Clintongate versus Trumpgate: the true facts behind the smokescreen

Clintongate versus Trumpgate: the true facts behind the smokescreen

With the witch hunt for Donald Trump still in full swing, the latter and his entourage have now been accused of counterattacking the Clinton couple and friends, by trying to show that they are even worse “traitors” where it comes to doing business with the Russian bogeyman. It all comes down to a charade and a counter charade. In both cases (which appear to be interrelated in the form of a well-known corporate criminal) neither the Russian nor the Kazakh government had anything to do with eventual wrongdoings, even though both “social” and mainstream media in the USA try their best to make it look that way.

Clintongate versus Trumpgate: the true facts behind the smokescreen

by Charles van der Leeuw, writer, news analyst

“On Sept. 6, 2005, Canadian mining financier Frank Giustra, together with former President Bill Clinton aboard for his connections, flew to Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic, to meet the Central Asian nation’s president,” an article – one out of many – in a US provincial publication called Carolina Coast [] read. “Mr. Giustra got a lucrative contract to mine Kazakh uranium. For his time, Mr. Clinton received $31.3 million for the Clinton Foundation in a donation hidden from the public, despite an agreement Hillary, secretary of state, had with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors. Mr. Giustra combined that $31.3 million gift, said The New York Times, with a pledge of an additional $100 million to the Clinton Foundation.”

So far, the word Russia does not even appear in the text. And where it does, there is no trace of anything illegal on the side of Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear holding. “In February 2007, a Canadian mining company, Uranium One, paid $3.1 billion to acquire UrAsia, the company in which Mr. Giustra was a director and major shareholder. He received $7.05 a share,” the article reads further down. “Two years earlier it traded at 10¢. In October 2010, Hillary Clinton’s U.S. State Department and seven other government agencies on the Committee on Foreign Investment (Eric Holder, President Obama’s attorney general, was among Obama officials joining Mrs. Clinton on the committee) in the United States unanimously approved the partial sale of Uranium One to the Russian nuclear giant Rosatom, giving Russia control of more than 20% — one fifth — of America’s uranium. Russia took total control of Uranium One in 2013. Uranium One now owns more than 38,000 acres of uranium exploration properties in four Western states including Energy Metals Corp. and its uranium holdings in Wyoming, Texas and Utah, where it also owns a uranium mill.” That fact seems to be enough to lambast Rosatom and thereby Russia as such – even though the buyer did nothing wrong as opposed to the original buyer of the uranium fields under question in Kazakhstan for a penny and pocketed, shared with his Kazakh insider cronies, hundreds of millions in greenbacks behind the back of the Kazakh authorities.

The same culprits from Kazakhstan

We have told the story several times before but it looks as though we have to tell it once more. Kazakh white collar criminals, whom the Kazakh authorities have been trying to bring to justice for almost a decade now, have played a key role in the latest attempt by Trump and consorts to shift public attention from their own “Russian” connections to those of their foe Hillary Clinton. The irony of it all is that the Clinton couple’s alleged “Russian” business is as little Russian as Trump’s, and points in the direction of exactly the same culprits from Kazakhstan. In the Clinton case, scams with uranium fields have let hundreds of millions in greenbacks slip into the pockets of the Kazakh swindler Mukhtar Ablyazov with the complicity of the one-time head of the state company Kazatomprom Mukhtar Dzhakishev, and into those of a Canadian businessman-profiteer called Frank Giustra.

There is little doubt that personal relationships between the two Mukhtars goes back to Soviet days. Both studied at the Moscow Institute for Physics Engineering at the time of Gorbachov and according to several reports were roommates at the students’ dormitory. Both got their degree in 1990, on the eve of the break-up of the Soviet Union, and returned to Kazakhstan the next year. Both of them appeared to look for opportunities to do what many of their Russian peers tried to do – in some cases at least for a while successfully – and gather enough political clout in the new regimes under formation to take control of former Soviet assets future ownership of which was far from clear.

As for Dzhakishev, his career started with the post as finance director of an oil-, gas- and mining-related joint stock company for logistics and infrastructure by the name of Butya in 1992. Later on, he made it general director and eventually president of the enterprise. In 1997 he became president of AlauTransGaz, which runs part of Kazakhstan’s gas pipeline network. In 1998, he reached the summit of his career by becoming the head of KazAtomProm, the inheritor of Kazakhstan’s atomic industry. His function brought him to the post of deputy minister for energy and mineral resources in 2001. He was to leave politics and return to KazAtomProm the following year. Back in his seat, he started building up a high profile by freely talking to journalists and becoming very visible in Kazakhstan’s plush entertainment circles for the rich.

A passion for jazz

It would take almost the entire decade before the curtain came down. In April 2009 a member of the Kazakh Parliament used her immunity to take a closer look at the books of KazAtomProm. In this way, Tatyana Kvyatkovskaya found out that an offshore company called Betpak Dala had sold major stakes in the fields of Akdala, South Inkai and Khorassan for the hilarious total som of 64,000 Kazakh tenge – or 426 US dollar at the time. The buyer was a company called UrAsia, based in Canada and quoted on the Toronto Stock Exchange, but virtually unknown among global uranium mining leaders.

A tip of the veil was soon to be lifted when it appeared that the man behind the deal, and also behind UrAsia, was Frank Giustra, a Canadian tycoon and personal friend of Bill Clinton, known much less as a mining expert than as a shrewd financial asset speculator. Clinton and Giustra reputedly shared a passion for jazz (they used to play saxophone and trumpet respectively, and sometimes together), for humanitarian work and for plush parties.

The MP passed the information on to the authorities – but not without presenting them at a press conference in the process. The curtain fell for Dzhakishev in the last week of May the following year, when he was sacked as head of Kazatomprom and arrested before he got a chance to flee from the country. But only over the summer, details about his clandestine network of offshore firms started to come out in the open.

Among the transactions under investigation figures the Central Mynkuduk deposit, estimated worth in the order of 75 million US dollar in historic value, which was transferred to an offshore shell company called Ken Dala Kz, run by Dzhakishev even though still later it was to appear that the financials were in the firm grip of Mukhtar Ablyazov. The same happened with the nearby Kyzylkum deposit, which was eventually sold to a western-held company called UrAsia for the equivalent of hardly more than a hundred thousand US dollar.

“A standstill covenant”

Giustra’s UrAsia in turn saw money pouring in as a result of its kickback deal with Dzhakishev.In 2010 it was bought out by Canada-based global uranium miner Uranium One for $75 million. It was later to be generally assumed that UrAsia in reality paid a lot more for the assets, with the difference having been funnelled out of the country by Dzhakishev with the help of BTA’s Mukhtar Ablyazov and the latter’s associates. Following the transactions, Uranium One was to own 30 per cent in the deposit which it bought through UrAsia for the mentioned 75 million dollar. A Japanese consortium in the end owned 40 per cent with the remaining shares in the hands of Kazatomprom.

The assets obtained in Kazakhstan for next to nothing brought Giustra more than just handsome profit. In June 2010 they bartered 19.95 per cent of their common stock against a 50 per cent stake in the operator of the Karatau deposit with Russia’s RosAtom subsidiary Atomredmetzoloto (ARMZ). “Uranium One has signed a definitive agreement to acquire a 50% interest in the Karatau Uranium Mine in Kazakhstan from ARMZ,” a press release dated June 15 was to read. “The purchase price will be paid by way of the issuance of 117 million common shares of Uranium One and a cash payment of $90 million (or equivalent promissory note). The agreement also provides for a contingent payment to ARMZ of up to $60 million, payable in three equal tranches over the period between 2010 and 2012 subject to certain post-closing tax related adjustments. The transaction is valued at approximately $451 million, based on the closing share price of Uranium One on June 12, 2009. […] Upon closing of the Karatau acquisition, ARMZ will hold an indirect 16.6% interest in Uranium One. ARMZ has agreed to a standstill covenant under which it may not, without Uranium One’s prior consent, for a period of at least five years from closing acquire more than 19.95% of Uranium One’s outstanding common shares.” On November 16 the same year, the Kazakh government reportedly approved the deal, which was eventually clinched on December 15.

“Bribery, kickbacks, extortion”

Uranium One, the link in the chain through which Giustra hoped to stay aloof from persecution after his spectacular kickback deal, was, and still is, a Canadian company controlled by a mining tycoon called Ian Telfer – for all it matters also a regular multi-million donor of the Clinton Foundation. He provided a cover-up for Giustra and the Clintons. But that has never been what the FBI is after now. America’s white collar police cowboys smell blood in the high echelons of American politics – and also within their own ranks. The “theory” is that permission to sell Uranium One to ARMZ which was needed since the former’s assets included ones located on US territory had been obtained from the responsible authorities through illicit means, meaning by hiding the facts with the complicity of FBI insiders.

The article cited above alleges that the FBI “knew Russian nuclear industry officials were involved in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States,” in the text’s words. “The FBI had an informant inside the Russian nuclear industry who gathered extensive financial records, made secret recordings and intercepted emails as early as 2009. This investigation showed Russia had compromised an American trucking company with bribes and kickbacks, in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Supervising the investigation was then-U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein under Attorney General Eric Holder in the Obama administration. Now Mr. Rosenstein is Mr. Trump’s deputy attorney general. Also supervising the investigation was then-Assistant FBI Director Andrew McCabe, now deputy FBI director under Mr. Trump.”

But that is not where the alleged conspiracy that never happened is supposed to have ended. “Heading the FBI from September 2001 to September 2013 was Robert Muller, appointed by Mr. Rosenstein earlier this year as special prosecutor to determine whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian to win the 2016 presidential election,” the article reads further down. “After Mr. Muller stepped down, Mr. Obama appointed James Comey FBI director in 2013. So both Messrs. Muller and Comey were involved in the Russian scam.”

Billions of greenbacks

The truth behind the smokescreen is that neither Nazarbayev nor anyone else within official Kazakhstan, let alone Vladimir Putin or anyone else within the Russian government, had been privy to Giustra’s deal, though in fact the state suffered considerable losses from it. A the other end of the kickback string there were names few people in Kazakhstan like to be thought connected with. One stumbled on in inquiries was that of Rakhat Aliyev, whose name in spite of his suicide still sends shivers down many a Kazakh spine. The other one had been sitting for years in a French jail waiting for his eventual extradition to the Russian Federation where he is wanted for asset swindle, money laundering and a series of related offences, when he was released by the French government, overruling about the entire French course of justice. His name is Mukhtar Ablyazov, widely considered Kazakstan’s champion fraudster whose bait counts itself in billions of greenbacks.

Prosecutors at the time they were elaborating on the Dzhakishev case were reportedly looking into the sum of $670,000 which at one point disappeared from BTA’s accounts only to pop up at the local account of Kazatomprom’s Vienna office. That office used to headed by the spouse of Vadim Koshlyak, a close associate of Rakhat Aliyev, then Kazakhstan’s ambassador to Austria before he was to be disclosed not only as a straightforward gangster but also as having prepared an armed coup in Kazakhstan.

According to Kazakh news media, the mother of Elnara Shorazova, whom Aliyev married after his imposed divorce from President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s eldest daughter Dariga, was later appointed as the head of this office. As for Koshlyak, he was to be on trial in Vienna, accused of having murdered two Kazakh bankers in 2007 under supervision of Rakhat Aliyev. The trial became a charade and Koshlyak and his fellow-defendant were acquitted. Aliyev had shortly before the opening of the trial hanged himself in a Viennese prison.

Fund diversion schemes

The Aliyev-connection has not been followed up on ever since. But tracing the role of that other notorious Kazakh representative of the global league of long-fingered gentry Mukhtar Ablyazov shed a lot more light on the Giustra affair than (already misleading) information on it spread by The New York Times back in 2008. “The [New York] Times says Kazatomprom, the state-owned uranium company, controlled the properties in which Giustra invested,” Forbes noted in a report posted the next year. “Not exactly true. In the major purchase (Akdala and South Inkai) that cost Giustra $350 million, 70% was owned by Mukhtar Ablyazov, a Kazakh banker; only 30% belonged to the state. Even as to the Kharassan property, which was 70% owned by Kazatomprom, the state company did not sign the agreement by which Giustra’s company, UrAsia Energy Ltd., acquired a 30% interest for $75 million. The seller in the Kharassan deal was Jeffcott Group Ltd., a private company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands.” The next question raised here is: who was behind Jeffcott? “Uranium One owns a 30-per-cent stake in the Kyzylkum joint venture, which was purchased for $75-million (U.S.) in 2005 from a privately held company, Jeffcott Group Ltd.,” a report by Canada’s leading daily The Globe and Mail published on May 29, 2009, would read. “But the Vancouver firm says the shareholders behind Jeffcott were never specifically identified, nor does it know how Jeffcott initially obtained rights to the project.”

In other words: suggestions that the Clintons “fixed Giustra a deal” in Kazakhstan may well be true in themselves but it had nothing to do with either the President or his Russian peer (ARMZ only entered the agenda in 2009, year after Giustra made his kickback deal), and everything to do with mining concession holdings and their offshore proxy firms controlled by Mukhtar Ablyazov, who apparently framed Dzhakishev for it to divert attention from himself, since back in 2006 his fund diversion schemes in which he funneled at least 8 billion greenbacks from his bank BTA to offshore firms under his personal ultimate control were in full swing.

“According to a Bloomberg report citing the Kazakh National Security Committee, Muktar Dzhakishev allegedly embezzled government property when he ‘illegally’ sold state-owned uranium mining rights to foreign companies and transferred the proceeds to offshore corporate entities. Mr. Dzhakishev and Mr. Ablyazov were accused of forming UrAsia London Ltd. and Jeffcott Group Ltd. which in turn created the joint ventures TOO Kyzylkum and TOO Betpak Dala, to which Mr. Dzhakishev was accused of secretly transferring state-owned mining rights to the Kharasan Akdala and South Inkai uranium deposits. The deposits in question were said to contain more than 200,000 metric tons of uranium worth tens of billions of dollars. It was reported that Frank Giustra, a Canadian billionaire mining investor purchased the mining rights held by the joint ventures. The titular seller was Mr. Ablyazov, who reportedly received $350 million through holding companies he controlled in Cyprus and the British Virgin Islands. According to the Globe and Mail, UrAsia was later acquired by Uranium One,” in the words of a report filed years after the affair came into the open by the World Bank’s Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR).

Prison for “contempt of court”

As for Dzhakishev, he was to keep denying any wrongdoing whatsoever from the very moment of his arrest. His statements from prison filtered through to the public domain would look diffuse, though. On one hand, he denied any involvement in kickbacks; on the other, he tended to suggest that even if he would appear to have been responsible in any way to have passed on Central Mynkuduk to UrAsia, he had done so with the aim to grant westerners a stake in the deposit at the expense of Russian companies. The latter, Dzhakishev and his lawyers tended to argue, would do anything in their power to prevent Kazakhstan from developing its own nuclear processing industry and keep it under control as a mere supplier of uranium

Charles van der Leeuw. FUGITIVE LONG-FINGERED GENTRY FROM THE PLAINSNEW eBOOK on sale exclusively by KazWorld
Charles van der Leeuw
The story of Mukhtar Ablyazov, one-time major shareholder and chief executive of Kazakhstan’s BTA bank, tells how well over 10 billion US dollar is supposed to have been reaped through his network of close to 800 fake companies.

The affair has also popped up in the trials against Mukhtar Ablyazov and a number of his associates downtown London, ending on February 16 2012 in a verdict condemning Ablyazov to 22 months in prison for “contempt of court” – a British equivalent for perjury – along with a freezing order of all ”his” (read: stolen) assets worldwide, ruled by Justice Teare and later confirmed in appeal. Earlier, Ablyazov’s former associate and brother-in-law Syrym Shalabayev who appears to have played a key role in the Giustra-related scam had been found guilty of the same offence and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment in consequence.

Multi-hundred-million “profits”

The verdict [] includes acknowledgement by the court that Ablyazov and his associates have been far more directly involved in Mukhtar Dzhakishev’s dealings than at the time assumed even if the name Dzhakishev himself is not mentioned: “In that year [2003], on 14 August, [Shalabayev] founded a company which secured a contract to form a joint venture with the Government of Kazakhstan which was anxious to invest in the uranium industry. His company was to invest ‘at least US$2m’. The price of uranium increased. […] Mr. Ablyazov advised him to sell and offered to find an investor in return for 30% and if the price was more than US$50m. the excess would be split 50/50. […]  ‘Changing the ownership structure’ […] involved transferring his interest in the joint venture to an off-shore company owned by another off-shore company Widley Worldwide of which Mr. Syrym Shalabayev was the UBO [ultimate beneficiary owner]. On 7 November 2005 he sold his uranium business to Urasia Energy Limited for US$350m. This was his ‘biggest transaction’. Mr. Ablyazov was entitled to US$160m. of the sale proceeds.”

Widley Worldwide was just a link in the chain. The nominal seller was a private Kazakh company called TOO Investment Company Astana. That company was owned by a Cypriot company which was in turn owned by a BVI company Widley Worldwide Inc. And the “investor” mentioned by the court was no one less than Frank Giustra – with or without the help of the Clinton couple. The fact that in the end a Russian company paid a fair price for the Kazakh uranium assets does not make “Russia” an accomplice in the affair. Guilty must be Giustra who maintains that he “acted in good faith” paying next to nothing for his purchase and making multi-hundred-million “profits” on his sale, and the core perpetrators Ablyazov and Dzhakishev. The latter now serves a jail term in Kazakhstan while the former remains aloof from justice thanks to the generous protection of the same western countries which demonise former Soviet regimes while haloing those who rip their countries off…