Friday, July 04, 2008

A Hero of Our Time: Investigative Reporter Yury Shchekochikhin, Free Speech, and the Bank of New York (BoNY)

"[T]he specialist whom I contacted said that with 90% certainty Yuri's case was a poisoning and most likely he was poisoned with thallium...

Recently, very few people in Russia find the courage to tell the truth."---Kirill Kabanov, a former member of Russia's Federal Security Service, the FSB

UPDATE: St. Petersburg Times posts a July 4 story about Shchekochikhin, too. I guess I'm not the only one who noticed it is five years since he is gone.
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There are disreputable, money-grubbing con-artists like the ex-professor Ward Churchill who write lies and posture about free speech in their radical sandboxes, and there are real heroes: patriots who honestly try to learn the truth and sometimes are even murdered by criminals because they openly exercise their free speech by testifying to the truth in court.

Ward Churchill makes his money by writing lies about the FBI in order to discredit it in the eyes of American Indians. Ward Churchill doesn't want Indians to trust and help the the FBI so that they will be protected from con-artists and criminals, so he demeans people who cooperate with the FBI as "stooges."

For example, in his book Acts of Rebellion (172-3), Ward Churchill falsely caricatures Pine Ridge reservation Tribal Chairman Dick Wilson's Guardians of the Oglala Nation (GOONs) as FBI-backed Pine Ridge reservation death-squads.

However, according to Joseph and John Trimbach, authors of American Indian Mafia ( p. 489):

[T]he GOONs were conceived and authorized for one reason and one reason only: to ward off the coming assault of AIM lawbreakers. Shortly after their "successful" BIA engagement in Washington in 1972, AIM leaders promised they would return to Pine Ridge, where they would infiltrate and take over the reservation. Russell Means phoned the tribal secretary with the message, "[G]et your pigs together because we are going to take Billy Mills Hall and use it." (75)...Means had just provided Wilson the impetus behind the creation of the GOONS, a group of hired guns who answered to Wilson and his council. The Wilson administration...voted to pass a resolution...to uphold and protect "the sovereign dignity of the Oglala Soux Tribe...against any threats or the intent of destructive action on the part of the American Indian Movement on this Pine Ridge Reservation." (76) The council approved the creation of a fourty-man team, funded by BIA appropriations, to protect and defend tribal buildings.

...There were no doubt instances of GOON retaliation, and blame for the ensuing reservation war should be shared by anyone who violated the law. Yet, many of the attacks were of the type AIM had perpetrated against innocent people for years, and in far more instances.

Churchill made the preposterous claim in the summer 1985 issue of the KGB-sponsored Covert Action Information Bulletin that FBI-backed GOON death-squads had murdered 342 Indians:

[M]ore directly parallel to the performance of U.S. covert agencies abroad is physical repression conducted at another level, that of outright cadre liquidation. For example, in the post-Wounded Knee context of South Dakota's Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation, independent researcher Candy Hamilton established that at least 342 AIM members and supporters were killed by roving death squads aligned with and supported by the FBI. (The death squads called themselves GOONs, "Guardians of the Oglala Nation.") This was between 1973 and 1976 alone. [The Covert Action Information Bulletin, (Summer 1985 issue.), Number 24 pp. 16-21. C.A.I.B., P.O. Box 34583, Washington, D.C. 20043].

In the same article of the KGB-sponsored C.A.I.B., Churchill twisted the facts to make it appear that the FBI had threatened Aquash's life and had probably murdered her:

Aquash was told outright during the fall of 1975 by federal agent David Price (who was involved in the assassinations of Mark Clark and Fred Hampton [Black Panther leaders] in Chicago in 1969, and who has been involved more recently in paramilitary operations against the Republic of New Afrika) that "You'll be dead within a year".

In order to adjust its propaganda to keep up with the FBI investigation of Aquash's murder, the organization that reposted Churchill's 1985 C.A.I.B. essay inserted a bracketed "correction" following Churchill's above assertion which now implied that Aquash had been "bad-jacketed" by the FBI:

[ATS Note: Recent events and allegations have implied that Anna Mae Aquash's murderers were AIM members. See August 1995 interview with Robert Robideau for more information. Of course, FBI involvement in her murder is highly probable but likely of a different nature than what is described above.]

One notes that Russia's foreign-intelligence chief and later Prime Minister Evgeni Primakov admitted (to an audience of Russian college students who were considering becoming intelligence officers) that KGB writers "badjacketed" the U.S. Army by spreading defamatory stories about how the U.S. Army kills minorities.

Primakov is quoted in Izvestia (3-19-92) stating that the KGB disinformation services spread the false, anti-American canard in the media that the U.S. Army made AIDS in a laboratory as a biological weapon:

[Primakov] mentioned the well known articles printed a few years ago in our central newspapers about AIDS supposedly originating from secret Pentagon laboratories. According to Yevgeni Primakov, the articles exposing US scientists' 'crafty' plots were fabricated in KGB offices.

The adage about people who live in glass houses comes to mind in connection with Ward Churchill.

It would seem that a white man who publishes fabrications in KGB mouthpieces about FBI-backed death squads and who is outed for fabricating canards about how the U.S. Army deliberately infected the Mandan Indians with smallpox is in no position to be calling Tribal chief Dick Wilson's Indian Guardians of the Oglala Nation government stooges.

The former FBI agent Joseph Trimbach writes in American Indian Mafia (p. 158) that the Chairman of the Pine Ridge Indian reservation Dick Wilson was "anything but a 'stooge' of the government. Contrary to what [Ward Churchill's violent, thieving, hostage-taking, museum-vandalizing, church-burning, home-invading, invalid-abusing, village-pillaging, AIMster friend] Russell Means often claims, Wilson was clearly the more ardent defender of Indian sovereignty."

Luckily, if you read American Indian Mafia by Joseph and John Trimbach, you will see that the propagandist Ward Churchill and the splintered factions of old American Indian Movement (AIM) leaders are not fooling everyone any more. The book shows that some brave Indians are not afraid of being smeared as "stooges" if they exercise their free speech by telling the truth about the 1975 murders of two FBI agents, the full circumstances of the 1975 murder of the Indian AIM activist Anna Mae Aquash, and the subsequent cover-up by the old AIM leadership of these and possibly other murders during the 1973 AIM take-over of the village of Wounded Knee.

The old AIM leaders have spent decades accusing the FBI of a cover-up in the 1975 murder of Anna Mae Aquash, but really, the AIMsters are the ones who perpetrated a cover-up of her murder. The old Aimsters have spent decades accusing the FBI of provoking violence on Pine Ridge Indian reservation, but really the AIMsters are the ones who provoked the violence. The cowardly old AIM leaders, their lawyers, and their propagandists are afraid of Indian people, so they cover up their poisonous BIG LIE with a hypocritical blanket of Indian advocacy.

The heroes in the Trimbachs' book are modern-day "Indian braves," and Joe and John Trimbach pay tribute to these patriotic Indian heroes who have served justice not only in their own Indian nations, but throughout all America.

On this Fourth of July, 2008, I want to remember the Russian investigative reporter Yury Shchekochikhin, who died because he exercised his free speech in Russia. He never got the chance to exercise his free speech in an American court. People like Ward Churchill would probably say that Yury was an FBI "stooge," but really he is a hero and a Russian patriot who also tried to help America.

I know a lot more about Russians than I do about American Indians, but when I read Ward Churchill's dishonest books, I gradually realized that Indians--my own fellow Americans--were being victimized by some of the same kind of vicious gangster-inspired propaganda that destroys Russians. I felt sort of ashamed that I didn't know this a long time ago, but Yury's story is one reason that I was finally able to understand how Indians are being victimized by people who pretend to be their advocates.

Yury tried to protect the Russian and American people from rapacious criminals by going to the FBI even though he lived in Russia. He was a very smart man who didn't believe lies about the FBI: Yury understood that the FBI would help the American and Russian people. Unfortunately, the FBI could not protect him in Russia. In America, of course, it is a lot different. If you go to the FBI, they will help you.

Yury was probably murdered. When asked why doctors should give other reasons for Yury's death and why medical samples from Yury should be unobtainable, Kirill Kabanov, a former member of Russia's security service, the FSB, suggested there had been a cover-up:

Yuri Schekochikhin's treatment and his post-mortem took place at the Central Clinical Hospital. This is the most important clinic in Russia and it's tightly controlled by the Russian Federal Security Service because it treats top-ranking Russian officials.

On June 2, 2008, I posted an article to remember the five-year anniversary of the suspicious death of Yury Shchekochikhin (pictured above), a Moscow investigative reporter who died on July 3, 2003, possibly from radioactive poisoning. The Jamestown Foundation (7-6-04) also remembered Shchekochikhin on the first anniversary of his mysterious death and began by explaining:

Yuri Shchekochikhin, a State Duma deputy and veteran investigative journalist, died under mysterious circumstances one year ago, and Novaya gazeta, the publication where he was a deputy editor, devoted eight articles to him in its July 1 issue.

The Jamestown Foundation closed its report on Novaya gazeta's investigation of his illness and his investigative research with this paragraph:

In early 2002, Yuri Shchekochikhin was put under protective guard along with his family after receiving threats connected to an investigative piece published in Novaya gazeta in February of that year. In that article, he claimed that a "criminal group" had paid $2 million to top officials in the Prosecutor General's Office to close down an investigation into allegations that two leading Moscow furniture outlets, Tri Kita (Three Whales) and Grand, evaded import duties by falsifying the weight and purchase price of millions of dollars' worth of goods they had imported. Other media had earlier reported that among the co-founders of the Tri Kita and Grand stores were "firms belonging to the father" of Yuri Zaostrovtsev, then a deputy director of the Federal Security Service (FSB) (Jamestown Monitor, February 20, 2002). According to Novaya gazeta, Shchekochikhin had also received threats just prior to his death (Novaya gazeta, June 1). The newspaper reported last year that on the eve of his murder, Shchekochikhin was planning to travel to the United States to ask the FBI to investigate connections between the Tri Kita case and money laundering through the Bank of New York (Novaya gazeta, August 11, 2003).

I have admired Mr. Shchekochikhin since he wrote these optimistic words in the foreward of a book called KIFE (1989):

A new generation, devoid of social fear, had stepped into life. The nightmare of Stalin's terror was not in their genes because they were the first generation in our country whose innocent fathers had not been arrested....Already another new young generation is appearing in our life: it's composed of the ones who are growing up during perestroika. These are the children of glasnost. They don't have to look for the words of truth in samizdat (illegally published literature). Glasnost is not an unexpected gift for them, as it is for us, the older generation. Glasnost is an integral part of their lives and they will never let anybody destroy it (KIFE x-xi).

KIFE, which is Russian slang for "having it all," can now be purchased for only 44 cents. Plus the postage, of course. I feel very angry when I read Yury's words because of what happened to him later. Some people are "having it all," but not Yury.

Mr. Shchekochikhin died on July 3, 2003, a month after he talked to the FBI and was issued a U.S. visa so that he could come to the U.S. and testify in the Bank of New York (BoNY) money-laundering case.

The Jamestown Foundation (2-22-2000) has an old article on the background of this case.

RFE/RL (9-26-06) stated:

A month before his death, [Yury] Shchekochikhin met with officials from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation to discuss the possibility that Three Whales [furniture company] was tied to another massive corruption scandal -- the Bank of New York money-laundering case. U.S. investigators accused Russia of laundering billions of dollars through BONY in 1998-99... [Shchekochikhin] had received a U.S. visa with the aim of testifying in the case...But he never got a chance to use it.

Virginie Couolloudon, writing for RFE/RL (7-16-03), chronicled the very complicated and dangerous investigation that Yury was pursuing in "How Long Can One Write About the Same Thing?" and reported:

In May 2003, Sergei Pereverzev, president of the Furniture Business Association, was killed a few days before he could testify in court against the owners of Tri Kita and in favor of two GTK officials who were also being accused of abuse of power. Pereverzev was murdered in his hospital room following a serious car accident that he had managed to survive. A month earlier -- on 2 April, in an interview with "Moskovskii Komsomolets," Pereverzev said that he had been threatened. Finally, the judge in charge of the GTK officials' case was also threatened. He received a letter containing a death threat that Shchekochikhin showed on the independent TVS television channel on 4 June 2003.

The last time Shchekochikhin described the case in detail was on 2 June in "Novaya Gazeta." He wrote: "Writing all this, I feel like a second-grade student who keeps repeating the same lesson. How long can one write about the same thing?" It was exactly one month before he died.

He once again mentioned that, while police officials are accused of abuse of power, witnesses murdered, and judges threatened, smugglers are free. Arms smuggling continues, as does the war in Chechnya. Today, TVS is closed, officially for economic reasons, and Shchekochikhin is dead, after suffering from what has been officially labeled an "unknown allergen." It is possible, however, that he really died from the endemic disease of corruption in Russia -- a disease that he was among the first to diagnose.

In February, Reuters (2-13-08) reported that lawyers representing the Bank of New York (BoNY) were attempting to question Russia's custom service chief Andrei Belyaninov, who worked alongside Putin in East Germany during the last years of communism and is believed to be a close friend of the former Russian President.

The Russian customs service is suing the BoNY for 22.5 billion dollars. Reuters reported court testimony from the BoNY's lawyer Ivan Marisin that the Russian customs service had submitted a document signed by Belyaninov on letterhead that did not exist at the time the document was written.

Yekaterina Dukhina, the head lawyer for Russia's customs service, claimed outside of court that it was absurd and unrealistic to question a person of Belyaninov's standing!

Remarkably, Reuters manages not to mention whether this lawsuit is happening in the U.S. or in Russia, but read ahead and see if you can figure it out.

Reuters also does not mention that Lucy Edwards, the BoNY employee who laundered the money, and her husband, Peter Berlin, are Russian emigres.

Reuters (2-13-08) offers some strait-faced insight into the court testimony:

The customs service is suing the bank for damages related to a U.S. money-laundering case from 2000, in which a rogue employee at the bank [Lucy Edwards] helped launder $7 billion from Russia -- thought to be the biggest such crime in history.

Last week a BoNY lawyer claimed in court that the head lawyer for the customs service had falsified the documents that gave him power of attorney.

"Because the document bears the signature of the head of the service, it is only appropriate that he shows up to answer for this," BoNY attorney Ivan Marisin said in court...

The falsification claims centre on a document dated April 27, 2007 that gives U.S. lawyer Steven Marks, who represents the Russian side, power of attorney.

Marisin said it is printed on letterhead that the service only put into effect in October.

The judge insisted last week on seeing the original of the document. But customs lawyers failed to produce it and Marks said in a letter read to the court that he was unable to attend the hearing.

Andrei Strukov, head of the customs service's legal department, confirmed that his service had given [Steven] Marks power of attorney, but said he could not remember approving it, and declined to say who in the service could have approved it.

Asked whether the document was printed on letterhead that only existed five months after it was dated, Strukov said, "I don't understand the question...and don't bother repeating it, because I'm afraid I still won't understand."

Judge Lyudmila Pulova did not call on Belyaninov to personally appear at the next hearing, scheduled for Feb. 27.

Bloomberg (7-3-08) explains more:

Lawyers for the Bank of New York Mellon Corp., the world's biggest custodian of financial assets, argued a commercial court in Moscow is the wrong venue for Russia's $22.5 billion lawsuit over money laundering.

The Russian Customs Service, which is pursuing the case together with a team of Miami-based lawyers, argues it can apply the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, to triple damages in the case. The Customs Service is pursuing the damages as a civil rather than criminal RICO claim, which, it says entails a "lower burden of proof'' and doesn't require evidence that a crime was committed.

"In this case, the Customs Service does not have to show that the Bank of New York was convicted of money laundering,'' lawyer Bruce Marks said today during questioning by the bank's lead lawyer, Ivan Marisin.

Marisin argued that the law can't be used outside the U.S. and that a crime must be proved for a RICO claim, whether criminal or civil, meaning that the Moscow Arbitration Court can't hear the case.

...Judge Lyudmila Pulova is hearing testimony from expert witnesses, including Marks, on whether the RICO Act can be applied in the case.

Lucy Edwards, a former Bank of New York Mellon vice president in London, and her husband, Peter Berlin, [Russian emigres] who ran companies with accounts at the bank, told U.S. officials in 2000 that they had conspired to use the bank to launder more than $7 billion from Russia. They were sentenced to five years probation.

...The bank said in 2005 that it failed to report suspicious transactions and paid $14 million to end two criminal probes in the U.S. as part of a nonprosecution agreement.

That agreement, in which the bank acknowledged that its employees acted illegally, is sufficient to prove in a civil case that the bank harmed Russia by facilitating capital flight at a time when government coffers were running low, the Customs Service says.

Because a court hasn't ruled that it violated criminal laws, the bank claims there is no crime to serve as the basis for a RICO case...[See full text].

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