Watch ZEMBLA: The dubious friends of Donald Trump part 3: The billion dollar fraud.
Published on Sep 27, 2017
A documentary made in collaboration with OCCRP on the Central Asian money links of a former associate of US President Donald Trump aired on Wednesday after surviving a last-minute legal challenge.
Felix Sater. (Photo credit: Zembla, Dutch Public Television)
The documentary, on the Dutch public television program Zembla, uncovers fresh details on the relationship between the Russian-born Felix Sater, once a Trump business associate, and the exiled family of Viktor Khrapunov. The Kazakhstani businessman, a former mayor of Almaty, now lives in Switzerland, having been accused by the city of embezzling more than US$ 300 million.
The documentary is the third part of a series called “The Dubious Friends of Donald Trump.” The latest episode explores deals worth millions of dollars involving twice-convicted mob associate Sater and the Switzerland-based Khrapunovs.
Viktor Khrapunov’s son, Ilyas, sought an injunction from a Netherlands court on Monday to block the airing of the documentary. On Wednesday morning, a judge in the city of Lelystad ruled against the request.
OCCRP contributed research to the film as part of a three-month collaboration with Zembla and McClatchy newspapers in the United States.
Earlier reporting, appearing in McClatchy, revealed that Sater helped the Khrapunovs invest more than $40 million in US real estate since 2012. Lawyers for the city of Almaty are currently claiming in two US civil suits that the money had been embezzled by the Khrapunovs from Kazakhstan.
The Khrapunovs deny the allegations, and say they are victims of persecution by Kazakhstan’s government.
The US investments include the purchase for over $3.1 million of three apartments in the Trump SoHo tower in New York, which had been co-developed by Bayrock Group, a real estate development company where Sater was managing director.
They also included the 2013 purchase for $29 million of a mall in the suburbs of Cincinnati, Ohio, and the $1.2 million purchase of a former insane asylum in Syracuse, New York.
For the new documentary, reporters for OCCRP, Zembla, and McClatchy conducted interviews and examined company and court records in countries including Cyprus, Belize, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and the US.
The documentary reveals that Bayrock – along with KazBay, its Dutch joint venture with the Khrapunovs – is accused of involvement in the family’s alleged money laundering. The firm is included in a list of 83 companies that Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Justice have alleged were used to launder the money.
The documentary also explores the role of Dutch companies in the network of Ilyas Khrapunov’s father-in-law, Mukhtar Ablyazov, a tycoon who has been convicted in absentia for embezzling more than $5 billion while running a Kazakh bank.
A Belgian former employee of the Khrapunovs, Nicolas Bourg, has alleged in a sworn affidavit to a New York court that millions of dollars used to fund the Khrapunovs’ US property investments came from Ablyazov. If true, the allegation could connect the investments to the $5 billion fraud for which Ablyazov has already been convicted.
Lawyers for the Khrapunovs have denied Bourg’s allegation.
See the full documentary below.
Trump – Putin – Russian Mafia – Mogilevich Connections Circle M.N.: Mueller investigation pursues a multi-prong strategy, as any good investigation should. One of these strategies is exploring the hypothetical connections within the hypothetical Trump – Putin – Russian Mafia – Mogilevich – Firtash – Sater – Russian Oligarchs circle. Mogilevich appears to be the key knot. Mogilevich, Putin and Trump | TrumP Россия Wednesday September 27th, 2017 at…
FBI has 1000 open investigations into violent white supremacy, domestic terror: Agency chief
The FBI has about 1,000 open investigations into potential domestic terrorists, including people who may be linked to extremist white supremacy, white nationalism and environmental movements, the agency’s new chief, Christopher Wray, told Congress …
FBI Director Christopher Wray: Terrorists becoming more sophisticated with cyberattacksWashington Examiner
FBI Director: Terrorist Drones ‘Coming Here Imminently’ [VIDEO]The Daily Caller
FBI investigating 1000 white supremacist, domestic terrorism cases
The FBI is conducting about 1,000 investigations of suspected white supremacists or other types of domestic terrorists who might be planning violence, top federal officials told Senate lawmakers Wednesday. Christopher A. Wray, in his first …
FBI has 1000 open investigations into violent white supremacy, domestic terror: Agency chiefABC News
Trump Will Skip FBI Director Ceremony, Amid Bureau’s Russia InvestigationNewsweek
Report: Trump skipping ceremony for FBI director amid Russia probeThe Hill (blog)
Washington Examiner –The Daily Caller
all 12 news articles »
After using computers at the FBI to download naked photos of women and talking for months with a foreign national, an FBI agent stayed employed for years—and wasn’t even disciplined.
The case is one in an ongoing probe by Department of Justice that found “systemic” misconduct problems at the FBI where the bureau was not reporting “high-risk security concerns” made against agents, according to a memo released Tuesday.
The Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General reviewed a sample of 78 FBI employees who failed polygraph exams. They went over the cases, then checked whether the allegations were reported. The review found a number of cases with “serious allegations of misconduct” that were never reported or dealt with properly, the memo said.
The FBI’s policy on misconduct that involves “high-risk security concerns” requires the bureau to report it in writing to its inspection division, which then sends allegations on to the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General, the memo said.
The FBI claimed they may have passed on the misconduct allegations verbally in meetings, but no written documents were found. The bureau did not reply to requests for comment Tuesday about the probe.
In one case, investigators found an FBI agent who worked in the IT department was viewing and printing photos of “scantily clad” women on a bureau computer, the memo said.
More than a year after the FBI knew of the allegations, the IT specialist, who was not identified, again admitted to using a computer to download and print naked photos. The agent also admitted to making a fake Facebook account and talking with a foreign national for about six months, according to the memo.
The employee was then barred from viewing sensitive information, but the probe questioned why it took a year to investigate the misconduct, especially since within that year, the employee failed three polygraph tests.
“Allegations against employees with access to [sensitive information] are particularly important given the potential risk to U.S. national security,” the memo states.
Officials say the agent failed a fourth polygraph test about the allegations but denied that the foreign national was connected to any intelligence service.
More than two years after the allegations surfaced, the agent remained employed and was never disciplined. The employee ended up retiring and was eligible to receive a federal retirement plan, the memo states.
Officials said in the memo they are worried the FBI isn’t handling misconduct appropriately and “concerns are heightened because all FBI employees have top secret clearance” that allows them access to classified information.
The Department of Justice asked for the FBI to immediately correct these issues and gave them 30 days to make changes or provide a plan that would outline changes.
Department of Justice Says FBI Has ‘Systemic’ Misconduct Problems and Isn’t Reporting Serious Issues With Agents
After using computers at the FBI to download naked photos of women and talking for months with a foreign national, an FBI agent stayed employed for years—and wasn’t even disciplined. The case is one in an ongoing probe by Department of Justice that …
New York Times
Bills to Protect Mueller Are Bipartisan, but the Path Forward Is Uncertain
New York Times
WASHINGTON — A majority of the Senate Judiciary Committee appeared on Tuesday to back legislation that would provide an added layer of job protection for Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in last year’s …
Special counsel Robert Mueller to interview White House officials in coming daysABC News
Bill aimed at preventing Trump from firing Mueller hits snagNew York Post
The IRS and special counsel Mueller just took a big step forward in the Russia probeBusiness Insider
USA TODAY –News & Observer –CNN –CNN
all 80 news articles »
ABC News–1 hour ago
<a href=”http://NOLA.com” rel=”nofollow”>NOLA.com</a>–43 minutes ago
New York Daily News–20 minutes ago
The Hill (blog)–1 hour ago
Highly Cited–Newsweek–1 hour ago
FBI Director Christopher Wray: Terrorists becoming more sophisticated with cyberattacks
FBI Director Christopher Wray said the evolving nature of terror groups remains a persistent threat to America, and the ability of groups like al Qaeda and the Islamic State to use social media as well as hacking and cyber attacks has increased and …
FBI has 1000 open investigations into violent white supremacy, domestic terror: Agency chiefABC News
FBI investigating 1000 white supremacist, domestic terrorism casesWashington Post
Trump Will Skip FBI Director Ceremony, Amid Bureau’s Russia InvestigationNewsweek
New York Daily News –The Hill (blog) –Newsmax
all 12 news articles »
Good morning Chairman Johnson, Ranking Member McCaskill, and members of the committee. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the current threats to the homeland. Our nation continues to face a multitude of serious and evolving threats ranging from homegrown violent extremists to cyber criminals to hostile foreign intelligence services and operatives. Keeping pace with these threats is a significant challenge for the FBI. As an organization, we must also be able to stay current with constantly changing and new technologies that make our jobs both easier and harder. Our adversaries—terrorists, foreign intelligence services, and criminals—take advantage of such modern technology to hide their communications, recruit followers, plan and encourage espionage, cyber attacks or terrorism, to disperse information on different methods to attack the U.S. homeland, and to facilitate other illegal activities. As these threats evolve, we must adapt and confront these challenges, relying heavily on the strength of our federal, state, local, and international partnerships.
Preventing terrorist attacks remains the FBI’s top priority. The terrorist threat against the United States remains persistent and acute. From a threat perspective, we are concerned with three areas in particular: (1) those who are inspired by terrorist propaganda and act out in support; (2) those who are enabled to act after gaining inspiration from extremist propaganda and communicating with members of foreign terrorist organizations who provide guidance on operational planning or targets; and (3) those who are directed by members of foreign terrorist organizations to commit specific, directed acts in support of the group’s ideology or cause. Prospective terrorists can fall into any one of these three categories or span across them, but in the end the result is the same—innocent men, women, and children killed and families, friends, and whole communities left to struggle in the aftermath.
Currently, the FBI has designated the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS) and homegrown violent extremists as the main terrorism threats to the Homeland. ISIS is relentless and ruthless in its campaign of violence and has aggressively promoted its hateful message, attracting like-minded extremists. The threats posed by foreign fighters, including those recruited from the United States, are extremely dynamic. These threats remain the highest priority and create the most serious challenges for the FBI, the U.S. Intelligence Community, and our foreign, state, and local partners. We continue to identify individuals who seek to join the ranks of foreign fighters traveling in support of ISIS, as well as homegrown violent extremists who may aspire to attack the United States from within. In addition, we are confronting a surge in terrorist propaganda and training available via the Internet and social networking media. Due to online recruitment and indoctrination, foreign terrorist organizations are no longer dependent on finding ways to get terrorist operatives into the United States to recruit and carry out acts. Terrorists in ungoverned spaces—both physical and cyber—readily disseminate propaganda and training materials to attract easily influenced individuals around the world to their cause. They encourage these individuals to travel, or they motivate them to act at home. This is a significant transformation from the terrorist threat our nation faced a decade ago.
Unlike other groups, ISIS has constructed a narrative that touches on all facets of life, from career opportunities to family life to a sense of community. The message isn’t tailored solely to those who are overtly expressing signs of radicalization. It is seen by many who click through the Internet every day, receive social media push notifications, and participate in social networks. Ultimately, many of the individuals drawn to ISIS seek a sense of belonging. Echoing other terrorist groups, ISIS has advocated for lone offender attacks in Western countries. Recent ISIS videos and propaganda specifically advocate for attacks against soldiers, law enforcement, and intelligence community personnel.
Many foreign terrorist organizations use various digital communication platforms to reach individuals they believe may be susceptible and sympathetic to extremist messages, however, no group has been as successful at drawing people into its perverse ideology as ISIS. ISIS has proven dangerously competent at employing such tools for its nefarious strategy. ISIS uses high-quality, traditional media platforms, as well as widespread social media campaigns to propagate its extremist ideology. Social media also helps groups such as ISIS to spot and assess potential recruits. With the widespread distribution of social media, terrorists can spot, assess, recruit, and radicalize vulnerable persons of all ages in the United States either to travel or to conduct a homeland attack. Through the Internet, terrorists overseas now have direct access into our local communities to target and recruit our citizens and spread the message of radicalization faster than we imagined just a few years ago.
ISIS is not the only terrorist group of concern. Al Qaeda maintains its desire for large-scale spectacular attacks, however continued CT pressure has degraded the group, and in the near term, al Qaeda is more likely to focus on supporting small-scale, readily achievable attacks against U.S. and allied interests in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region. Simultaneously, over the last year, propaganda from al Qaeda leaders seeks to inspire individuals to conduct their own attacks in the United States and the West.
In addition to foreign terrorist organizations, domestic extremist movements collectively pose a steady threat of violence and economic harm to the United States. Some trends within individual movements will shift as most drivers for domestic extremism, such as perceptions of government or law enforcement overreach, socio-political conditions, and reactions to legislative actions, remain constant. We are most concerned about the lone offender attacks, primarily shootings, as they have served as the dominant mode for lethal domestic extremist violence. We anticipate law enforcement, racial minorities, and the U.S. government will continue to be significant targets for many domestic extremist movements.
As the threat to harm the United States and U.S. interests evolves, we must adapt and confront these challenges, relying heavily on the strength of our federal, state, local, and international partnerships. The FBI is using all lawful investigative techniques and methods to combat these terrorist threats to the United States. Along with our domestic and foreign partners, we are collecting and analyzing intelligence concerning the ongoing threat posed by foreign terrorist organizations and homegrown violent extremists. We continue to encourage information sharing, which is evidenced through our partnerships with many federal, state, local, and tribal agencies assigned to Joint Terrorism Task Forces around the country. Be assured, the FBI continues to strive to work and share information more efficiently, and to pursue a variety of lawful methods to help stay ahead of threats to the homeland.
Integrating intelligence in all we do remains a critical strategic pillar of the FBI strategy. The constant evolution of the FBI’s intelligence program will help us address the ever-changing threat environment. We must constantly update our intelligence apparatus to improve the way we use, collect, and share intelligence to better understand and defeat our adversaries. We cannot be content to only work the matters directly in front of us. We must also look beyond the horizon to understand the threats we face at home and abroad and how those threats may be connected.
To that end, we gather intelligence, consistent with our authorities, to help us understand and prioritize identified threats, to reveal the gaps in what we know about these threats, and to fill those gaps. We do this for national security and criminal threats, on both a national and local field office level. We then compare the national and local perspectives to organize threats into priorities for each of the FBI’s 56 field offices. By categorizing threats in this way, we place the greatest focus on the gravest threats we face. This gives us a better assessment of what the dangers are, what’s being done about them, and where we should prioritize our resources.
Integrating intelligence and operations is part of the broader intelligence transformation the FBI has undertaken in the last decade to improve our understanding and mitigation of threats. Over the past few years, we have taken several steps to improve this integration. First, we established an Intelligence Branch within the FBI, headed by an executive assistant director who drives integration across the enterprise. We also developed and implemented a series of integration-focused forums that ensure all members of our workforce understand and internalize the importance of intelligence integration. We now train our special agents and intelligence analysts together at the FBI Academy, where they engage in joint training exercises and take core courses together prior to their field deployments. As a result, they are better prepared to integrate their skillsets in the field. Additionally, our training forums for executives and front-line supervisors continue to ensure our leaders are informed about our latest intelligence capabilities and allow them to share best practices for achieving intelligence integration.
I also urge the Congress to renew section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which is due to sunset at the end of this year. Section 702 is a critical tool that the intelligence community uses properly to target non-U.S. persons located outside the United States to acquire information vital to our national security. To protect privacy and civil liberties, this program has operated under strict rules and been carefully overseen by all three branches of the government. Given the importance of section 702 to the safety and security of the American people, the Administration urges Congress to reauthorize title VII of FISA without a sunset provision.
The nation faces a rising threat, both traditional and asymmetric, from hostile foreign intelligence services and their proxies. Traditional espionage, often characterized by career foreign intelligence officers acting as diplomats or ordinary citizens, and asymmetric espionage, often carried out by students, researchers, or businesspeople operating front companies, is prevalent. Foreign intelligence services not only seek our nation’s state and military secrets, but they also target commercial trade secrets, research and development, and intellectual property, as well as insider information from the federal government, U.S. corporations, and American universities. Foreign intelligence services and other state-directed actors continue to employ more creative and more sophisticated methods to steal innovative technology, critical research and development data, and intellectual property, in an effort to erode America’s economic leading edge. These illicit activities pose a significant threat to national security and continue to be a priority and focus of the FBI.
Our counterintelligence efforts are also aimed at the growing scope of the insider threat—that is, when trusted employees and contractors use their legitimate access to steal secrets for personal benefit or to benefit a company or another country. This threat has been exacerbated in recent years as businesses have become more global and increasingly exposed to foreign intelligence organizations. We are also investigating media leaks, when insiders violate the law and betray the nation’s trust by selectively leaking classified information, sometimes mixed with disinformation, to manipulate the public and advance their personal agendas.
In addition to the insider threat, the FBI has focused on a coordinated approach across divisions that leverages both our classic counterespionage tradecraft and our technical expertise to more effectively identify, pursue, and defeat hostile state actors using cyber means to penetrate or disrupt U.S. government entities or economic interests.
Finally, we have initiated a media campaign to increase awareness of the threat of economic espionage. As part of this initiative, we have made a threat awareness video, titled The Company Man, available on our public website, which has been shown thousands of times to raise awareness and generate referrals from the private sector.
Virtually every national security and criminal threat the FBI faces is cyber-based or technologically facilitated. We face sophisticated cyber threats from foreign intelligence agencies, hackers for hire, organized crime syndicates, and terrorists. These threat actors constantly seek to access and steal our nation’s classified information, trade secrets, technology, and ideas—all of which are of great importance to our national and economic security. They seek to strike our critical infrastructure and to harm our economy.
As the committee is well aware, the frequency and impact of cyber-attacks on our nation’s private sector and government networks have increased dramatically in the past decade and are expected to continue to grow. We continue to see an increase in the scale and scope of reporting on malicious cyber activity that can be measured by the amount of corporate data stolen or deleted, personally identifiable information compromised, or remediation costs incurred by U.S. victims. Within the FBI, we are focused on the most dangerous malicious cyber activity: high-level intrusions by state-sponsored hackers and global organized crime syndicates, as well as other technically sophisticated attacks.
Botnets used by cyber criminals are one example of this trend and have been responsible for billions of dollars in damages over the past several years. The widespread availability of malicious software (malware) that can create botnets allows individuals to leverage the combined bandwidth of thousands, if not millions, of compromised computers, servers, or network-ready devices to conduct attacks. Cyber threat actors have also increasingly conducted ransomware attacks against U.S. systems, encrypting data and rendering systems unusable—victimizing individuals, businesses, and even public health providers.
Cyber threats are not only increasing in scope and scale, they are also becoming increasingly difficult to investigate. Cyber criminals often operate through online forums, selling illicit goods and services, including tools that can be used to facilitate cyber attacks. These criminals have also increased the sophistication of their schemes, which are more difficult to detect and more resilient. Additionally, many cyber actors are based abroad or obfuscate their identities by using foreign infrastructure, making coordination with international law enforcement partners essential.
The FBI is engaged in a myriad of efforts to combat cyber threats, from improving threat identification and information sharing inside and outside of government to developing and retaining new talent to examining the way we operate to disrupt and defeat these threats. We take all potential threats to public and private sector systems seriously and will continue to investigate and hold accountable those who pose a threat in cyberspace.
The rapid pace of advances in mobile and other communication technologies continues to present a significant challenge to conducting court-ordered electronic surveillance of criminals and terrorists. Unfortunately, there is a real and growing gap between law enforcement’s legal authority to access digital information and its technical ability to do so. The FBI refers to this growing challenge as “Going Dark,” and it affects the spectrum of our work. In the counterterrorism context, for instance, our agents and analysts are increasingly finding that communications and contacts between groups like ISIS and potential recruits occur in encrypted private messaging platforms.
The exploitation of encrypted platforms presents serious challenges to law enforcement’s ability to identify, investigate, and disrupt threats that range from counterterrorism to child exploitation, gangs, drug traffickers and white-collar crimes. We respect the right of people to engage in private communications, regardless of the medium or technology. Whether it is instant messages, texts, or old-fashioned letters, citizens have the right to communicate with one another in private without unauthorized government surveillance, because the free flow of information is vital to a thriving democracy. Our aim is not to expand the government’s surveillance authority, but rather to ensure that we can obtain electronic information and evidence pursuant to the legal authority that Congress has provided to us to keep America safe. The benefits of our increasingly digital lives, however, have been accompanied by new dangers, and we have seen how criminals and terrorists use advances in technology to their advantage.
The more we as a society rely on electronic devices to communicate and store information, the more likely it is that information that was once found in filing cabinets, letters, and photo albums will now be stored only in electronic form. When changes in technology hinder law enforcement`s ability to exercise investigative tools and follow critical leads, those changes also hinder efforts to identify and stop terrorists who are using social media to recruit, plan, and execute an attack in our country.
In the criminal context, we are seeing more and more cases where we believe significant evidence resides on a phone, a tablet, or a laptop—evidence that may be the difference between an offender being convicted or acquitted. If we cannot access this evidence, it will have ongoing, significant impacts on our ability to identify, stop, and prosecute these offenders. In the first 10 months of this fiscal year, the FBI was unable to access the content of more than 6,000 mobile devices using appropriate and available technical tools, even though there was legal authority to do so. This figure represents slightly over half of all the mobile devices the FBI attempted to access in that timeframe.
Where at all possible, our agents develop investigative workarounds on a case-by-case basis, including by using physical world techniques and examining non-content sources of digital information (such as metadata). As an organization, the FBI also invests in alternative methods of lawful engineered access. Ultimately, these efforts, while significant, have severe constraints. Non-content information, such as metadata, is often simply not sufficient to meet the rigorous constitutional burden to prove crimes beyond a reasonable doubt. Developing alternative technical methods is typically a time-consuming, expensive, and uncertain process. Even when possible, such methods are difficult to scale across investigations, and may be perishable due to a short technical lifecycle or as a consequence of disclosure through legal proceedings.
Some observers have conceived of this challenge as a trade-off between privacy and security. In our view, the demanding requirements to obtain legal authority to access data—such as by applying to a court for a warrant or a wiretap—necessarily already account for both privacy and security. The FBI is actively engaged with relevant stakeholders, including companies providing technological services, to educate them on the corrosive effects of the Going Dark challenge on both public safety and the rule of law.
Weapons of Mass Destruction
The FBI, along with its U.S. government partners, is committed to countering the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) threat (e.g., chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear) and preventing terrorist groups and lone offenders from acquiring these materials either domestically or internationally.
Domestically, the FBI’s counter-WMD threat program, in collaboration with our U.S. government partners, prepares for and responds to WMD threats (e.g., investigate, detect, search, locate, diagnostics, stabilization, and render safe WMD threats). Internationally, the FBI, in cooperation with our U.S. partners, provides investigative and technical assistance as well as capacity-building programs to enhance our foreign partners’ ability to detect, investigate, and prosecute WMD threats.
Finally, the strength of any organization is its people. The threats we face as a nation have never been greater or more diverse and the expectations placed on the Bureau have never been higher. Our fellow citizens look to us to protect the United States from all of those threats, and the men and women of the Bureau continue to meet and exceed those expectations, every day. I want to thank them for their dedication and their service.
Chairman Johnson, Ranking Member McCaskill, and committee members, I thank you for the opportunity to testify concerning the threats to the Homeland. I am happy to answer any questions you might have.
Before his death by poisoning, ex-KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko, recorded a tape.
In it, he claims that Russian President Vladimir Putin had a “good relationship” with one of the most notorious mobsters in the world, a Ukrainian man named Semion Mogilevich.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation believes that Mogilevich, one of the top 10 most wanted fugitives, has spent the last few decades trafficking drugs, trading nuclear material, and orchestrating contract murders and international prostitution.
Indicted in 2003 for countless fraud charges, Mogilevich now primarily lives in Moscow. His location allows him to maintain close ties to the Bratva, or The Brotherhood, aka the Russian mob.
The ‘Boss Of Bosses’
A 5’6″ and a portly chain smoker, Mogilevich is known as “boss of bosses” in one of the biggest mafia states in the world.
Born in 1946 in Kiev, Ukraine, Mogilevich once acted as the key money laundering contact for the Solntsevskaya Bratva, a super-gang based in Moscow. He has since held over 100 front companies and bank accounts in 27 different countries, all to keep the cash flowing.
In 1998, the FBI released a report naming Mogilevich as the leader of an organization with about 250 members. Only in operation only four years, the group’s main activities included arms dealing, trading nuclear material, prostitution, drug trafficking, oil deals, and money laundering.
Between 1993 and 1998, however, Mogilevich caught the FBI’s attention when he allegedly participated in a $150 million scheme to defraud thousands of investors in a Canadian company, YBM Magnex, based just outside Philadelphia, which supposedly made magnets. With his economics degree and clever lies, Mogilevich forged documents for the Securities and Exchange Commission that raised the company’s stock price nearly 2,000%.
When asked about YBM by BBC in 2007, Mogilevich replied: “Well if they found old-fashioned hanky panky [i.e., suspicious activity], it’s up to them to prove it. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to FBI files.”
“What makes him so dangerous is that he operates without borders,” said Special Agent Peter Kowenhoven, who has worked on Mogilevich’s case since 1997. “Here’s a guy who managed to defraud investors out of $150 million without ever stepping foot in the Philadelphia area.”
In 1998, the Village Voice reported on hundreds of previously classified FBI and Israeli intelligence documents. They placed Mogilevich, also known as “Brainy Don,” as the leader of the Red Mafia, a notorious Russian mob family infamous for its brutality. Based in Budapest, members held key posts in New York, Pennsylvania, Southern California, and even New Zealand.
“He’s the most powerful mobster in the world,” Monya Elison, one of Mogilevich’s partners in a prostitution ring, told the Voice. He claimed he’s Mogilevich’s best friend.
Arguably one of Mogelivich’s most concerning characteristics is his influence in Europe’s energy sector. With only a $100,000 bounty on his head, he controls extensive natural gas pipelines in Russia and Eastern Europe.
Right now, Russia supplies about 30% of Europe’s gas. Ironically, the country’s largest pipeline to the rest of Europe shares a name with the mob — Bratstvo.
John Wood, a senior anti-money laundering consultant at IPSA International wrote an entire report on Mogelivich. According to his research, the Ukrainian-born Russian mobster had long planned his stake in Europe’s gas.
In 1991, Mogilevich started meddling in the energy sector with Arbat International. For the next five years, the company served as his primary import-export petroleum company. Then, in 2002, an Israeli lawyer named Zeev Gordon, who represented Mogilevich for more than 20 years, created Eural Trans Gas (ETG), the main intermediary between Turkmenistan and Ukraine. Some reports show that Gordon registered the company in Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash’s name.
After that, Russia’s energy giant Gazprom and Ukraine’s Centragas Holding AG teamed up to establish Swiss-registered RosUkrEnergo (RUE) to replace ETG. Firtash and Gazprom reportedly roughly split the ownership of RUE.
In 2010, however, then prime minister of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko, said she had “documented proof that some powerful criminal structures are behind the RosUkrEnergo (RUE) company,” according to WikiLeaks. Even before, the press had widely speculated about Mogilevich’s ties to RUE.
Dmytro Firtash, one of Ukraine’s richest men, (R) and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich take part in an opening ceremony of a new complex for the production of sulfuric acid in Crimea region in April 2012.Reuters
Although Firtash has repeatedly denied having any close relationship with Mogilevich, he has admitted to asking permission from the mobster before conducting business in Ukraine as early as 1986, Reuters recently reported. At the request of the FBI, Firtash was arrested in Austria for suspicion of bribery and creating a criminal organization.
Mogilevich may even have a working relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to a published conversation between Leonid Derkach, the former chief of the Ukrainian security service, and former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma.
“He’s [Mogilevich] on good terms with Putin,” Derkach reportedly said. “He and Putin have been in contact since Putin was still in Leningrad.”
A Free Man
In 2007, Mogelivich told BBC that his business was selling wheat and grain.
In 2008, however, Russian police arrested Mogelivich, using one of his many pseudonyms, Sergei Schneider, in connection with tax evasion for a cosmetics company, Arbat Prestige. Mogilevich ran that company with his partner, Vladimir Nekrosov. Three years later, the charges were dropped.
Considering the US doesn’t have an extradition treaty with Russia, as long as Mogilevich stays within Putin’s borders, the “boss of bosses” will likely remain a free man. He’s believed to have Russian, Israeli, Ukrainian, and Greek passports.
In recent weeks, Facebook has received the lion’s share of attention when it comes to the social media component of Russia’s interference in the U.S. election. But the service the President so frequently and famously uses hasn’t received quite the same level of scrutiny yet—perhaps because it’s much harder to nail down exactly what happened on Twitter during the 2016 campaign.
Much of the activity on Twitter is a morass of bot traffic, spam accounts mobbing hashtags and plain old harassment, so teasing out the Twitter component of a coordinated influence campaign that spanned multiple platforms is a seriously tall order. Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) have proposed some of the first regulations that would specifically affect Twitter and Facebook; a Twitter spokesman told TPM that, regarding regulation, “we are open to discussing this with the FEC and Congress.”
There are a few facts about Russian-linked activity on Twitter during the 2016 campaign we already know thanks to published reports, but there’s much more that remains unclear. Answers to some of those unanswered questions could emerge from Twitter’s closed-door meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday.
Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks spread propaganda on Twitter
The primary arms of the Russian disinformation campaign operated on Twitter—in fact, you still can visit the Twitter pages for DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0, two of the outlets for emails stolen from Democratic organizations and operatives.
Twitter has a laissez-faire attitude toward who can and can’t use its network; short of distributing something illegal or advocating violence—and sometimes even then—users can do pretty much whatever they want with impunity. In this case, it appears to have given useful platforms to what the U.S. intelligence community says were fronts for a Russian intelligence service.
The Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks accounts haven’t tweeted since January 2017 and December 2016, respectively.
Groups of synchronized, automated accounts promoted Trump in the interest of Russians
Russian intelligence also used networks of automated accounts, or social botnets, on Twitter, although it’s hard to tell which were actually harnessed by the GRU and which were simply a function of Russia’s burgeoning cybercrime industry. Much of the work that has been done tracking bot accounts is inductive, which has made the task of labeling bot accounts a perilous one. Plenty of amateur Trump-Russia sleuths have managed to look foolish for accusing run-of-the-mill conservative Twitter users of being Russian bots.
But some of the reasoning is convincing and comes from reliable sources. Cybersecurity researcher Brian Krebs, formerly a reporter for the Washington Post, noted that any time he criticized Putin, it mysteriously generated defensive tweets about Trump. He also observed that the service’s like and retweet buttons were being used as part of a strategic offense.
Russian-linked accounts promoted fake news stories
Russian social botnets appear to have been used to promote a lot of far-right news hashtags, according to Hamilton 68, a program that tracks probable bots of Russian origin. This is in itself not especially unusual. Twitter charges to promote tweets and tags on its service, so an underhanded advertiser may feel the need to promote its work through a network of linked accounts that will get it the requisite number of likes and retweets.
But a January report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) in noted that Russian state-affiliated bloggers had prepared such a campaign for Clinton’s victory. “Before he election, Russian diplomats had publicly denounced the US electoral process and were prepared to publicly call into question the validity of the results,” the report’s authors wrote. “Pro- Kremlin bloggers had prepared a Twitter campaign, #DemocracyRIP, on election night in anticipation of Secretary Clinton’s victory, judging from their social media activity.”
At other moments, Russian Twitter users glommed onto the far-right news of the day, including the conspiracy theory that murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich had something to do with the stolen emails.
Russians ran at least one pro-Trump news account
The @tpartynews account had some 22,000 followers and regularly insulted Black Lives Matter activists. The account was followed by former Trump advisor Sebastian Gorka, who himself has been linked to far-right racist and anti-Semitic groups in Hungary.
How much bot traffic was actually directed by Russian intelligence?
Bot traffic on Twitter is vast. While it accounted for 33 percent of pro-Trump tweets during the run-up to the 2016 election, it also accounted for 22 percent of pro-Clinton tweets. It’s very difficult to tell which tweets are of Russian origin and which Russian tweets are part of a Kremlin influence campaign. Much of this simply speaks to a vulnerability on the platform that activists have been complaining about for years: Twitter’s sign-up process is very simple and open to abuse by anyone who, for whatever reason, wants to promote a malicious agenda or harass other users.
To what extent did Russia use Twitter’s ad technology?
We now know Russian operators used Facebook to run ad campaigns around divisive social issues. They made use of the company’s microtargeting capabilities, which are especially effective at locating people who may be sympathetic to the deluge of anti-Clinton, pro-Trump news that the GRU had already seeded through WikiLeaks, Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks. Twitter hasn’t yet answered the question of whether Russian intelligence was able to operate to its satisfaction merely using botnets and sock-puppet accounts like @tpartynews, or whether it needed to buy promoted tweets or hashtags; so far there’s no evidence that it did.
Why are some Russian accounts dormant while others are still active?
One group tracking Russian bots notes that many of them haven’t stopped tweeting. In fact, they tweeted in support of alt-right groups in the aftermath of the slaying of Heather Heyer at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Again, some of this is inductive reasoning: ProPublica identified one account as a bot by noting it used a stolen photo, sent five tweets in a single minute that all used a URL shortener, and that the account’s tweets “were reported to use similar language from Russian government–backed outlets Sputnik and RT.” Of course, all this could be true of a human account, too.
What does Twitter plan to do about any of this?
Twitter is due on Capitol Hill Wednesday and Thursday. The company has thus far been tight-lipped about its strategy for dealing with malicious foreign governments trying to tamper in each others’ elections—similar influence campaigns in France and Germany have taken place since the American election. The company may come up with some kind of internal proposal for enhancing its ability to detect and root out activity like the GRU influence campaign in much the same way it, along with Facebook, has agreed to help the U.S. deal with social media accounts run by the Islamic State.
Manafort’s Offer to Russian Oligarch Was Tied to Disputed Deal
When Donald Trump’s campaign chairman offered private briefings to a Russian oligarch close to President Vladimir Putin last year, he wasn’t only appealing to a superpower, he was pursuing a personal mission: the end to a costly dispute over a failed …
What We Know About Russia’s Use Of Twitter In 2016 Propaganda Campaign
In this case, it appears to have given useful platforms to what the U.S. intelligence community says were fronts for a Russian intelligence service. The Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks accounts haven’t tweeted since January 2017 and December 2016, respectively.
Government contractor arrested by counter-terror police over Official Secrets Act
… was arrested at an address in north London by officers “acting upon intelligence received.” She was arrested on suspicion of an offence contrary to section 1 of the Official Secret Act 1911, and was detained under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act.
National Action: 11 suspected members of banned neo-Nazi terror group arrested in England and Wales
Police have arrested 11 suspected members of a neo-Nazi group on suspicion of terror offences across England and Wales. Six men were arrested in north west England, including one suspect who was already in prison, two in Wales, two in West Yorkshire …
UK counter-terror police arrest 11 amid far-right probeHouston Chronicle
Anti-terror police arrest 11 men in national sting on neo-Nazi terror groupManchester Evening News
In Trump’s eyes, everything is working out perfectly
(CNN) While much of the American public never ceases to be amazed at the President’s tweets, antics or declarations from the stump, those who have known him for years take it in stride. “This is who he is,” says a longtime ally, referring to the NFL …
CNN: IRS Sharing Trump Aides’ Financial Info With Mueller Probe
Mueller has a broad mandate in the Russia probe to investigate Russia’s election meddling and any matters that arise from that investigation. Manafort has been under federal investigation for his financial dealings abroad and work for a pro-Russia …
Noose Tightening Around Trump Family in Russia Probe, Top Democrat WarnsNewsweek
Bills to Protect Mueller Are Bipartisan, but the Path Forward Is UncertainNew York Times
Trump v. Mueller?PR Watch
Politico –Escanaba Daily Press –Courthouse News Service
all 69 news articles »
Robert Mueller probing Russian oligarchs multimillion donations to Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell – by Bill Palmer | Big data firm Cambridge Analytica in talks with Indian oppn party for 2019 polls | China’s ‘Magic Weapons’: Influence Operations Subverting Foreign Governments – Washington Free Beacon by mikenova
Trump on the Warpath
Trump, a malignant narcissist, is seeking instant gratification and a political “win.” America’s recent wars have provided such immediate gratification, before quickly giving way to grief – the ultimate quick high followed by a very deep low. The US is …
‘The Most Dangerous Man in the World’: Trump Is Violent, Immature and Insecure, Psych Experts Say
While there have surely been American presidents who could be said to be narcissistic, none have shown sociopathic qualities to the degree seen in Trump. Correspondingly, none have been so definitively and so obviously dangerous. Democracy requires …