Running is a dangerous sport, especially when its practitioner runs from Russia.
Alexander Perepelichny, a Russian Mafioso turned grass to Swiss police, showed just how dangerous. He went for his customary jog near his mansion in Weybridge, then suddenly collapsed and died.
He fell victim, a fourth one, to an epidemic of sudden cardiac arrests afflicting those who testify against Russian crime syndicates in what is usually referred to as the Magnitsky case.
By way of background information, what our papers call ‘crime syndicate’ is the timid shorthand for Putin’s government and him personally. All big business in Russia is transacted by this crime group either directly or by proxy, through smaller Mafias erroneously described as companies in the press. Hence my description of Perepelichny as a Mafioso – if he was Russian and rich, then he was either a world-famous musician or a criminal, and he never performed at the South Bank.
Perepelichny is actually known to have belonged to the deadly Klyuev gang, which he crossed and against which he agreed to testify in the Swiss investigation of money laundering. But, as far as information goes, this knowledge is merely the icing on the cake.
For no one can make a large fortune in Russia without either belonging to the Putin Mafia or at least staying on its good side, typically by paying it off in money or in kind. I’m sure the distinction would be important in an independent court, but from any ethical standpoint it’s irrelevant. We can safely assume that any extremely rich Russian is a criminal, be that as an active perpetrator or abettor.
Bill Browder (whose grandfather co-founded Communist Party USA) was allowed to run his Hermitage hedge fund and make his billions in Russia for as long as he was Putin’s friend. When the friendship went sour, and nothing is more fickle than a tyrant’s affection, he was kicked out of the country and his company was robbed of £140 million. Sergei Magnistky, a Hermitage lawyer, chose to stay behind and expose the crime, whose proceeds were mostly laundered through Swiss banks.
To encourage the others, Magnitsky was arrested and subsequently tortured to death, but some of the others weren’t sufficiently encouraged. Perepelichny was one of those slow on the uptake, possibly because his link with the Magnitsky case featured one or two degrees of separation.
The Swiss of course take money laundering as seriously as a priest would treat a desecration of his altar. Heirs to William Tell have a pure, disinterested love of money, and they hate to see the object of their affection abused.
They are prepared, just, to tolerate on their soil companies like Guvnor International, a shady Russian oil-trading concern of which Putin is rumoured to be a shadow owner. After all, no prima facie evidence of wrongdoing exists, and, even though every Russian knows what’s going on, the Swiss tacitly agree to feign innocence.
But the scam Perepelichny was exposing provided ample prima facie evidence, so his previously healthy 44-year-old heart had to give way on a routine morning jog. All our police are saying at the moment is that murder can’t be ruled out. I’d say it has to be most emphatically ruled in, considering the Russians’ form.
Having said that, the police may eventually prove me wrong and ascribe Perepelichny’s death to natural causes. What is absolutely impossible is that either the police or I or anybody else should say it’s unlikely that Russian ‘businessmen’ or government officials or Putin personally would underwrite a murder.
Once again, Russia as a country is being run like a Mafia family. Those who are ‘made’ become rich; those who aren’t eke out a modest living if they are lucky or starve if they are not. It’s as simple as that.
What is truly upsetting is our acquiescence in all this. If money didn’t smell of effluvia to Emperor Vespasian, to our government it smells of roses. Provided it’s big enough, it’s always welcome to Britain whatever its provenance.
Those who made their fortunes in, putting it mildly, dubious ways, are greeted with open arms in London. They are then allowed to go legit by buying up not only mansions and yachts, but also venerable British institutions: businesses, newspapers, old football clubs. Once ensconced, they use our courts to settle their differences, the way their American equivalents used to rely on Tommy guns. When that’s impossible, they dispose of one another in all sorts of ways, ranging from old-fashioned bullets to nuclear-age polonium.
And yet we welcome them – who else will be shelling tens of millions for yachts to keep our leaking economy afloat? When the underlying immorality of this is pointed out to our MPs, they shrug their shoulders and deliver themselves of platitudes, along the lines of ‘innocent until proven guilty’.
Chaps, read my lips, for I’m repeating this for the last time: no rich Russian is simon-pure, for it’s impossible to make billions there in honest ways. They can’t, nor should be, convicted of any crime without being found guilty beyond reasonable doubt. But they can, and should be, kept out of Britain for purely ecological reasons.
To paraphrase a 1569 court ruling, England is still too pure an air for a Russian billionaire to breathe.