In most of the world’s criminal codes handling stolen goods is criminalised on a par with actually stealing them.
But what’s sauce for the goose of individuals doesn’t seem to be sauce for the gander of states, EU states in particular.
Yet as that quivering aspen proves, tainted money taints the recipient and may ultimately lead to his suicide. This would be a useful lesson for EU spivs to learn, except that they show no signs of ever being able to learn any lessons.
The sanctions imposed on a handful of Putin’s henchmen are worse than derisory – they are suicidal, and not just because they encourage further conquests.
What the EU’s craven response proves is that no cause, no principle exists that would make it prepared to suffer even the slightest material discomfort. Europe’s body loves Russia’s gas, and her billions laundered through European banks, more than Europe’s soul hates evil.
This effectively turns Europe into a giant fence, a sort of Fagin to Putin’s Bill Sykes. Surely everybody knows that all Russian billionaire, emphatically including Col. Putin himself, are gangsters? That every penny they own isn’t capital but loot?
Moreover, when it comes to a contest of wits, gangsters will always fly rings around unscrupulous but not yet criminalised bankers and government officials. Witness the ease with which the billionaire Gennady Timchenko got around US sanctions.
Timchenko (codename ‘Gangrene’, which wouldn’t be my first choice of a moniker) is one of the owners of the Swiss-based, Cyprus-registered oil trader Guvnor, through which most of Russian oil flows to the West. It’s an open secret in Russia that Putin himself holds an interest in Guvnor, estimated at 50 to 75 percent (he also owns 4.5 percent of Gasprom, lucky lad).
When the news of the impending action by the US Treasury was leaked, Timchenko instantly ‘sold’ all his shares to his Western partner, and if you think that the sale was real and irreversible, there’s a bridge across the Thames I’d like to sell you.
For the US sanctions’ punch to connect with anything but air, what should have been frozen wasn’t Timchenko’s personal assets but those of his company.
That blow would have rocked Putin; the air punch must have made him laugh, as he watched his stooge cocking a snook at the Yanks. And the EU didn’t even sanction Timchenko personally, lest Putin take offence.
Sweeping sanctions ought to be applied to both the personal and corporate assets of all Russian oligarchs without a single exception, including the shady owner of Chelsea FC.
We must never forget that Abramovich, Mandelson’s best friend Deripaska and every other Russian who made billions overnight didn’t really make them. The Russians are absolutely right when referring to these petty crooks elevated to the rank of ‘businessmen’ as ‘appointed oligarchs’.
Their function is to act as conduits for the ruling elite’s money flowing to the West. The oligarchs have only a leasehold on their capital – the freehold is owned by the KGB colonels who make up the Russian government and by the KGB generals who appointed the colonels in the first place.
The oligarchs are allowed to live high on the hog off the interest, provided they don’t forget which side their bread is buttered. This means not meddling in politics unless it’s on Putin’s side and also coughing up whenever the colonel needs some loose change, billions’ worth, for one of his pet projects.
Being personally obsequious to Putin is also an iron-clad requirement, hence the yacht Abramovich once presented to the colonel as a gift.
Compared to the billion-pound palaces Putin is constructing for himself all over Russia, this is just a small token of respect, or rather rispetto if we use the term first popularised by Italian gangsters. But without such tokens, and his general docility, Abramovich et al wouldn’t be allowed to hang on to their billions, possibly their lives.
Dave Cameron says he doesn’t exclude the possibility of imposing sanctions on Abramovich and presumably other Putin cronies whose money lives in Britain even if they themselves don’t.
I have to see this to believe it but, if such sanctions do materialise, no doubt the City will suffer some pain. Similarly, if the EU were to freeze all dubious Russian assets (which is to say all major Russian assets), Putin will retaliate in some fashion, probably using his gas pipeline as a weapon.
But any pain we may suffer is but a minor itch compared to the massive moral damage caused by the toxic presence of Russian loot in our countries. When the formerly honourable financial institutions of the West are turned into fencing or money-laundering operations for gangsters, the West loses its moral fibre, whatever is left of it.
Bereft of it, the West becomes a purely geographic entity, with no claim to any moral justification for its continued existence as a force for good. If history has taught anything, it’s that civilisations losing their moral spine eventually die out.