Con: U.S. should pursue own white-collar criminals before hypocritically lecturing Russia

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Wayne Madsen
Saturday, March 6, 2010
EDITOR’S NOTE: The writer is addressing the question, Should President Obama press Russia to release jailed oil tycoon, partner?

Rather than pressure Russia to release Mikhail Khodorkovsky and other so-called “political prisoners,” President Obama should start enforcing Interpol arrest warrants for the wanted Russian oligarchs who fled to the West with mega-billions and now freely travel to the United States.

When nonprofit organizations funded by, among others, Obama’s deep-pocketed donor George Soros, call for Russia’s release of “political prisoners,” they are usually referring to the high-profile oligarchs, who looted major oil, media and financial service companies with the blessing of their patron, the late Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Yeltsin’s penchant for kickbacks—it should be noted—were exceeded only by his notorious passion for vodka.

In fact, if you read their rap sheets, today’s jailed Russian oligarchs are little different than the “don of the Russian mafia” Semyon Mogilevich, who is on the FBI’s “Top Ten Most Wanted” list for fraud and racketeering involving his Pennsylvania-based firm, YBM Magnex International.

Mogilevich, who traveled on Israeli, Russian, Ukrainian, Greek and Hungarian passports and used nine aliases, was arrested in Moscow in January 2008 for tax evasion. Mogilevich’s bank, Inkombank, was involved with Platon Lebedev’s Bank Menatep in laundering $10 million through the Bank of New York.

Although Mogilevich, considered by law enforcement authorities around the world to be the most dangerous member of the Russian mafia, was eventually freed on bail by Russian authorities last year, he remains under the watchful eye of Russian law enforcement.

One might ask why anyone would push Russia to drop charges against its “political prisoners” when they include people in the same category as Mogilevich, the FBI’s most wanted fugitive.

The exodus of wanted ex-Soviet/Russian oligarchs responsible for a massive ripoff of the Russian government and people include such “upstanding” businessmen as:

—Former Russian media tycoon Boris Berezovsky—alias Platon Elenin—who has been given refuge in Britain.

—Former oil executive Leonid Nevzlin, who fled from Russia to Israel and often freely travels to the United States even though there is an Interpol Red Notice arrest warrant hanging over his head.

—Russian-Israeli tycoon Arkady Gaydamak, convicted in France of arms smuggling and wanted by Israel for fraud.

—And Uzbek-Israeli-wanted fugitive Michael Cherney, who lives under Israeli government protection in Tel Aviv.

The list goes on and on.

And before the United States starts accusing other countries of holding political prisoners, let us not forget that America has its own share of political prisoners, among them: American Indian activist Leonard Peltier, Black Panther activist Mumia Abu Jamal and Cuban nationals Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero, Ramon Labanino, Fernando Gonzalez and Rene Gonzalez.

After all, the Obama administration failed to prosecute and seek prison terms for those who conducted a massive rip-off of the American taxpayers over the past decade through malfeasance on Wall Street.

When you compare those crimes, which looted retirement accounts of billions, Americans might well look on Russia as an exemplar nation that has taken steps to bring to justice those who bled the Soviet and Russian treasuries dry.

Rather than call these individuals—justifiably jailed by Russia—”political prisoners”—Americans should be calling for similar action against their own suspected financial criminals.

Many in financial law enforcement are amazed that people like Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke have dodged full-scale congressional investigations—let alone prosecution.

In short, there is no reason America’s Wall Street “banksters”—and those in government who enabled them—should be treated any differently than their Russian counterparts now languishing on the frozen tundra of Siberia.

Wayne Madsen is a contributing writer to the progressive Online Journal (www.onlinejournal.com). Readers may write to him c/o National Press Club, Front Desk, 529 14th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20045.

Last updated: 1:15 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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