US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — London – Yeah, that’s how rich Russians live in London!
A “small” three-bedroom apartment in a cream-colored house near Regent’s Park costs more than nine million euros.
There is a private fenced park nearby. Millionaires, diplomats and prominent representatives of the cultural elite live in the neighborhood.
In the corner apartment of the house lives Lyubov Chernukhina, a Russian banker and consultant. In the UK, she is known as a woman who “made a donation” eight years ago to a conservative party led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the amount of more than 1.8 million euros.
“She paid £ 135,000 for dinner with [former Prime Minister] Theresa May and six other ministers,” said Andrew Foxall, director of the Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies of the Society, Henry Jackson (Russia and Eurasia Studies Center at the Henry Jackson Society).
For tennis matches with former Prime Minister David Cameron and then-Mayor of London, Chernukhin paid 160 thousand pounds.
In principle, there is nothing illegal in these “donations”. Lyubov Chernukhina became a British citizen many years ago. In a conservative party, it is customary to receive money from wealthy “donors” by “selling” events in the company of ministers and other influential people.
Was British politicians interested in the fact that Chernukhina spouse Vladimir Chernukhin used to be a minister and was part of Putin’s close circle? The story is silent about this.
We take part in the so-called “kleptocratic tour” in the richest quarters of London.
Clamp-K has been conducting these tours since 2016. They talk about the influence of Russians and other wealthy foreigners on British politics.
According to the dictionary, kleptocracy is “the power of thieves,” that is, a society in which people in power appropriate state property for themselves and their loved ones.
The tour is conducted by the founders of ClampK Roman Borisovich and Arthur Doohan. Among the participants of the bus excursion are experts working in London, foreign correspondents and British journalists.
“And now – the next object!”
Another Russian lives in the block from Chernukhina house – Alexander Lebedev, one of the most famous oligarchs, a former KGB agent.
Lebedev was an influential person in London already in the 1980s, working in the embassy of the Soviet Union. It is not surprising that in influential British circles he feels like a fish in water.
In December 2019, Alexander Lebedev celebrated the 60th anniversary. At the party with vodka and caviar, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his girlfriend also came.
Boris Johnson could not resist participating in the celebration, although parliamentary elections were held the day before, and the next day he was due to visit Northern England.
Johnson is said to be closely acquainted with Eugene, the son of Lebedev. The Lebedevs, father and son, own a free London newspaper with a large circulation of Evening Standard, as well as the Internet newspaper The Independent.
The Independent Editor-in-Chief is George Osborne, former chancellor of the Treasury in Cameron’s government.
About journalist Lebedev tells journalist Luke Harding (Luke Harding), received the prize of the newspaper The Guardian. His books about Russia were also translated into Finnish.
According to Harding, many Englishmen still associate Russian agents with Brezhnev’s eyebrows and olive-colored uniforms. Modern influential figures from Russia are courteous cosmopolitans who have been hanging around in Western countries for many decades.
In Soviet times, the Russians tried to influence primarily the left-wing parties. Now their goal is right-wing and far-right parties in different countries.
“Russians have wide access to the circles of the conservative party [of Great Britain]. Formally, everything is legal, but communication with Russia remains, ”Harding said.
The influence of Russians in the UK is being studied by journalists, activists and former members of the inter-party committee on intelligence and security.
In 2019, the committee prepared a report that the Johnson government refused to publish before the parliamentary elections. The report is still unpublished.
“This delay is a real scandal. Government excuses are ridiculous, ”said journalist Edward Lucas, who has long been studying British security policy.
Usually in the UK there are leaks of almost all documents. However, the details of the report on Russia did not get into the press.
In addition to Russian attempts to influence, Lucas also speaks about the actions of the Chinese.
“China is an even more serious threat. The Chinese are focusing on long periods of time. Russians have better tactics than strategy.”
It is not only about friendly relations with British politicians. Universities and students are also objects of influence. It is alleged that the Chinese bully students.
Suddenly, Lucas begins to talk about Finn.
“A Finnish researcher was convicted in Denmark for espionage. Then he moved to England, and no one seems to consider this a problem.”
Professor Timo Kivimäki began teaching at the University of Bath in 2015.
The connection between Brexit, Russian influence and social networks, in turn, is being investigated by journalist Carole Cadwalladr, who writes for The Guardian.
In her opinion, foreign forces can easily influence the British system for organizing elections. The source of bribery is not always possible to establish.
“There are defects in the system, but nothing is being done about them,” says Cadwallader during the bus tour.
Carol Cadwallader wrote, for example, about the meetings of the British businessman Arron Banks (Arron Banks) with Russian figures. Banks supports Britain’s exit from the EU and invests in politics. He initiated the Leave.EU campaign, which led to brexit.
Banks, in turn, sued Carol Cadwallader for defamation. In January, he dropped some of his charges.
Under the stories of Cadwallader, a sightseeing bus pulls up to the next object – the official residence of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. But why?
As reported by the BBC and other British media, while Johnson was in the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs, his access to the most secret documents was limited. May issued such a decree – due to distrust of Johnson.
But some time ago, the British government openly called on the oligarchs to move to the UK. For money and investments it was possible to get the so-called golden visa, that is, the right to reside. The more millions, the less you had to wait.
“Between 2008 and 2015, there were no serious checks on the origin of the money,” said Rachel Davis, one of the leaders of the anti-corruption organization Transparency International.
The Ministry of the Interior issued a visa, and after that the banks had to study the origin of the funds. But banks did not see a reason for conducting such studies – after all, the ministry had already issued a visa.
According to Davis, about three thousand rich people moved to Great Britain on a “golden visa”. Russians among them were 20%. There is no information left about the origin of approximately three billion pounds.
According to some estimates, in London there are ten thousand real estate properties, information about the owner of which is hidden. Real estate is one way to launder money.
“The British are proud of their principles of the rule of law and the absence of bribes. At the same time, London has become a city of kleptocrats and dirty money, ”says Margaret Hodge, a member of the Labor Party.
Hodge enters the bus at the parliament building. She used to lead a committee in the lower house of parliament that worked to improve the transparency of the tax system.
In the UK, information about the property owner is not always available in the registry. According to Hodge, between 2010 and 2020, Russians laundered about 70 billion pounds in the UK.
“But the problem is not limited to Russians alone.”
The British government’s line with respect to the oligarchs became stricter two years ago, when May was still prime minister. Gold visas ceased to issue. Relations with Russia deteriorated after an attempt to poison the Skripals two years ago.
In 2018, a new requirement appeared in the UK: a person who came to England from a country outside the European Economic Area may be asked to provide accurate data on the origin of his property.
The first report was asked to make an Azerbaijani Zamir Hadzhieva.
According to British media, Hadzhieva has a house in England worth more than 10 million euros and a golf club in Berkshire county. Over the past ten years, she has spent more than 18 million euros at Harrods.
Hadzhiev husband is a former banker, Jahangir Hadzhiev, who in 2016 was sentenced in Azerbaijan to 15 years in prison for fraud and economic abuse.
In early February, Zamira Hadzhieva lost the case of “property of unknown origin.”
The BBC recently announced a new investigation into the Aliyev family’s London property, which has great political influence in Kazakhstan.
British officials asked Nurali Aliyev, the grandson of former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, to provide a report on his property. His tens of millions of pounds homes are offshore.
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The article is written and prepared by our foreign editors from different countries around the world – material edited and published by Ordo News staff in our US newsroom press.