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Usmanov article in the Times

Usmanov article in the Times

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Published by arseblog
Article about Alisher Usmanov in the Times
Article about Alisher Usmanov in the Times

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Published by: arseblog on Nov 12, 2012
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11/12/2012

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 When Alisher Usmanov began his efforts to ingratiatehimself in the West, he did so in the knowledge that there were aspects of his past that he’d prefer to keep hidden.The oligarch, who came second in this year’s
 SundayTimes
Rich List with an estimated fortune of more than £12 billion, has gone to great lengths in his attempt to buy his way into the British Establishment.He has sponsored a Russian exhibition of paintings fromTate Britain, taken a minority stake in Arsenal and boughtseveral prestigious properties, including the Grade II listedBeechwood mansion in Hampstead, North London, andSutton Place, the former home of John Paul Getty in Surrey.Now the Uzbek-born billionaire, who lives in Moscow andhas close ties with the Kremlin, is preparing to float thetelecoms company MegaFon on the London Stock Exchange.Despite Mr Usmanov’s best endeavours he has foundhimself facing repeated questions over his colourful history and his relationship with alleged criminal associates.In response, the oligarch has hired the services of RLMFinsbury, the large public relations firm founded in 1994 by Roland Rudd, a former journalist, to hit back at negativemedia reports.However, despite the efforts to suppress discussion of hispast, anyone accessing the oligarch’s Wikipedia entry inearly August 2010 would have found a detailed article withdescriptions of many of these controversies backed up by 40external references.On the afternoon of August 19 two years ago, an unnamedemployee at RLM Finsbury’s London offices opened a new front in the company’s fierce attempts to protect theirclient’s reputation. Without declaring that they were paid torepresent Mr Usmanov’s interests, the Finsbury employeestarted making changes to his Wikipedia entry.Mr Usmanov was born in a small town in Uzbekistan inSeptember 1953, the son of a state prosecutor, and enjoyed
 
a privileged upbringing as a member of the country’s smallpolitical elite. He was educated at the Moscow StateInstitute of International Relations and had hoped topursue a career as a diplomat before a court case in 1980 brought a sudden end to these ambitions.It is this court case and the resulting jail sentence that MrUsmanov is most sensitive about.In September 2007 Craig Murray, the outspoken formerBritish Ambassador to Uzbekistan, described the billionaireas a “gangster and racketeer who rightly did six years in jail”. In response, Mr Usmanov hired Schillings, the libelspecialists, to take action against bloggers who wererepeating Mr Murray’s allegations.In an effort to comply with a letter from the law firm, oneinternet hosting company took down a blog that hadreposted Mr Murray’s allegations. In the process they temporarily took several other blogs offline, including one belonging to Boris Johnson, prompting the then-Tory MPto tell this newspaper that it was “a serious erosion of freespeech”.“This is London not Uzbekistan. It is unbelievable that a website can be wiped out by some tycoon,” Mr Johnson saidat the time.In August 2010 the Finsbury computer user deleted allreference to the incident, removing several accurateparagraphs and citations linking to reports by 
TheTimes
and the BBC.Details of Soviet-era criminal convictions are notoriously difficult to establish, but this newspaper has obtained adocument which confirms that Mr Usmanov was convictedfor fraud, theft of state or civil property and conspiracy toreceive bribes on August 19, 1980. He was sentenced toserve eight years for the offences.Mr Usmanov has always maintained that his jailing waspolitically motivated and the Finsbury user tried to play down the affair, removing the word “criminal’ from a
 
section heading and deleting widely reported details of theallegations.Supporting the businessman’s claims is the fact that he wasexonerated in a ruling by the Supreme Court of Uzbekistanin 2000, which concluded that no crime had beencommitted, although doubts have been raised about thecourt’s independence.Steve Swerdlow, the former head of the Tashkent office of Human Rights Watch said that the Supreme Court wassimply a political tool, describing how HRW’s office wasclosed “in a five-minute hearing which we were given nonotice to prepare for”. He added: “The judiciary inUzbekistan is notorious. Not only is it corrupt, but itcompletely lacks independence.”Mr Usmanov has also faced questions over his links withthe ruling family, and in particular with the PresidentKarimov’s daughter, Gulnara.The oligarch has previously said that he has “norelationship, business or political alliances with MsKarimova” and had only met her “during official eventsorganised by the Uzbekistan Embassy and by the CulturalFund of Uzbekistan in Moscow”.However,
The Times
has learnt that they both recently attended a society wedding in Tashkent at which MrUsmanov gave a toast thanking Ms Karimova for attending.Sources close to Mr Usmanov insisted that he did notpledge his support for her future political ambitions, but hisspeech comes at a difficult time for Ms Karimova, who has been linked to a Swiss moneylaundering investigation overallegations that she accepted hundreds of millions of dollarsin bribes.Mr Usmanov was granted early release for good behaviourin 1986 and quickly set about making his fortune. He set upa company selling plastic bags in Moscow, before movinginto banking and natural resources. Although he insists thathe has always been an “honest businessman”, Mr Usmanov 

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