Peter Foster of Canada’s Financial Post argues that the Kremlin’s continued lawsuits against the Bank of New York is thin cover for legal extortion. From the Financial Post:
Wielding lawsuits like blunt objects is in no way strange to the Kremlin, where bullets and polonium lattes are other judicial options. This case is being heard in the Moscow Arbitration Court, which has hardly ever been the domain of Blind Justice (unless the blindness came from having acid thrown in her face). It was here that the former head of giant oil company Yukos, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, an oligarch who made the mistake of trying to go straight and challenge Mr. Putin, lost both his company and his freedom in a put-up case. Yukos was crushed by claims for tens of billions in back taxes, but Mr. Putin hasn’t finished with Mr. Khodorkovsky yet. Yukos’ former auditor, PricewaterhouseCoopers, is also now being sued by the Russian government for allegedly being party to tax evasion. The accounting firm recently withdrew its Yukos audits for the past 10 years. Former world chess champion Gary Kasparov said in Toronto last month that “Russia today is a police state masquerading as a democracy.” Russia recently refused to extradite Andrei Lugavoi, the former KGB agent who is the prime suspect in the poisoning in Britain of Alexander Litvinenko. Mr. Putin meanwhile wants to have Russia’s most distinguished human-rights lawyer, Karinna Moskalenko, disbarred. The state has used various forms of harassment against her Moscow-based International Protection Center. Among its more boldfaced charges is that Ms. Moskalenko failed to present one of her clients properly. The client was Mikhail Khodorkovsky! Ms. Moskalenko has emphasized the reign of terror that Mr. Putin is attempting to install by legal harassment, and worse. She has said that “it isn’t necessary to put all the businessmen in jail. It is necessary to jail the richest, the most independent, the most well-connected. It isn’t necessary to kill all the journalists. Just kill the most outstanding, the bravest, and the others will get the message.” Not only is the Kremlin above the law, it is not above attempting to use the law, even U.S. law. Russian prosecutors have suggested that if they win, damages against the Bank of New York Mellon will be collectible via the U.S. legal system. Good luck with that one.