Russians accused of spying may have been investigating U.S. and Israeli roles in financial fraud
The global diplomatic and financial connections of some of those accused by the United States of being "sleeper" Russian agents provide important clues about Russia's gathering of intelligence on American manipulation of global financial markets, as well as the financial backing by Russian emigré tycoons bent on overthrowing the government of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
U.S. gold manipulation and Israeli diamond smuggling of interest to Russian intelligence collectors
One of the accused Russian agents, Cynthia Murphy of Montclair, New Jersey, is reported to have attempted to collect gold market information, via her employment with Morea Financial Services in Manhattan, from a prominent New York financier and client of the firm named Alan Patricof, who also happened to have been the finance chairman for Hillary Clinton's Senate campaigns in New York. Considering the fact that there is a rift between Secretary of State Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder over the Russian "spy" take down, there is an indication that there is more of a political angle to the Justice Department's indictments than a criminal one. In fact, none of the accused Russian agents have been charged with violation of the Espionage Act and the charges only include failing to register as agents for the Russian government pursuant to the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), money laundering, and the nebulous catch-all charge of "conspiracy."
Another one of the accused agents, Anna Chapman, née Anya Kushchenko, spiralled up the social ladder and developed social relationships with some of London's wealthiest individuals, including billionaire investment manager Vincent Tchenguiz; London socialite Shoshana Dadoun; Wayne Sharpe, the founder and chairman of Bartercard, a barter trading firm; and possibly both Princes William and Harry. It should be noted that London serves as a major base of operations for some of Putin's most prominent political enemies, all of which, including exiled Russian-Israeli tycoon Boris Berezovsky, are wanted by Russia on criminal charges.
Vincent Tchenguiz and his younger brother Robert are from Tehran. Their father, an Iraqi Jew, emigrated from Iraq to Iran in 1948 at a time when most Iraqi Jews were resettling in the newly-established state of Israel. The brothers emigrated to Britain in 1979 after the overthrow of the Shah. Vincent Tchenguiz was a business partner in Allied Commercial Holdings with billionaire British real estate investor and notorious gambler Jack "Black Jack" Dellal, the son of Iranian Jewish ex-pats. Dellal has a number of business interests in Tel Aviv.
Shoshana Dadoun's Facebook connections include a number of Israelis.
Bartercard was founded in 1991 on Australia's Gold Coast by Sharpe and Andrew Federowsky and Brian Hall and in 2004 it opened up operations in Russia and Cyprus. Operations were expanded to Turkey in 2006 and India and South Africa in 2007.
While in London, Chapman worked for a division of Barclays Bank, as well as the hedge fund Navigator Asset Management Advisers, with an address listed at 33 Cork Street, 5th floor, in the Mayfair section of London.
Anna Chapman's ex-husband, Alex Chapman, is a British citizen, as is his ex-wife.
Anna Chapman's father, Vasily Kushchenko, is a former Soviet KGB officer who operated both as the Russian SVR intelligence chief of station and concurrently as Russian ambassador in Harare, Zimbabwe in 2002. The New York Post reported that as a teen, Anya Kushchenko's sister, Katya Kushchenko, dated Nathan Joseff, the son of the Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) at the U.S. embassy in Harare, Lena Joseff. It is noteworthy that in diplomatic postings like Harare, the U.S. DCM is also the official cover CIA chief of station. Mr. Kushchenko also worked for the Moscow-based tourism company Chetvertaya Vlast (Fourth Power). Kushchenko's daughter Anya was the London contact for the firm, which also acted as a public relations firm for Russian interests abroad. Nathan Joseff's brother, Matthew, told the post that although he and his half-brother Nathan have different fathers, both were "in the intelligence community." However, both the Joseff parents, who were also stationed in Tokyo and Rome, claimed to have been State Department employees.
Before his posting in Zimbabwe, Vasily Kushchenko was posted to the Russian embassy in Nairobi, Kenya where he served as ambassador.
Zimbabwe is a major transport hub for smuggled diamonds from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola that eventually end up in the hands of Israeli brokers and vendors in Tel Aviv, Antwerp, Amsterdam, New York's West 47th Street, and London's Hatton Garden.
Anna Chapman's possible interest in diamond smuggling to finance anti-Putin activities by London's Russian ex-pat tycoons is borne out by the fact that she befriended the head of a large global jewelry firm, according to the Zimbabwe Telegraph. In addition, Anna established, along with her then-husband Alex, a "charity" called Southern Union. The charity, created in 2002, was set up to enable ex-pat Zimbabweans to wire money back to Zimbabwe at competitive rates. Anna oversaw the transfer of millions of dollars from foreign accounts back to Zimbabwe. Southern Union was established with the financial backing of a wealthy South African who was a friend of Vasily Kushchenko, according to the Zimbabwe Telegraph. It was based at an apartment in Stoke Newington in the UK and at an address in Ireland. Southern Union and Anna and Alex Chapman are now part of an investigation into money laundering by Britain's MI-5 security service.
One of Africa's most influential diamond magnates is Russian-Israeli businessman Lev Leviev, who has invested heavily in New York, London, and Prague real estate and makes London his working headquarters. Leviev is a financial backer of illegal Israeli settlements and he has charged those who protest his actions with "anti-Semitism," a favorite canard for those who object to any criticism of Israeli or its deep-pocketed supporters.
Leviev's one-time partner is Russian-Israeli Arkady Gaydamak, an Russian-Israeli and one of Israel's richest men who was convicted in France for weapons smuggling to Angola and who fled Israel for Russia after being convicted of money laundering through Bank Hapaolim along with Italian-Israeli businessman Nahum Galmor.
The Jewish newspaper Forward is also reporting on a link between Anna Chapman and wealthy New Jersey Jewish businessman Michel Bittan. Bittan, a native of Casablanca, Morocco, emigrated to the United States via France and Israel, and became a wealthy real estate magnate, Sassoon and Guess jeans executive, and restaurant tycoon in the United States. Chapman reportedly dated Bittan, a 60-year old divorcee, according to Forward. The paper also cited Bittan, who has "influential friends," as "at least one Jewish connection" to the Russian spy ring.
Bittan served in the Israeli army and once ran a disco in Tel Aviv.
Anna Chapman also worked for three months for NetJets Europe, the European branch of the U.S. executive aircraft leasing firm, NetJets. From her position at NetJets, Chapman had insight into the murky world of private jet leasing, which was a central part of the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program, involving, among others, British nationals kidnapped by the CIA in other countries.
NetJets was founded in 1964 as Executive Jet Aviation (EAJ). The firm's original board members included retired Air Force General Curtis E. LeMay; Paul Tibbets, the pilot of the Enola Gay that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima; Bruce Sundlun, former Office of Strategic Services (OSS) officer under Allen Dulles and former Rhode Island Democratic governor and the second Jewish governor of the state and someone who has had numerlous run-ins with law enforcement in Rhode Island; actor Jimmy Stewart; radio and TV host Arthur Godfrey; and retired Air Force General O. F. "Dick" Lassiter.
In 1984, EAJ was purchased by Goldman Sachs executive Richard Santulli and the name was chanegd to NetJets. In 1998, the firm was acquired by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and in 2009, David Sokol, a Buffett business associate and adviser and and a possible successor to Buffett, took over from Santulli as CEO and the company moved its headquarters from New Jersey to its original headquarters in Columbus, Ohio.
It is noteworthy that Columbus also serves as operations center for Southern Air, the company that took over the assets of the CIA's proprietary airline, Southern Air Transport.
The mysterious Christopher Metsos and the Cypriot/Hungarian connection
The eleventh man in the alleged Russian spy ring, Christopher Metsos, managed to escape the FBI's dragnet and he arrived in Cyprus and was arrested while trying to board a flight from Larnaca International Airport to Budapest, Hungary.
Metsos, who bears all the signs of being a double or even a triple agent, was the money man who allegedly financed the alleged Russian spies in the United States.
Metsos was arrested by Cypriot authorities on June 29 based on an INTERPOL "red notice" or arrest warrant received on June 25. According to the AP, Metsos had arrived in Cyprus on June 17, carrying a Canadian passport, which a Canadian man said was issued in the name of his dead brother. There have been reports that Metsos may have been carrying passports from other countries as well. In the early 1990s, Metsos claimed to have been in Colombian national with an address in Bogota.
Metsos and a female companion were checked into the Atrium Zenon hotel in Larnaca after his arrival in Larnaca.
Metsos was freed on $32,600 bail and he presumably fled Cyprus, leaving his laptop computer and slippers in his room at the Achilleos Hotel in Larnaca, where he was staying after being freed on bail. U.S. authorities reportedly requested Cypriot police to hand over Metsos's computer. Metsos had attempted to board the flight to Budapest with his girlfriend who was neither questioned or taken into custody. The woman was permitted to fly to Budapest.
A case of laptop planting?
As with other evidence, including passports and cash, allegedly seized by the FBI from the homes of the other accused Russian agents in the United States, there is no independent confirmation that either the Cypriots or Americans have Metsos's actual computer. The planting of a laptop as evidence was used by Colombia in 2008 to implicate both Venezuela and Ecuador in backing the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. The laptop was seized after a Colombian raid of a FARC stronghold inside Ecuador near the Colombian border. In the raid, FARC commander, Raul Reyes was assassinated by Colombian commandos.
And in charges that closely resemble those brought against accused Russian spy, New York-based reporter for El Diario-La Prensa and former Peruvian Channel 2 news host Vicky Palaez, the Ecuadorian head of Telesur TV's Quito bureau, María Augusta Calle, was charged with being a supporter of FARC. Calle was accused, based on emails discovered in the seized computer and two external hard drives, of using the code names "Alicia" and "Dario" in emails sent to Reyes. Calle had been elected a member of Ecuador's Constituent Assembly in 2008 and was described, as was Palaez, of being a "leftist journalist." The neocon Miami Herald was at the forefront of trying to link the FARC's laptop "evidence" to both Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez and Ecuador's President Rafael Correa.
Calle and Palaez share something else in common. Both had arranged for interviews with top guerrilla leaders, Calle with Colombian FARC leaders and Palaez with leaders of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement. However, the neocons accused both journalists of using their journalist credentials to provide aid for the respective guerrilla movement.
In the case of Metsos's computer, whether or not it belongs to the alleged Russian agent or not, there is the possibility that U.S. law enforcement may upload incriminating evidence to the computer. Chavez decried the computer evidence and the INTERPOL investigation that deemed it authentic as fabrications. Many of the files on the computer were date stamped after it was allegedly seized from the the FARC base camp in Ecuador.
And, as with email reportedly sent from the SVR's "Moscow Center" to the accused Russian agents in the United States, the language contained in the alleged FARC emails did not comport with what was normally used by FARC. In addition, many of the documents had been scanned beforehand. Although the evidence on the FARC was highly dubious, it was authenticated by INTERPOL's Secretary General Ron Noble, a former Deputy Assistant Attorney General during the Reagan administration and the Treasury Department's first Undersecretary for Enforcement during the Clinton administration.
The two laptop incidents allegedly involving the SVR and FARC may yield an important clue in how U.S. and allied intelligence agencies are planting evidence to discredit opponents of U.S. policy.
Fake passports: a telltale sign of the Mossad
In 1997, two Mossad agents were arrested in Amman, Jordan after they had tried to assassinate Hamas leader Khalid Meshal by injecting poison into one of his ears. The two Mossad agents were traveling on bogus Canadian passports. Canada withdrew its ambassador to Tel Aviv until Israel promised never again to use false Canadian passports for covert assignments. Binyamin Netanyahu was Prime Minister of Israel at the time of the incident.
In 2004, two Mossad agents were arrested in New Zealand for trying to obtain New Zealand passports under false pretenses. More recently, Mossad agents who assassinated Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel room were found to be carrying false passports from the UK, Australia, Ireland, Germany, and France.
The AP's and Wall Street Journal's correspondents in Cyprus have been spinning the line that Metsos escaped with the connivance of everyone from the Communist and Moscow-educated President of Cyprus, Dimitris Christofias, whose political leanings make him an enemy of the global neocon political and media infrastrcture. Chritofias is being described as the only Communist head of state in the European Union.
The neocon media is also spinning the tale that Metsos may have somehow escaped across the UN line of control into the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC), which is recognized only by Turkey, thereby trying to implicate the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, another bête noire of the neocons. Under scrutiny are the TRNC's numerous air links to mainland Turkey and, for good neocon measure, ferry links to Syria and Lebanon, two adversaries of the Israeli regime. The TRNC government has denied Metsos crossed into its territory. The TRNC's lack of extradition treaties with other nations has placed it in the same suspicious category that Cyprus finds itself in neocon media coverage of the affair.
However Metsos departed Cyprus is unclear. But it is clear that Cypriot authorities had confiscated Metsos's alleged fake Canadian passport as a condition of his bail.
Metsos is believed to have swapped identical baggage with an alleged Russian diplomat at a Forest Hills, Queens train station. Forest Hills is also a well-known center for Mossad and Russian-Israeli mafia activity.
Cyprus's ties with Russia are being hyped, along with a planned October visit to the nation by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. In addition to its diplomatic ties with Russia, Cyprus is being panned by the neocons for hosting a Russian festival in Limassol, which was attended by Christofias, Russian offshore bank accounts, Russian-owned vacation homes, a presidential palace reception honoring the arrival of Gazprombank to the nation, and a first-ever Russian Orthodox Church, opened in 2007 in Alefriko, near the ancient monastery of Stavrovuni.
The Marine Corps wasted no time in using photos of Anna Chapman in security briefings for U.S. Marines going on shore leave in the Seychelles, in the Indian Ocean. According to The Washington Post's Jeff Stein, one security officer said, "I tell the Marines to imagine such a woman [Chapman] showing interest in them and developing a relationship, solely to exploit them."
Intelligence experts are warning that with public interest waning in the "terrorism" threat, the FBI and other law enforcement and intelligence agencies may be changing tack and are seeking to bring back the looming threat of foreign spies as opposed to terrorists. In an era of declining budgets, the agencies may be attempting to promote the idea of a twin threat of terrorism and Cold War era-like espionage.
The indications that the FBI and Justice Department may have rolled up an open-source Russian intelligence operation bent on cracking down on the financing of illegal operations by Russian ex-pat tycoons and foreign intelligence agents against the Russian state and economy may result in a corresponding round up of CIA and other U.S. agents operating in Russia and elsewhere under non-official cover (NOC) status.
Targets for such retaliation include U.S. businessmen and non-governmental organization (NGO) officials working in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other Russian cities. These possible targets include those associated with George Soros's Open Society Institute (OSI), the National Endowment for Democracy, Freedom House, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Businesses who cooperate with the CIA and use their cover to assign NOCs to Russia and other countries have included, since the 1980s, the Bank of America, Chase Manhattan Bank, General Electric, Caterpillar, Cisco Systems, Bechtel, Ford Motors, Procter & Gamble, RJR Nabisco, and IBM. According to published reports, CIA director Leon Panetta has quietly expanded the agency's use of businessmen NOCs in recent months. However, with the roll-up of the SVR's alleged NOCs, there may be a swift retaliation by Russia to identify and arrest American NOCs in Russia.