Ian Willmore ianw at
Wed Nov 20 07:42:19 MST 2002

You will have seen reports of the sinking of the oil tanker Prestige off the
Spanish Galician coast. The bourgeois press has been slow (surprise, surprise)
to pick up the complex web of ownership and control behind the incident, so here
is some interesting stuff.

The tanker Prestige was registered in the Bahamas, owned by a Liberian company,
is managed in Greece, and carried oil for a company with a Swiss HQ, whose
ultimate owners are Russian. The Liberian company is called Mare International
and is a one ship company, with total accident insurance of about £15 million.
But it is believed to be a cover for the Coulouthros Greek shipping dynasty.

The Bahamas has contracted out its shipping registration function to a
state-owned company - the Bahamas Maritime Authority, which is based in London
(with offices in New York and the Bahamas). According to the Authority’s
website, “it is the country’s goal to become the world’s largest shipping
registry over the next decade, and ship owners of all nationalities are welcome
to fly The Bahamas flag”. The Authority claims that companies who fly the
Bahamas flag include Exxon International and Chevron, and that the advantages of
the Bahamas include “a favourable business climate and world-class banking
services” and that “the operations and income associated with Bahamas Flag
vessels are entirely tax-free”.

Crown Resources, which owned the oil carried by the Prestige, was formed in
Gibraltar in 1996. In 1997, an office was opened in London, and in July 2000 the
HQ was moved to Zug, Switzerland. One of the directors is a former Minister in
the Gibraltar Government. The London office (33 Cavendish Square, London W1) has
over 80 employees and is the
company’s largest. Crude oil turnover increased to 21.5 million metric tonnes in
2000, up from 11.7 million tones in 1998.

Crown Resources is owned by a Russian company: the Alfa Group Consortium. This
is “one of Russia’s largest privately owned financial-industrial conglomerates,
with interests in oil, commodities trading, commercial and investment banking,
insurance, retail trade, food processing, and telecommunications”.

The Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Alfa Group is Mikhail Fridman. Along
with Peter Aven, Fridman founded the Alfa Group Consortium, a holding company
which today controls the Alfa Bank (opened in 1991), Alfa Capital, Tiumen Oil
and several construction material firms (cement, timber, glass) as well as food
processing businesses and a supermarket chain. The two are also major holders of
tea and sugar plant processors. One of the youngest of the newly rich Russian
entrepreneurs, Fridman was born in 1964. When it became legal to open
cooperative and private concerns under Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, Fridman was
well prepared and in 1988 he set up his own photo cooperative, Alpha photo and
then ALFA/EKO, and AlfaKapital. This was the precursor of the Alfa Group
Consortium. According to Fortune magazine (September 2002), Mikhail Fridman is
now the ninth richest man in the world aged under 40, with net worth of $2.1

The Chairman of the Executive Group of Alfa Bank Group is Leonard Vid, formerly
First Deputy Head of Gosplan, the Soviet State Planning Committee. Mr Vid was
also Chairman of the Committee for the political party "Our Home is Russia".

The Alfa Group's website ( says that "although we
continue to be exposed to the oil markets, it is an exposure with which we are
comfortable because of our perception of a continuing favourable reward to risk

Here is a jolly interesting US connection to Alfa Group involving no other than
VP Cheney. From Public I website.

"Under the guidance of Richard Cheney, a get-the-government-out-of-my-face
conservative, Halliburton Company over the past five years has emerged as a
corporate welfare hog, benefiting from at least $3.8 billion in federal
contracts and taxpayer-insured loans.

One of these loans was approved in April by the U.S. Export-Import Bank. It
guaranteed $489 million  in credits to a Russian oil company whose roots are
imbedded in a legacy of KGB and Communist Party corruption, as well as drug
trafficking and organized crime funds, according to Russian and U.S. sources and

Those claims are hotly disputed by the Russian oil firm’s holding company.

Halliburton, which lobbied for the Ex-Im loan after the State Department
initially asserted that the deal  would run counter to the "national interest,”
will receive $292 million of those funds to refurbish a  massive Siberian oil
field owned by the Russian company, the Tyumen Oil Co., which is controlled by
a conglomerate called the Alfa Group.

The April Ex-Im taxpayer-insured loan, which has the effect of reducing the
borrower’s interest rate  and extending its repayment term, is but the latest of
a series of government bank guarantees from which Halliburton has benefited
under Cheney, who joined the company as chairman and chief executive officer in

Since then Halliburton and its subsidiaries have undertaken foreign projects in
which Ex-Im and its sister U.S. bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corp.,
have guaranteed or made direct loans totaling $1.5 billion, mostly over the last
two years. That compares with a total of about $100 million the government banks
insured and loaned in the five years before Cheney joined the company...

 Though there is no evidence that Cheney has espoused business dealings with
criminal organizations, Cheney has said publicly that the government should lift
restrictions on U.S. corporations in countries that the U.S. government says
have sponsored terrorism, such as Libya and Iran...

If Halliburton has benefited from government generosity, it also has
reciprocated with substantial political contributions, largely to Republicans.
During Cheney’s five years at the helm, the company has donated $1,212,000 in
soft and hard money to candidates and parties, according to numbers compiled by
the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. In the
five years prior to his arrival, the company had given $534,750...

The goodwill generated by those political contributions and extensive lobbying
by Halliburton and its allies on the Tyumen project helped save the day after
the White House and State Department in December directed the Ex-Im Bank to
delay approval of the $489 million credit guarantee. The administration wanted
the breathing space after complaints by
Western investors and companies that they had been defrauded by Tyumen in an
unrelated dispute.

One of the aggrieved firms was BPAmoco, the largest oil and gas producer in the
United States. It and the others claimed that through fraud and other unsavory
practices in a Russian bankruptcy  proceeding, Tyumen had effectively "stolen” a
vast oil field in which they held substantial equity. BP-Amoco commissioned a
private investigative report on Tyumen, which was slipped to the CIA through an

That report, a CIA official confirmed, contained 2 1/2 pages labeled "criminal
situation.’ The CIA  promptly classified the report "secret’ and passed it along
to the Ex-Im Bank. Further, the CIA briefed Ex-Im about its own material on
Tyumen in December and told the bank that the BP-Amoco investigative report
"tracked” with its own information...

Some allegations of organized crime and drug activities involving Tyumen’s
parent company, the Alfa Group, had been made public in Russia last year. The
allegations were contained in a report delivered in 1997 by anonymous officials
from the FSB (the Russian equivalent of the FBI) to the national security
committee of  the Duma, or lower house of parliament.

A Russian-American specialist on business practices in the former Soviet Union
who has worked with the White House and Pentagon told The Public i that the
allegations contained in the 1997 report have been the subject of an
investigation by the FSB but that the probe, for unexplained reasons, had been
"put away for a better day." ...

The FSB report claims that Alfa Bank, one of Russia’s largest and most
profitable, as well as Alfa Eko, a trading company, had been deeply involved in
the early 1990s in laundering of Russian and Colombian drug money and in
trafficking drugs from the
Far East to Europe.

 The former KGB major, who with the fall of communism in the late 1980s had
himself been involved in the plan by the KGB and Communist Party to loot state
enterprises, said that Alfa Bank was founded with party and KGB funds, and
quickly attracted rogue agents who had served in anti-organized-crime units.
"They (the rogue agents on the bank’s payroll) quickly
determined that dealing in drugs would bring the highest profits with literally
no risk in Russia," according to the former KGB officer...

The FSB report, too, claimed that the Alfa Group’s top executives, oligarchs
Mikhail Fridman and Pyotr Aven, "allegedly participated in the transit of drugs
from Southeast Asia through Russia and into Europe."...

The FSB document said that in the 1980s, Alfa’s Fridman "secretly cooperated
with operatives of the KGB," was active in the Komsomol (Communist Youth League)
and established the cooperatives Gelios and Orsk to purchase computers from
abroad...  The FSB report also claims that top officials of the Alfa Group
"cooperated" with a number of Russian  crime organizations, notably the
notorious Solntsevo mob family in Moscow. The Russian-American specialist on
business practices in Russia, who has a wide array of contacts inside Russia’s
law enforcement and intelligence communities, agreed that Alfa Bank, as well as
others, are used by the Solntsevo crime family...

Tyumen could have significant access to the White House should the Bush-Cheney
ticket win in the November presidential elections. Tyumen’s lead attorney at
Akin Gump is James C. Langdon Jr., a managing partner at the firm. He is also
one of George W. Bush’s "Pioneers,” one of the elite fund raisers who have
brought in at least $100,000 for the Republican
presidential hopeful...

by  Knut Royce and Nathaniel Heller" [use of "..." indicates edits, full version

That's globalisation folks!!

A man walks into a bar and is confronted by the sight of four men and a dog
playing poker.
The dog bets, and the men fold. The dog rakes in the pot.
"Wow!" whispers the spectator to one of the human players. "That's one smart
"Not really" says the player.
"What do you mean? He won the pot, didn't he?"
"Yeah, well. Don't tell him, but whenever he's got a good hand he wags his

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