The uncle of the two men who set off bombs at the Boston Marathon, who struck the only grace note in an otherwise horrific week, worked as a “consultant” for the Agency for International Development (USAID) a U.S. Government Agency often used for cover by agents of the CIA, in the former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan during the “Wild West” days of the early 1990’s, when anything that wasn’t nailed down in that country was up for grabs.
“Uncle Ruslan” Tsarni of Montgomery Village Md., whose name was the top trending topic worldwide on Twitter last Friday for his plain-spoken condemnation of his two nephews, has had a checkered business career, that began well before he graduated (as Ruslan Z Tsarnaev) from Duke Law School in 1998.
Tsarni, a well-connected oil executive, is currently involved in an international criminal investigation into a Kazakh billionaire banker-turned-fugitive alleged to have absconded with $6 billion from Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank.
The story begins with The London Sunday Times on May 8, 2011, which reported the sale of the personal home of England’s Prince Andrew to billionaire Kazakh Oligarch Timur Kulibayev, who “controls that country’s oil industry and happens to be married to the daughter of its autocratic President Nursultan Nazarbayev.”
What does that have to do with "Uncle Ruslan?" Let's take a look.
"Can't tell your Oligarchs without a scorecard"
Headlined "Prince's home in 'laundered cash' inquiry," the story raised several red flags.
One was that the President-for-Life’s son-in-law had paid $5 million over the asking price to purchase Prince Andrew’s home, which raised eyebrows.
Red flags and eyebrows were raised still further, in these times of global near-depression, at the conspicuous oligarchic consumption (read: bad taste) exhibited when the Kazakh President-for-Life’s daughter-for-life Goga Ashkenazi celebrated her 30th birthday with a lavish party before the scandal hit.
Goga, who made her appearance in a Swarovski crystal-encrusted, backless lace dress, attended by Prince-for-Life Andrew, was entertained by fire-eaters, peacock-feathered stilt-walkers, and a girl swinging on a trapeze pouring vodka into ice sculptures shaped like naked male and female torsos.
There was even a woman suspended in a bird cage (true) who was there to direct guests to strategically-placed vomitoriums (alas, not true) strewn about the mansion grounds.
Enter "Uncle Ruslan"
But the biggest red flag, the one pertinent to murder in Boston, was Oligarch Kukibayev's use of money laundered through a network of offshore companies to attempt to hide his purchase of Prince Andrew's crib, which emerged during a legal battle between another billionaire Kazakh oligarch, Mukhtar Ablyazov, and BTA Bank, from which Kazakhstan claims Ablyazov embezzled a very cool $6 billion dollars.
And this is where “Uncle Ruslan” Tsarni comes in.
The purchase of the Prince's estate was put together, according to prosecutors in Italy and Switzerland, by a group of oil executives who comprise “a network of personal and business relationships” allegedly used for “international corruption," reported The London Telegraph.
Tsarni, called “a US lawyer who has had dealings in Kazakh business affairs,” by the Sunday Times, clearly appears to be a member of that network.
The Sunday Times reported, “A statement by Ruslan Zaindi Tsarni was given in the High Court in December, claiming that Kulibayev bought Sunninghill and properties in Mayfair with $96 million derived from a complex series of deals intended to disguise money laundering.”
“Tsarni alleged that the money came from the takeover of a western company, which had been used as a front to obtain oil contracts from the Kazakh state.”
A Big Big Sky's the Limit
The “western company” used to launder the money which the Sunday Times referred to is Big Sky Energy Corporation, where Ruslan Tsarni was a top executive.
Big Sky, which used to be known as China Energy Ventures Corp, is a now-bankrupt US oil company run by S.A. (Al) Sehsuvaroglu, a long-time executive of Halliburton, which had oil leases in Kakakhstan’s Caspian Basin.
Tsarni was Big Sky’s Corporate Secretary and Vice President for Business Development. He joined Big Sky in 2005.
A press release announcing his appointment stated:
“Mr. Ruslan Tsarni, a U.S. citizen, has over 10 years of professional experience in oil and gas legislation and corporate law. Previously, Mr. Tsarni served as Corporate Counsel of Nelson Resources Limited Group as well as Managing Director of several of its operating subsidiaries.
“From 1999 to 2001, Mr. Tsarni worked as Head of Legal Affairs of Golden Eagle Partners LLC.
Big Sky was on somebody's watch list
“From 1994 to 1996, Mr. Tsarni served as a consultant contracted by USAID for projects aimed to develop securities markets in Central Asia, where he trained corporate governance and corporate finance principals in state and private companies.”
According to a source who worked for many years as a journalist at Platts Oilgram News, a respected oil industry trade publication, good corporate governance was not a Big Sky priority.
“Nelson, Big Sky, Ablyazov, Kulibayev and the rest were all on my watch list for intelligence connections and pay-offs of various kinds at Platts,” stated the source, who requested anonymity.
The news corroborates other reports beginning to emerge about the family and its abundant connections.
A "connected" family?
Before the Tsarnaev family moved to the United States a decade ago, they lived in the northern Kyrgyz town of Tokmok, near the border with Kazakhstan, which is home of the country's largest ethnic Chechen community.
The day after the massive manhunt in the Boston area that led to the death of Tamerlan and the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Radio Free Europe and Kyrgyz Service correspondent Timur Toktonaliev traveled to Tokmok.
From there, he reported that the extended Tsarnaev family is well-known there, even beyond their local community.
“It is not known if there was anything more than a personal connection,” the story reported, “but organized crime boss Aziz Batukaev, who is also an ethnic Chechen, lived next door to the Tsarnaevs. Batukaev grew up and lived in Tokmok, but is now in Chechnya.
Halliburton executives, suspected CIA assets, Chechnyan crime bosses, oligarchs stealing billions from banks and laundering money with seeming impunity, fire-eaters, peacock-feathered stilt-walkers, and a girl swinging on a trapeze pouring vodka into ice sculptures shaped like naked male and female torsos…
If there hadn't been two of them, the investigation would already be pointing to a single misfit, a lone nut bomber.
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