January 12, 2011
The final decision in the Russian trial against former oil oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky has drawn dramatic statements of protest from the US Obama Administration and governments around the world labeling Russian justice as tyrannical and worse. What is carefully omitted from the Khodovkorsky story however is the true reason Putin arrested and imprisoned the former head of Russia’s largest private oil giant, Yukos.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s real crime was not stealing Russia’s assets for a pittance in the bandit era of Yeltsin. His real crime is that he was a key part of a Western intelligence operation to dismantle and destroy what remains of Russia as a functioning state. When the facts are known the justice served on him is mild by comparison to US or UK standard treatment of those convicted of treason against the state. Obama’s torture prison at Guantánamo is merely one example of Washington’s double standard.
According to the politically correct sanitized account in Wikipedia, “Yukos Oil Company was a petroleum company in Russia which, until 2003, was controlled by Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky… Khodorkovsky was convicted and sent to prison… Yukos was one of the biggest and one of the most successful Russian companies in 2000-2003. In 2003, following a tax reassessment, the Russian government presented Yukos with a series of tax claims that amounted to $27 billion. As Yukos’s assets were frozen by the government at the same time, the company was not able to pay these tax demands. On August 1, 2006, a Russian court declared Yukos bankrupt. Most of Yukos’s assets were sold at low prices to oil companies owned by the Russian government. The Parliamentary Council of Europe has condemned Russia’s campaign against Yukos and its owners as manufactured for political reasons and a violation of human rights.”
If we dig a little deeper however we find a quite different case. As he stepped out of his private plane in Siberia in October 2003 Khodorkovsky was arrested. He was arrested, as Wikipedia correctly states, for tax crimes. What they did not say is that he at the tender age of 40 had risen to become the richest man in Russia worth some $15 billion by fraudulent acquisition of state assets during the lawless Yeltsin era. In an auction run by his own bank, Khodorkovsky paid $309 million for Yukos. In 2003 the same company was assessed as worth $45 billion, and not owing to Khodorkovsky’s management genius.
In 1998, Khodorkovsky had been let free in a US case where he was charged with helping launder $10 billion with his own bank and the Bank of New York. He had very influential friends in the US it appeared. The then head of the Republic National Bank of New York, Edmund Safra, was murdered some months later in his Monaco apartment reportedly from members of an alleged “Russian mafia” whom he had cheated in a drug money laundering scheme.
But there was more. Khodorkovsky built some impressive ties in the West. With his new billions in effect stolen from the Russian people, he made some powerful friends. He set up a foundation modeled on US billionaire George Soros‘ Open Society, calling it the Open Russia Foundation. He invited two powerful Westerners to its board—Henry Kissinger and Jacob Lord Rothschild. Then he set about to develop ties with some of the most powerful circles in Washington where he was named to the Advisory Board of the secretive private equity firm, Carlyle Group where he attended board meetings with fellow advisors such as George H.W. Bush and James Baker III.
However, the real crime that landed Khodorkovsky behind Russian bars was the fact that he was in the middle of making a US-backed coup d’etat to capture the Russian presidency in planned 2004 Russian Duma elections. Khodorkovsky was in the process of using his enormous wealth to buy enough seats in the coming Duma elections that he could change Russian laws regarding ownership of oil in the ground and of pipelines transporting same. In addition he planned to directly challenge Putin and become Russian President. As part of the horse trade that won Putin the tacit support of the wealthy so-called Russian Oligarchs, Putin had extracted agreement that they be allowed to hold on to their wealth provided they repatriate a share back into Russia and provided they not interfere in domestic Russian politics with their wealth. Most oligarchs agreed, as did Khodorkovsky at the time. They remain established Russian businessmen. Khodorkovsky did not.
Moreover, at the time of his arrest Khodorkovsky was in the process of negotiating via his Carlyle friend George H.W. Bush, father of the then-President George W. Bush, the sale of 40% of Yukos to either Condi Rice’s former company, Chevron or ExxonMobil in a move that would have dealt a crippling blow to the one asset left Russia and Putin to use for the rebuilding of the wrecked Russian economy: oil and export via state-owned pipelines to the West for dollars. During the ensuing Russian state prosecution of Yukos, it came to light that Khodorkovsky had also secretly made a contract with London’s Lord Rothschild not merely to support Russian culture via the Open Russia Foundation of Khodorkovsky. In the event of his possible arrest (Khodorkovsky evidently knew he was playing a high-risk game trying to create a coup against Putin) the 40% share of his Yukos stocks would pass into the hands of Lord Rothschild.
The crocodile tears of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for the violations of Khodorkovsky’s human rights hide a far deeper agenda that is not being admitted. Washington used the Russian to try to reach its goal of totally destroying the only power left on the earth with sufficient military strike power to challenge the Pentagon’s Full Spectrum Dominance strategy—control of the entire planet. When seen in that light the sweet loaded words “human rights” take on a quite different meaning.
F. William Engdahl is the author of Gods of Money: Wall Street and the Death of the American Century and Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order. His other books include Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation and A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order.