foundation. It works to save lives and improve global health, and is working with Rotary International to eliminate polio.

Tatania has been awarded £453 million by the Court of Appeal as her share of Farkhad’s wealth, and good luck if she can get even a fraction of it.  But I find it astonishing and somewhat unsettling to have these disputes decided by the English courts when the protagonists have only very  tenuous links to our rule of law.  Putin is all things to all men, best to leave these decisions to his wisdom and sense of fair play.

PS.  Since the publication of my blog, the Government has brought in Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWO) directed at Russian Oiligarchs, which allow the authorities (us) to recover property in the absence of a plausible explanation. So the likes of Farkhad will need to explain how he was able to generate a fortune in excess of £1 billion as a salesman of sable fur, when in this present climate you can hardly give it away.

David Osborne is the author of several humorous books on the law, and his latest, entitled Order in Court, is now available in all reputable bookstores and on Amazon.

OLIGARCHS GO HOME

With the obvious exception of fat cat lawyers, who presumably welcome them with open arms, Russian Oligarchs trooping in and out of the High Court in London is an unedifying sight.  They are here to squabble over money, what else, and money in shedloads!

In the recent past, we have had to endure the squabble between Roman Abramovich and Boris Berezovsky involving several billion dollars, and now we have Oleg Deripaska going head to head with Michael Cherney over protection money and the Russian Mafia.

Why us? Why here?

I blame Boris Yeltsin, who inherited Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika and made it his own.  He is rightly regarded as the man responsible for the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the creation of modern Russia.  I use the word ‘modern’ in its loosest sense.  But once achieved, Boris took to the bottle in a big way, and drank himself to death.  Before departing, he urgently needed cash to keep the vodka flowing, so he sold off Russia’s natural resources for a fraction of their value, and jumped up petty crook became billionaires overnight. Quite where they got the down payment in the first place remains a mystery, but one can only speculate.

I suspect that the reason these questionable characters have chosen London as opposed to Moscow is that they will get a fair hearing whatever the outcome. In Moscow, they play the game by different rules.

It is a sad reality that although the name has changed from the Soviet Union to Russia, the ground rules remain the same.  These ground rules are very simple: dance to Vladimir Putin’s tune and you win; dance to another tune and you lose, as Mikhail Khodorkovsky of Yukos found to his cost.  He is now festering in prison on trumped up charges, and every time he nears release, Putin and his lackeys find more charges to extend his term of imprisonment. He has only himself to blame.  He should have got out whilst the going was good and bought himself a Premier League football club.  Actually, with his money, he could have bought the entire Premier League and most of Belgravia.

Putin’s Russia is a democratic disgrace, yet we tolerate and even humour him. In five years’ time, we celebrate or mourn the demise of Imperial Russia, depending on whose tune you dance to. Compared to modern Russia, Imperial Russia must seem like a shattered dream.  OK, so they made a complete horlicks of the First World War, and if there is a lesson to be learned, keep the troops happy or they’ll turn on you. But since 1917, with the obvious exception of the oligarchs and Putin’s inner circle, it’s a miserable place to be.

I end with a quote from The Times: “These squabbles shed light on the extent to which Western capitalist systems have effectively laundered Russian behaviour, by ignoring the origins of so much Russian money.  The authorities are not blind to the risks posed to London, but do need to seek more transparency more often.”  As St. Paul wrote: “For now we see through a glass darkly…” and it’s not a pretty sight.