On the 19th of November 2020, the Lord of Siberia, Evgeny Alexandrovich Lebedev, the son of a former KGB officer, took his seat in the House of Lords as a crossbench peer.
Like all those unelected lords, ladies, earls and dukes, he will for the rest of his life be able to voice his opinion and vote on key issues that govern the United Kingdom – teacher’s wages, free school meals for our children, the laws that govern financial services in what anti-mafia journalist Roberto Saviano described as ‘the most corrupt nation in the world,’ Britain – with London ‘the money laundering capital of the world.’
Who in their right mind made this rich, spoiled Russian-born playboy at the age of forty a member of our House of Lords?
The answer is Boris Johnson.
Baron Lebedev is the son of Colonel Alexander Lebedev, the former First Chief Directorate (Foreign Intelligence) of the Soviet Union’s KGB and, later, an officer in Russia’s successor agency the SVR, a colleague of Vladimir Putin.
Colonel Lebedev quit spying to take up business and politics in 1992. From a zero start, by 2008 he was one of the ‘Golden100’ Russian oligarchs worth an estimated $3.1 billion, according to Forbes magazine.
Johnson, when he was foreign secretary, attended Lebedev parties and made trips to extravagant balls and fiestas at the family castle outside Perugia in Italy. According to a Sunday Times investigation, Colonel Lebedev was one of nine Russian oligarchs with close ties to the Kremlin responsible for ‘a huge surge in cash from Russian donors’ to the Conservative Party ‘since Boris Johnson was elected leader.’
Why would wealthy Russians with Mayfair mansions, bodyguards and kids in British boarding schools give eye-watering sums of money to the Conservative Party?
It is business. An investment. They would at some point make an offer or request that can’t be refused. It’s how the mafia works, South American drug lords, kleptocrats with Kremlin connections. Evgeny Lebedev wanted to be a lord.
We Love London
Colonel Lebedev fell in love with London while working at the KGB rezidentura in the Soviet Embassy. Little Evgeny arrived when he was eight. He attended Mill Hill School and studied the history of art at Christie’s, the auction house. He became a dual Russian/British citizen in 2010 – a decade before being fitted out with his ermine and crimson robes.
The Lord of Siberia or, to give the peer his full title, ‘The Baron of Hampton in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and of Siberia in the Russian Federation,’ threw himself into the glittering whirl of London society and politics in 2009 when daddy bought a controlling share of the Evening Standard. He made the paper a free giveaway and tripled circulation with a ceaseless stream of pictures of Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge with her pretty children and husband, the future king.
The media, newspapers and TV stations are power. Fresh news or false news, it is how you influence people and gain influence with the people who matter – royalty, sportsmen, celebrities, Johnson and his inner circle. A year after taking control of the Evening Standard, Lebedev acquired two more failing titles, The Independent and the Independent on Sunday.
It will come as no surprise that former Chancellor George Osborne, the man whose austerity programme after the 2008 bank crisis brought Depression levels of hunger and poverty back to Britain for some 3 million people, was editor of the Evening Standard from 2017 to 2020. Meanwhile, his ex-boss David Cameron made millions of pounds lobbying for Greensill Capital.
Lord of Siberia and Art
The Lord of Siberia is not an ex-KGB spymaster. He is just a boyish playboy who likes having posh English friends and collects modern art by Tracey Emin, Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon and Damien Hirst to hang on the walls of Stud House, his Grade II-listed mansion in the grounds of Hampton Court Palace.
He has maintained a ‘close friendship with Boris Johnson’ for more than twenty years, according to Wikipedia, with the Evening Standard going ‘all out’ to support Johnson in his successful race to become Mayor of London. Their relationship caused concern in UK security circles that assessed both Johnson and Lebedev as security risks.
When Johnson proposed his playboy mate for a seat in the House of Lords in the 2020 Political Honours list, Evgeny Lebedev was described by the Guardian as the ‘surprise name’ among the thirty-six peerage nominations. It led to accusations of ‘cronyism’ against the prime minister and revealed Johnson’s eagerness ‘to show contempt for British intelligence agencies.’
Not to mention the British people.
Russian oligarchs come to London because it is easiest place in the world to open secret accounts and shell companies in tax havens. They create offshore companies that buy luxury homes – yachts, football clubs – registered to other nameless offshore companies. In this way, no tax is collected by the British government. The National Crime Agency estimates that between £36 billion and £90 billion is laundered through London each year at a cost of at least £24 billion to the UK taxpayer.
Where did the Russian oligarchs get all those billions? They were members to the privileged group of officials – many ex-KGB spooks – who seized control of state assets during the fall of communism and enriched themselves at the expense of the Russian people who owned those assets.
The Russian way was to take everything in one quick smash and grab. The English way is more subtle, which is why Roberto Saviano calls us ‘the most corrupt nation in the world.’
Mrs Thatcher and her stealthy advisers stole state assets – railways, water, gas, everything, in fact – and put it on sale to a new ‘share-owning’ citizenry. That was the propaganda. The lie. The truth is, some 90% of those assets now belong to international corporations and rich individuals in the UK who supported Brexit, moved their companies offshore and avoid paying tax.
We, like the Russians, live in a kleptocracy.
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Hope i can post this everywhere and it might reach some closed minds who were taken in with the headlines of the free papers slandering Corbyn as they knew he would crack down in their money laundering an corruption.
” Verily I say unto thee, it is easierfor a Russian Oligarth to enter the House of Lords, than it is for a Ukrainian refugee to enter into the kingdom of Great Britain.”
Well said, Cliff. This ever-more-shocking war is shining a light on the corruption
and cronyism with Boris J at its heart. Ordinary Russians suffered from oligarchs’ wealth gathering at a time when they should have been able to start enjoying freedom and democracy for the first time in hundreds of years. And the likes of Lebedev get super yachts, ermine, the best of footie, and our loveliest landscapes to live in.
I believe Britain was the first foreign state to recognise the new Soviet Union.
Then it was the first to recognise and reward those who profited from its
Shocking. Distressing. Our government is constantly telling us that we are ‘leading the world’ in many areas, but they lead only in telling lies and hypocrisy. What is most despicable is the complete disregard for the people who voted them into power.
All true and Boris’s en-Lording young Lebedev is preposterous and reeks of informal bribery.
There were two attacks on Lebedev in the Sunday Times yesterday 6th March.
Yet neither actually sited anything he’s done wrong (Yet?) and he did ( so I understand) save two newspapers – the Independent and the free Standard. That was actually deivered to homes during the lock-down. And it doesn’t strike me as right wing. Its columnists include Ayesha Hazarika and its brilliant cartoonist, Adams, skewers fatso Boris perfectly and often.
All true. Lebedev may be a nice man, a generous man, a man dedicated to decency and fair play. The wrongdoer here is Boris Johnson, who should never have put an inexperienced Russian with little or no knowledge of English society (except high society) in the House of Lords.
I would be interested to know two things.
Firstly, who were the people who had declared support for Brexit in the 1980s and 1990s when most of the privatisations occurred and the referendum was not promised until 2014? Most of the current owners bought their shares in the open market. The theft occurred with the original sales, when the assets were sold at prices well below true value. A more intelligent point to make would be to cite the ownership of British utilities by foreign utilities, which implies that the problem was poor British management.
Secondly, how does money laundering through London cost so much to the British taxpayer? Does the Government subsidise rents for offices in the City of London? Almost all the money laundered immediately moves on to be invested outside Britain. If the British Government stopped this practice, it would move elsewhere and the net effect on the taxpayer would be negative due to the loss of tax collected on City salaries and VAT on expenditures by financiers living in the UK. If your issue is that people are able to avoid paying tax on income and profits made in the UK (which is a valid concern), then that also applies to investments financed by money that did not need to be laundered and needs to be addressed by laws that apply to all investments. There are concerning consequences arising from the separate but linked practices of money laundering and inward investment: the rise in property prices in the London area and the influence on government policy. It is the latter that has not been explored. The lack of a response from the UK and the US to the Russia annexation of Crimea in 2014 was probably due to the financial flows from rich Russians and this almost certainly emboldened Putin to invade Ukraine this year.
Finally, let’s not forget who are the real victims of money laundering by rich Russians: the Russian people from whom they stole the money.
All valid comments and concerns. Essentially, while London is now the money laundering capital of the world, we have a government that facilitates tax dodging, allows the super rich to avoid tax altogether and heaps a greater tax burden on British working people. And, yes, it is the Russian people from whom Putin and the oligarchs have their assets who suffer most.