FinCEN, Oligarch Britain and Compromised Politicians
Multiple recent revelations expose the swirling nexus of dark money, oligarch influence and gangsterism and make it clear Tory Britain is a cesspit and London is a haven for money-laundering on a vast scale.
A huge trove of secret US government documents (the ‘FinCEN files’) has revealed for the first time how the big banks – including HSBC, JPMorgan, Deutsche Bank AG, Standard Chartered and Bank of New York Mellon Corp – moved trillions of dollars in suspicious transactions, enriching themselves and their shareholders while facilitating the work of terrorists gangs and drug lords. The interface between high finance, sleazy politics and criminality has never been more exposed.
FinCEN stands for the US Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. The FinCEN Files also expose how US intelligence sees the UK as a “higher risk jurisdiction” and show it is awash with Russian cash from unexplained sources.
On Monday BuzzFeed and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (CIJ), released the findings of a global financial investigation involving trillions in banking secrets & corruption on a global scale (see ‘HSBC got busted for moving dirty money’). The Huffington Post reported:
“The FinCEN Files show trillions in dollars flow freely through major banks, swamping a broken enforcement system. More than 2,000 sensitive banking papers detailing more than two trillion US dollars’ worth of transactions were analysed after being leaked to BuzzFeed News and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (CIJ), which distributed them to 108 news organisations.”
But describing this as “a broken enforcement system” may be missing the point. This is international capitalism in action. This is how it’s supposed to work. This is how it does work. The #FinCENFiles revelations are jaw-dropping, but they’re not new. Anyone expressing surprise at HSBC being corrupt hasn’t been paying attention.
In a twin release Panorama broadcast Banking Secrets of the Rich and Powerful which also revealed the “£10 million Brexit backer with two names” (watch it here). While the BBC Panorama was great investigative journalism it did frame it as regulatory failure – rather than an exposure of the seamless connections between big banking and criminality.
A lot of this we knew already, but the detail is rich and the level of corruption astonishing.
Lubov Chernukhin and the Scottish Connection
The scandal of Russian money has a foul stench but this is not an issue confined to London. George Galloway, Tommy Sheridan and Alex Salmond all host shows on Russia’s propaganda station RT and two out of the three of them are to stand for election at Holyrood next year, and Ruth Davidson was famously “bought” for £20,000 by Mrs Lubov Chernukhin, who is married to ex-Russian deputy finance minister Vladimir Chernukhin.
Lubov Chernukhin famously successfully bid £160,000 at a previous Black and White Ball to play tennis with Boris Johnson, and has given £1.7m to the Conservative Party since 2012, but the new documents also show her husband was given millions of pounds from a politician facing US sanctions due to his closeness to Russian president Vladimir Putin.
What was previously considered ‘cash for access’ now seems to be operating completely openly as a form of media gossip and light entertainment.
But the ‘left’ or elements of the nationalist movement can’t denounce the billionaires dark money sloshing about the accounts of the Tory party whilst not also denouncing the Russian regime with its appalling domestic human-rights records, its military aggression and its support for President Assad. Tommy Sheridan, George Galloway and Alex Salmond’s association with RT/Sputnik is even more indefensible in light of the revelations about Alexander Litvinenko, Sergei Skripal and now Alexei Navalny.
I don’t think its credible to argue that the “BBC is propaganda too” – or that “this is Russophobia” – or to point to Western atrocities and militarism.
This isn’t a zero-sum game.
Criticism of the Russian state doesn’t imply endorsement of the west.
It is possible – in fact it is absolutely necessary – to point to both (and any) human rights abuses, authoritarianism, imperialism, militarism and covert activity and state murder. It is not credible or appropriate for democratic forces in Scotland to align themselves with the Russian state. It may be convenient to assume that “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” but this is old and redundant thinking. The assumption that Russia represents a political alternative in a bi-polar world is just reactionary and wrong (and has been for a very ling time). The fact that Russia has different geopolitical interests than Britain, America and NATO doesn’t make it a force to be allied with.
You can’t be representatives articulating a vision for a new Scottish democracy and ally yourselves with forces operating state murder.
There are other factors at play here including the funding of the Tory party, the funding coming from Alexander Temerko the former chief of a Russian state arms company, Johnson’s links to Evgeny Lebedev – the Russian owner of London’s Evening Standard newspaper, the role of people like Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich who’s companies have donated tens of millions of pounds to a highly controversial Israeli settler group accused of displacing Palestinian families from Jerusalem, and the influence of the multi-billionaire and Kremlin insider Len Blavatnik who has created key political and educational institutions in Britain and the US (‘Money Talks: Len Blavatnik And The Council On Foreign Relations’):
“The substantial donation from Blavatnik, who, according to estimates by Forbes, is worth nearly $19 billion, is far from his first financial gift to a prominent Western institution. In 2010, he donated over $90 million to Oxford University to found the Blavatnik School of Government, with an additional donation of approximately $60 million to the Tate Modern, bankrolling the museum’s Blavatnik Building. In the U.S., Blavatnik’s most substantial donation went to Harvard University last year: $200 million to Harvard Medical School, founding the Blavatnik Institute. Those donations are among the reasons CFR refers to Blavatnik on its website as a “distinguished philanthropist.”
It’s worth noting that Chris Deerin was employed as the Director of External Relations at the Blavatnik School of Government. Hilariously Blavatnik donated $50,000 to the Hudson Institute’s Kleptocracy Initiative, prompting the founder and director Charles Davidson to resign.
Listing of donations to Conservatives from Mrs Lubov Chernukhin:
The $8 Million Dollar Man
The FinCEN files also show an $8 million transaction from a Kremlin ally to Lubov Chermukhin just two months before Brexit vote was flagged as ‘suspicious activity’ by Deutsche Bank officials. Arron Banks has always insisted there was was “no Russian money, no interference” in the £8m he gave to the unofficial Brexit campaign, but refused to disclose which of his companies had generated the cash.
These multiple exposés about corruption and cash for access in British politics are not new, though they are perhaps a new nadir. The scale of the money involved and how it is used to leverage influence and “buy” politicians is extraordinary in its scale and brazenness. As we shape and manifest a new Scottish political space, we must avoid replicating these networks. Media independent of state and corporate influence, publicly owned and controlled banking and finance and political institutions free of dark money and lobbying could and must be the basis of the new Scotland, and all are possible, even emergent, right now.