Updated October 15, 2005








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Israeli Oligarch’s Ill-Gotten Loot Channeled to Dubya’s Brother


By Christopher Bollyn

During a Sept. 22 visit to Latvia, Neil Bush, the brother of President George W. Bush, appeared with his business partner, the fugitive Russian oligarch and Israeli citizen, Boris Berezovsky. Berezovsky’s appearance in Riga with the brother of the U.S. president caused significant consternation for the Latvian government due to Russian demands for his extradition on charges of fraud.

Neil Bush first came to national attention when he was disgraced during the Silverado Savings and Loan scandal, which occurred during his father’s presidency. Federal regulators discovered “multiple conflicts of interest” in Neil Bush’s dealings as a board member of Silverado, which failed in 1988,costing U.S. taxpayers $1.3 billion.

Russia requested Berezovsky’s extradition when he arrived in Riga. Latvia’s general prosecutor, however, refused to extradite Berezovsky, claiming that since he has asylum status in Britain, a member state of the European Union, he could not be handed over to Russia.

After the Bush-Berezovsky visit, Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis said that Berezovsky should be barred from entering Latvia because he posed a “threat” to security.

President Vaira Vike-Freiberga reportedly supports banning the billionaire exile from future visits to Latvia.

The Moscow Times reported recently that Berezovsky’s investment in Neil Bush’s Austin, Texas-based company, Ignite, Inc., links him with a well-connected group of former and current shareholders such as former President George H.W. Bush and major Asian and Middle East financiers. Filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission indicate that Neil Bush’s company raised $7.1 million from 53 investors in 2001.

Ignite’s main product is a classroom projector device of dubious educational value called “The COW” (Curriculum On Wheels), which contains software that replaces traditional textbooks by projecting cartoon images designed “to deliver lessons in the same way professional presenters do.”

In the past few months, Berezovsky has helped Bush promote his company in countries of the former Soviet Union that are no longer within Moscow’s sphere of influence, including Ukraine, Georgia, and most recently, Latvia.

Berezovsky said his investment in Neil Bush’s firm was just business and an investment in an area he had always been interested in. Declining to disclose the size of his investment, Berezovsky said: “I invested in the company because I think that it is doing the right thing. I had no other aims for making this investment. If the company had not been owned by Bush, I would have invested in another that was doing the same thing.”

A comment from Berezovsky suggests he was asked to invest in the Bush family

firm. “When I received the offer to invest, I sent specialists to look at what the company was doing and they approved,” Berezovsky said.

Berezovsky said he has been unable to obtain a visa to travel to the United States to discuss his business ventures with Neil Bush.

“[Neil Bush] asked me to think about possible projects in the regions that I know about,” The Moscow Times reported Berezovsky saying about Neil Bush’s plans for the company he founded in 1999. “I’ve known this region for a long time. The CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] is my area of expertise.”

The CIS refers to the association of former Soviet states, which includes Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Georgia.

Berezovsky, described as “a former Kremlin kingmaker,” served as executive secretary of the CIS under former President Boris Yeltsin. Berezovsky’s fortunes changed after Vladimir Putin was elected in 2000 and Berezovsky became an enemy of the Kremlin.

Berezovsky was one of the chief oligarchs in Russia who acquired massive wealth by taking control of the Soviet Union’s state assets after the fall of communism. Berezovsky owned several banks and TV stations in Russia when he was accused of defrauding a regional government of $13 million.

In 2000, he fled the country and moved to London, where he now lives under the name Platon Elenin.

“Berezovsky is one of seven ‘oligarchs,’ as they are known both inside and outside Russia: massively rich, powerful manipulators who through violence, theft and corruption acquired a mammoth percentage (reports range from 70 to 85 percent) of Russia’s resources, from its oil to the auto industry to mass media outlets,” Alison Weir, executive director of If Americans Knew, a web site focusing on U.S. involvement with Israel and Palestine, wrote in her article, “Russia, Israel and Media Omissions.”

Using their ill-gotten and extraordinary financial resources and insider dealing, the oligarchs gained control over much of Russia’s political apparatus.

“The oligarchs handpicked prime ministers and governmental leaders and barely even bothered to do this behind the scenes,” Weir wrote.

Almost all of the Russian oligarchs have significant ties to Israel. In fact, Berezovsky has Israeli citizenship, a fact that caused a scandal of Watergate proportions in Russia in 1996 when it was exposed by a Russian newspaper.

Berezovsky’s Israeli citizenship and the oligarchs’ connections to Israel are widely known in Russia and Israel. In Israel there is even a popular Israeli TV series called “The Oligarchs.”

“Some of its episodes,” Jewish Israeli writer Uri Avnery wrote in an article, “are simply unbelievable or would have been, if they had not come straight from the horses’ mouths: the heroes of the story, who gleefully boast about their despicable exploits. The series was produced by Israeli immigrants from Russia.”

“This is a TV series about Russia,” Avnery wrote. “But it could have been about Israel—or about the United States. In popular parlance they are called ‘oligarchs’—from the Greek word meaning ‘rule of the few.’ . . . But the most intriguing part of the series recounts the way they took control of the political apparatus. After a period of fighting each other, they decided that it would be more profitable for them to cooperate in order to take over the state.”

(Issue #43, October 24, 2005)

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