Imagine a newspaper exposé about several associates of the U.S. Congress who didn’t acknowledge on their tax forms affluence villas on the Iranian Persian Gulf coast. This would be a scandal of Watergate accommodation and most acceptable aftermath a couple of best-sellers and a made-for-TV movie. Now brainstorm an analogous bearings in Russia. What happens? Almost nothing. There is no scandal, no movie, abandoned a lot of talk on the Internet.
The story began back a group of Russian senators went to the U.S. aftermost summer to persuade their U.S. counterparts to vote adjoin the Magnitsky Act. One of the best articulate opponents of the act was Agent Vitaly Malkin, who said Magnitsky had died in prison from consequences of alcoholism. The senators’ “anti-Magnitsky alley show” in Washington aloft suspicions that their accomplishments not abandoned were not aloof political but additionally that their claimed interests ability accept been threatened by the act’s ban on visas and asset backing for some Russian officials.
Journalist Andrei Malgin absitively to get to the basal of the mystery. Using aloof his computer and the Internet, he dug up some actual absorbing facts. It angry out that Malkin has absolute acreage in North America. Furthermore, back 1994 he has been aggravating to get a residence admittance in Canada, answer his appeal by his business interests. In his application, he aboveboard declared that he owns 111 — yes, 111 — apartments in Toronto. The Canadian authorities angry bottomward his request, and Malkin alike approved to take them to court. Unfortunately for him, the court banned to hear his suit.
But as Malgin discovered, those aren’t the only backdrop in the Western Hemisphere acceptance to Malkin, who is from far-away Buryatia. Accessible abstracts appearance that Malkin’s company, which has the mysterious name 25 СС ST74B LLC, owns a duplex account $15.6 actor in the Time Warner Center in New York City. Malkin’s lawyers denied that he is the owner, but accessible abstracts from a clothing the company brought adjoin its architecture administrator appearance that Malkin owns the apartment. They additionally apparent the mystery of his aggregation name, which is an abbreviation of the address: 25 Columbus Circle, accommodation 74B.
One abstruseness remains: Why is there no acknowledgment of this big-ticket acreage in Malkin’s government filings? He is answerable by law to declare all absolute acreage holdings.
True to the genre, this detective adventure had a sequel. The lawyer and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny aing in the coursing for Russian lawmakers’ adopted absolute acreage holdings. With advice from volunteers, Navalny begin absolute acreage in the U.S. allegedly endemic by another senator, Mikhail Margelov, who active the Federation Council’s Adopted Affairs Committee. What makes this adventure so dank is that Margelov is the son of a KGB accepted and taught in the KGB school. In keeping with his background, he is acclaimed for his anti-Americanism.
Margelov’s anti-Americanism didn’t accumulate him from taking consulting jobs in the 1990s with a number of U.S. companies, including Bain Capital, area Republican presidential applicant Mitt Romney was acting CEO. Perhaps assets from those gigs accustomed Margelov to buy two apartments in Miami account $894,000. And perhaps his abilities acquired in the KGB helped him adumbrate the purchases and evade advertisement them on his government acknowledgment form. Back confronted by journalists, Margelov replied diplomatically, “I don’t own a lot of apartments in the U.S.” That ability be technically true, because that Margelov bought the apartments with addition Russian, about whom annihilation is known. This absorbing actuality prompted the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets to publish an article with the risky and risque headline: “Is Agent Margelov Living With a Mystery Man?”
The story took on Shakespearean overtones back Navalny’s aggregation looked into the absolute acreage backing of Vladimir Pekhtin, arch of the State Duma’s belief committee. In 2007, Pekhtin’s son bought a Miami Beach accommodation for about $500,000, and last summer — appropriate afterwards the Duma anesthetized the law acute all NGOs with all-embracing allotment to register as adopted agents — Pekhtin’s son gave bisected the apartment to his father. But it looks like the younger Pekhtin anticipation he’d been a bit stingy. In 2012, the pair purchased addition accommodation in Miami Beach, this time account added than $1 million.
In an account with Izvestia, Pekhtin denied owning absolute acreage in the U.S., but his aegis rang a bit hollow. At first, he said that if his name was on some U.S. documents, it could abandoned be because his son included him in his will. But Navalny’s aggregation scanned the warranty deed, which has a signature that matches Pekhtin’s, and the aggregation alike absolute the amount of taxes Pekhtin paid to Miami-Dade County in 2012. Back Pekhtin was asked absolute by an Izvestia journalist, “Do you own any adopted absolute estate?” he replied, “Well, about nothing.”
Of course, no one could agnosticism the word of the arch of Duma belief committee, abnormally now that he has briefly aloof as its administrator awaiting after-effects of an analysis into his absolute estate holdings. Judging by available documents, in December, Pekhtin gave allotment of his Florida backdrop to his son. By a aberrant coincidence, this happened appropriate about the time advice about Pekhtin’s arguable absolute acreage assets — this time in St. Petersburg — began to appear in the media.
These cases are not exceptional. The Internet detectives begin affluence homes, penthouses and ranches in the U.S. acceptance to Senator Vyacheslav Fetisov and Deputies Vladislav Tretyak and Irina Rodnina. They all charge be in dire banking straits. Their acreage taxes abandoned accomplish up around all their declared income.
All this raises a question that action baton Boris Nemtsov approved to answer on his Facebook page. “There’s one affair I aloof don’t get about these people. Many of them accept absolute acreage in the U.S. Many accelerate their accouchement there to go to school. So why are they consistently blubbering abhorrent being about the U.S.? So no one guesses that their absolute dream is to stroll forth Fifth Avenue?”
There is, however, a bright ancillary to this detective saga. It was accessible for former Soviet leaders Nikita Khrushchev or Leonid Brezhnev to point their missiles at the U.S., but Putin’s bureaucrats would accept to be absolutely mad to bomb their own absolute estate. That makes the world a safer place, admitting a less honest one.
Victor Davidoff is a Moscow-based biographer and journalist who follows the Russian blogosphere in his annual column.
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