Financed By Israeli
Oligarch's Ill-Gotten Gains
Neil Bush, brother of the U.S. president, is a business partner with the exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky, an Israeli citizen wanted in Russia on charges of fraud.
|Photo: Neil Bush with Boris Berezovsky in Riga, Latvia,
Berezovsky boasts that he caused the war in Chechnya, in which tens of thousands have been killed and a whole country devastated.
He was interested in the mineral resources and a prospective pipeline there. In order to achieve this he put an end to the peace agreement that gave the country some kind of independence.
The oligarchs dismissed and destroyed Alexander Lebed, the popular general who engineered the agreement, and the war has been going on since then.
• Russian TV blames Berezovsky in Polonium poisoning of
|During a September 22 visit to Latvia, Neil Bush, the brother of U.S.
President George W. Bush, appeared with his business partner, the fugitive
Russian oligarch and Israeli citizen, Boris Berezovsky. Berezovsky's appearance
in Riga with the brother of the U.S. president caused significant consternation
for the Latvian government due to Russian demands for his extradition on
charges of fraud.
Neil Bush first came to national attention when he was disgraced during the Silverado Savings and Loan scandal, which occurred during his father's presidency. Federal regulators discovered "multiple conflicts of interest" in Bush's dealings as a board member of Silverado, which failed in 1988, costing U.S. taxpayers $1.3 billion.
Russia requested Berezovsky's extradition when he arrived in Riga. Latvia's general prosecutor, however, refused to extradite Berezovksy claiming that since he has asylum status in Britain, a member state of the European Union, he could not be handed over to Russia.
After the Bush-Berezovsky visit, Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis said that Berezovsky should be barred from entering Latvia because he posed a "threat" to security. President Vaira Vike-Freiberga reportedly supports banning the billionaire exile from future visits to Latvia.
The Moscow Times reported recently that Berezovsky's investment in Bush's Austin, Texas-based company, Ignite, Inc., links him with a well-connected group of former and current shareholders such as former President George H.W. Bush and major Asian and Middle East financiers. Filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission indicate that Bush's company raised $7.1 million from 53 investors in 2001.
Ignite's main product is an classroom projector device of dubious educational value called "The COW" (Curriculum On Wheels), which contains software which replaces traditional textbooks by projecting cartoon images designed "to deliver lessons in the same way professional presenters do."
In the past few months, Berezovsky has helped Bush promote his company in countries of the former Soviet Union that are no longer within Moscow's sphere of influence, including Ukraine, Georgia, and most recently, Latvia.
Berezovsky said his investment in Bush's firm was just business and an investment in an area he had always been interested in. Declining to disclose the size of his investment, Berezovsky said: "I invested in the company because I think that it is doing the right thing. I had no other aims for making this investment. If the company had not been owned by Bush, I would have invested in another that was doing the same thing."
A comment from Berezovsky suggests he was asked to invest in the Bush family firm. "When I received the offer to invest, I sent specialists to look at what the company was doing and they approved," Berezovsky said.
Berezovsky said he has been unable to obtain a visa to travel to the United States to discuss his business ventures with Neil Bush.
"He [Bush] asked me to think about possible projects in the regions that I know about," The Moscow Times reported Berezovsky saying about Bush's plans for the company he founded in 1999. "I've known this region for a long time. The CIS is my area of expertise."
Berezovsky, described as "a former Kremlin king-maker," served as executive secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States under former President Boris Yeltsin. Berezovsky's fortunes changed after Vladimir Putin was elected in 2000 and he became an enemy of the Kremlin.
"For Putin, it must be a very sore point that the brother of his friend has some kind of business with Berezovsky," said Vladimir Pribylovsky, the head of Panorama, a Russian political think tank.
Berezovsky was one of the chief oligarchs in Russia who acquired massive wealth by taking control of the Soviet Union's state assets after the fall of communism. Berezovsky owned several banks and TV stations in Russia when he was accused of defrauding a regional government of $13 million. In 2000, he fled the country and moved to London, where he now lives under the name Platon Elenin.
"Berezovsky is one of seven 'oligarchs,' as they are known both inside and outside Russia: massively rich, powerful manipulators who through violence, theft and corruption acquired a mammoth percentage (reports range from 70 to 85 percent) of Russia's resources, from its oil to the auto industry to mass media outlets," Alison Weir, executive director of If Americans Knew, a website focusing on U.S. involvement with Israel and Palestine, wrote in her article, "Russia, Israel and Media Omissions."
Using their ill-gotten and extraordinary financial resources and insider dealing, the oligarchs gained control over much of Russia's political apparatus.
"The oligarchs handpicked prime ministers and governmental leaders and barely even bothered to do this behind the scenes," Weir wrote.
Almost all of the Russian oligarchs have significant ties to Israel. In fact, Berezovsky has Israeli citizenship, a fact that caused a scandal of Watergate proportions in Russia in 1996 when it was exposed by a Russian newspaper.
Berezovsky's Israeli citizenship and the oligarchs' connections to Israel are widely known in Russia and Israel. In Israel there is even a popular Israeli TV series called "The Oligarchs."
"Some of its episodes," Israeli writer Uri Avnery wrote in an article by the same name, "are simply unbelievable or would have been, if they had not come straight from the horses' mouths: the heroes of the story, who gleefully boast about their despicable exploits. The series was produced by Israeli immigrants from Russia."
"This is a TV series about Russia," Avnery wrote. "But it could have been about Israel - or about the United States.
"The 'oligarchs' are a tiny group of entrepreneurs who exploited the disintegration of the Soviet system to loot the treasures of the state and to amass plunder amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars. In order to safeguard the perpetuation of their business, they took control of the state. Six out of the seven are Jews," Avnery wrote in his August 2004 article.
"In popular parlance they are called 'oligarchs' - from the Greek word meaning 'rule of the few.'
"In the first years of post-Soviet Russian capitalism they were the bold and nimble ones who knew how to exploit the economic anarchy in order to acquire enormous possessions for a hundredth or a thousandth of their value: oil, natural gas, nickel and other minerals. They used every possible trick, including cheating, bribery and murder. Every one of them had a small private army. In the course of the series they are proud to tell in great detail how they did it," Avnery wrote.
"But the most intriguing part of the series recounts the way they took control of the political apparatus. After a period of fighting each other, they decided that it would be more profitable for them to cooperate in order to take over the state."