WIKILEAKS: RUSSIAN GAS SUPPLIES TO EU, UKRAINE LINKED TO MAFIA

02.12.10



Semyon Mogilevich, one of FBI's most wanted people, identified as real power behind billionaire owner of Ukrainian-based RUE

The Guardian.  US embassy cables show the Russian mafia boss Semyon Mogilevich is linked to RosUkrEnergo gas company.

Gas supplies to Ukraine and EU states are linked to the Russian mafia, according to the US ambassador in Kiev.

His cable, released by WikiLeaks, followed statements by the then prime minister of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko, to the BBC that she had "documented proof that some powerful criminal structures are behind the RosUkrEnergo (RUE) company".

Allegations have long swirled that the Russian crime don Semyon Mogilevich had covert interests in Swiss-registered RUE, which distributes gas from central Asia.

A billionaire Ukrainian businessman, Dmitry Firtash, nominally owns nearly half the company. (The Russian state firm Gazprom owns the other half.) In a confidential meeting with the ambassador, Firtash admitted Mogilevich was the real power behind his own multibillion-dollar gas interests. He insisted it was impossible to do business in Ukraine in the 1990s without striking sleazy deals with organised criminals.

In a secret memo the ambassador, William Taylor, wrote: "He [Firtash] acknowledged ties to Russian organised crime figure Semyon Mogilevich, stating he had needed Mogilevich's approval to get into business in the first place." Taylor said the "softly spoken" Firtash had come to see him on 8 December 2008 and "spoke at length about his business and politics in a visible effort to improve his image with the USG [United States government]".

His arguments were obviously "self-interested", Taylor said. "In a lengthy monologue Firtash described his evolution as a businessman from his beginnings as a food trader to the creation of RUE … He was adamant that he had not committed a single crime when building his business empire and argued that outsiders still failed to understand the period of lawlessness that reigned in Ukraine after the collapse of the Soviet Union."

Taylor grilled the oligarch about his alleged ties to Russian organised crime. The Ukrainian press had widely reported that RUE's circle of true beneficiaries included Mogilevich. Firtash countered that it had been impossible to approach a government official for any reason "without also meeting an organised crime member".

The cable stated: "Firtash acknowledged that he needed, and received, permission from Mogilevich when he established various businesses, but he denied any close relationship to him."

Other cables said the two men were closely linked through "joint holdings in offshore vehicles" and "mutual personal relationships". They also share the same lawyer.

During his frank conversation with the ambassador, Firtash launched an attack on Tymoshenko. At the time she was locked in a power struggle with her former Orange Revolution ally Viktor Yushchenko, who was president. Firtash called himself Yushchenko's "close friend" and confidant, and his anger was understandable. A month before he met the ambassador, Tymoshenko had reached a provisional agreement with the Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin, to abolish all intermediaries in the murky gas trade with Russia. The deal – still unimplemented – was specifically drawn up to get rid of RosUkrEnergo.

The US says Mogilevich is one of the world's top mafia bosses, accusing him of creating eastern Europe's most powerful crime group in the 1990s. He is on the list of the FBI's 10 most wanted fugitives for his alleged part in a multimillion-dollar fraud involving a Pennsylvania-based company in the 90s.

The Russians arrested Mogilevich in 2008 over tax evasion at a cosmetics chain. But in 2009 he was mysteriously released. Russia's interior ministry described the charges against him as "not of a particularly grave nature". The cable is deeply embarrassing for Ukraine's new pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych. Firtash, the founder and chairman of Group DF, is one of the main oligarchs who financed Yanukovych's rise to power this year.Firtash's business interests across Europe include energy, chemicals and real estate, and he owns an influential Ukrainian TV station.

In his cable Taylor noted that the gas trade had made Firtash staggeringly rich: "By 2006 Firtash's estimated worth was over $5bn, but most experts believed that Firtash had low-balled his true worth and estimated it was in the tens of billions. In his conversation with the ambassador Firtash gave no indication of the scope of his wealth."

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And in another document...

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 001051 SIPDIS FBI FOR DIRECTOR MUELLER E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/21/2018 TAGS: FBI, PGOV, PHUM, PINR, RS, SOCI SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR FBI DIRECTOR MUELLER'S TRIP TO RUSSIA Classified By: Charge Eric Rubin. Reason: 1.4 (d). 1. (C) Summary.

Despite the changes since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia's security services hew closer ideologically to the model of the Imperial Okhrana (secret police) than the law-enforcement services of our Western allies. Law enforcement of the type for which the FBI has responsibility in the U.S. -- criminal prosecution, organized crime, and counter-terrorism -- is only part of the portfolio that the FSB and MVD share (in conjunction with Prosecutor's office), and often political factors temper the services' enthusiasm for pursuing prominent targets. Independent analysis suggests that some members of the security services are allied with various organized crime structures or turn a blind eye to the activities of known criminals. Only when political winds change, does the law enforcement machine move after prominent criminals. For example, crime boss Sergei Shnaider (better known as Semyen Mogilevich) not only enjoyed freedom of movement in Russia and official protection, but he was brought in by Gazprom to manage gas sales to Ukraine through the shady RosUkrEnergo venture. Only when he lost his political cover, for reasons that are unclear, he lost the support of his political cover and was arrested in January 2008. 9. (C) State (regime) security remains the services' primary responsibility and all three organizations devote considerable attention and resources to counter-intelligence and domestic intelligence work. After the "color" revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine, Russian security services stepped up their efforts against the U.S. and other Western powers, whom they blamed for inciting the protests and overthrowing the governments in Tbilisi and Kyiv.



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