A Belarusian journalist was threatened: in case this article’s publication her fate would be the same as Anna Politkovskaya’s.
We offer the text of Iryna Khalip’s article published in “Novaya gazeta” today.
The Battle for Oligarch’s Inheritance
Its participants are: a British lord, Belarusian KGB men, Berezovsky and Lukashenka, a Georgian wife and a Russian wife, drugs and heart drops.
The editorial office of “Novaya gazeta” : We have been thinking hard whether we should give so much space to this dirty and bewildering story. We even decided: let oligarchs and all sort of adventurers resolve their conflicts themselves. But the events with our staff reporter in Minsk left us no choice: only published information is a guarantee of the journalist’s security.
To the editor-in-chief of “Novaya gazeta” from staff reporter in Belarus Iryna Khalip:
On Sunday, November 23 2009, on the next day after I sent to the editorial office a text of journalistic investigation about the case of Emmanuel Zeltser, which included exclusive details and documents, I received the following email (spelling and punctuation of the author have been preserved):
From: Drug Drug firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: November 22, 2009 17:43
Topic: Greetings from Boris
Irka if you won’t remove the article you will meet with Anna Politkovskaya, or tomorrow you will meet with intoxicated niggers.
With love, BA”
I called Boris Berezovsky to London and informed that I have received an email with threats and signed by his name. Berezovsky assured me that he had nothing to do with that, and supposed that it was made by special services.
On Monday and Tuesday on request of the deputy editor-in-chief of “Novaya gazeta” I gathered additional information for the article. On Tuesday, November 25, at 8.53 p.m. I received a call to my mobile phone from the number +275178254009 (a public pay telephone). An unknown man’s voice said: “You have been warned, bitch, haven’t you? If the article is published, you must not leave your house any more”.
On Thursday, November 26 in the evening I received a telegram from Moscow: “HERO OF EUROPE THE MATTER DOES NOT CONCERN PAL PALYCH [PAVEL PAVLOVICH] BUT VLADIMIROVICH DRINK HENNESSEY AND DRINK HEALTH OF YOUR SON IF YOU DO NOT CARE FOR YOUR HEALTH”
If this seems abracadabra to you, I should explain: in my phone conversation with the deputy editor of “Novaya gazeta”: he recalled that Emmanuel Zeltser was a lawyer of Pavel (Pal Palych) Borodin in New York. As for Hennessey: on Wednesday, November 25, my husband called me and asked what to buy in a duty free shop, and I asked Hennessey. And finally, on Thursday November 26 my son was taken ill, and I made several phone calls relating his health. The telegram demonstrated: all my actions are under control.
I was threatened before, but every time it happened after this or that publication. Threats that started before the article was published, and moreover, containing details of my conversations over the phone, show that the text had been intercepted and read when I sent it by email. Nobody knew I was working on this topic except the editors of the newspaper, with whom I discussed that on the phone. It allows making a conclusion that those who threaten me have a possibility to wiretap my phone talks and intercept my emails. Moreover, I received the letter with threats on the email account started by me less than a moth ago for confidential correspondence, not for business one.
This lovely serial detective show began November 14, 2007 when the Georgian billionaire Badri Patarkatsishvili was in New York and signed his will, designating his stepbrother Joseph Kay as executor. On February 12, 2008, Patarkatsishvili died suddenly in London. Immediately after the reading of the will, Boris Berezovsky, who was not mentioned in it, announced that he was to get half of Badri’s property according to a verbal contract, although officially he and Patarkatsishvili had divided up their joint business 18 months before Badri’s death. On March 12, Kay’s lawyer Emmanuel Zeltser and his assistant Vladlen Funk were arrested by the Belarussian KGB in Minsk, where they had flown on Berezovsky’s plane, and were charged with using forged documents. On April 4, Inna Gudavadze, Badri’s widow, and her daughters filed a lawsuit in a court in New York against Kay and Zeltser (according to their residence) and Kay filed a suit in a Tbilisi court, which had jurisdiction over the last will of a Georgian citizen.
A trial in the first court, which finished February 20 of this year, and an appeals court in Georgia, which took place July 1, recognized the authenticity of the will and the right of Kay to serve as the executor of the deceased’s will. The judge in the proceeding in New York postponed the trial until Zeltser’s release. And accepted only one document: “Agreement of parties confirmed by the court,” registered in New York Federal Court on May 5, 2008, no. 08-cv-03363_doc_18. According to this document, “For the period this agreement is in effect, Joseph Kay will not inform publically or third parties that he or Emmanuel Zeltser are authorized to speak on behalf of the inherited estate of Arkady (Badri) Patarkatsishvili unless a court of competent jurisdiction recognizes to the contrary.” Now the trial is postponed until January 22, 2010 at the request of the parties.
This development attracted the attention of those who have been following events around the inheritance of Badri Patarkatsishvili. But his inheritance is just the tip of the iceberg. On the surface is the Imedi television company. No one knows what is under the water, including the heirs. On the surface are civil suits with potential criminal overtones. And under the water, a dark mass in which have merged in deadly icy embrace a British Lord and Belarusian KGB agents, Berezovsky and Lukashenko, a Georgian wife and a Russian wife, American diplomats with Belarusian prison guards. I spoke practically with all parties to the conflict and here is the picture that emerged.
Greetings from Berezovsky
The American lawyer Emmanuel Zeltser spent nearly 18 months in a Belarusian jail, although he was sentenced to three years -- for using deliberately falsified documents (his assistant, Vladlena Funk, was sentenced on the same charges and served one year in prison) and for attempted commercial espionage. Zeltser was first held in the KGB investigative isolation prison, then the Interior Ministry’s investigative isolation prison, and then at Colony No. 15 in the city of Mogilev. He declared a hunger strike in protest, but never appealed to the Belarusian authorities for a pardon. That was because he did not consider himself guilty. Although sentenced to three years of imprisonment, he was released on June 30 when a delegation of American Congressmen and Senators traveled to Minsk. The Congressmen asked about Zeltser during a meeting with Lukashenko, the boss replied, “I never thought that this person would become an issue in the relations between our countries…If this is very important for America and our relations and will foster normalization of our relations, then I will sign the order today.”
That same evening the U.S. consul Caroline Savage went to the prison colony in Mogilev and picked up Emmanuel Zeltser. At five o’clock in the morning, he flew from Minsk to Vienna, and then home to New York. As Zeltser recounts, before the flight took off, suddenly a certain Mr.M. boarded the plane (the name is known to the editors). He is a friend of Boris Berezovsky, who often performs assignments for him. He got on the plane without any luggage and sat down in the seat next to Zeltser. He feigned the appropriate surprise at the supposedly unexpected meeting, and when the plane took off, turned to Zeltser and said confidentially, “Boris is really sorry about what happened to you. It was a misunderstanding. He would like to meet with you and have a talk.” Zeltser closed his eyes and pretended to fall asleep. And thus he “slept” untli Vienna. In Vienna, M. did not get out of the plane for some reason. More than likely, Zeltser theorizes, he took the same plane back to Minsk to tell of the failed conversation.
Road to Prison With a Stop-Over in London
On March 11, 2008, Emmanuel Zeltser and his assistant Vladlena Funk sat in a London restaurant with Boris Berezovsky. Zeltser was representing the interests of Joseph Kay. From London, Zeltser was supposed to fly to Kazakhstan. But Boris Berezovsky, according to Zeltser, insisted on an immediate trip to Minsk: Badri had invested about US $160 million in Belneftekhim and he had to travel there immediately, before the Belarusian regime didn’t try to pocket this money.
Zeltser told Berezovsky, “Boris, I will definitely fly to Minsk, but later -- tomorrow, I’m flying to Kazakhstan.”
By the end of dinner, Berezovsky had unexpectedly concurred -- ok, if you don’t want to don’t go. But after coffee, Emmaneul and Vladlena began feeling poorly. They were in a kind of twilight state. Berezovsky graciously offered his car. They were driven to the airport, right to Boris Berezovsky’s plane.
«I really was in a daze, not comprehending what was going on,” Emmanuel Zeltser recalls. “That is, I did everything automatically. There was a car outside -- that meant we had to leave. There was a stairway to the plane -- that meant we had to climb it. We’re probably going to fly somewhere. I didn’t even try to understand where -- I fly often. I vaguely remember a British customs agent who came on the plane and wished us a nice flight. Then I fell asleep. I woke up when the pilot came into the cabin and said that in 10 minutes, we would be landing in the airport in Minsk. I still wasn’t surprised -- I was still in a daze. I thought, well, maybe I had intended to go to Minsk, but I don’t recall why.” (The story of his unconscious flight to Minsk Emmanuel Zeltser told in his testimony which he gave under oath in the State Department after his release from Belarusian prison).
When the plane landed, border guards didn’t enter the cabin, but people in plainclothes and hauled Zeltser and Funk to a KGB prison.
The Right to Two Phone Calls from the KGB
Now in his comfortable office in the center of Manhattan, Emmaneul Zeltser, recalling the entire story, was puzzled. “I don’t understand why Boris needed all that uproar around my modest persona. To concoct a scenario, hire actors, schedule the day of the show -- is a costly project. Both a waste of time and money. He didn’t get anything as a result. Boris Berezovsky recently told the journal Vanity Fair that he couldn’t stop Zeltser via legal means “it would have taken years and years and years.” In an interview with Novaya gazeta on June 19, 2008, he had said, “If the Belarusian law-enforcement agencies are the least bit professional, they will stop a fraudster.”
At the KGB’s prison, Zeltser, according to his account, was beaten for two days. The KGB demanded that he make two telephone calls. The first was to Joseph Kay in New York. The second was to the Halkin Hotel in London, where Zeltser had been staying and where all his things were, including his laptop. He was to tell Kay that he had to fly to Minsk immediately, supposedly millions and billions had been found there, and the presence of the executor was necessary. Then Zeltser was to call the London hotel and ask that all his documents be brought out of the room and given to a representative of Lord Goldsmith (Peter Goldsmith, Boris Berezovsky’s attorney, the former Prosecutor General of the United Kingdom). The main thing, the Belarusian KGB said, was that among the documents was the original of Bardi Patarkatsishvili’s will.
Emmanuel Zeltser made the call and repeated what the KGB men told him to say. Joseph Kay listened to Zeltser over the phone, and said, “By the way, Valentina had a baby yesterday.” “Really?” Zeltser said. “Then in that case, tell her my congratulations!”
This was a signal they had agreed upon before. Valentina was a real woman, a friend they had in common, and she really had had a baby, only it was six months before the telephone call. They had both long since congratulated her on the birth. The congratulations signified that Zeltser was phoning under pressure. Kay of course didn’t want to think of any trip to Minsk. Had he come to Minsk, he would have immediately been thrown in a prison cell. As for the hotel nobody seemed to be suspicious about his call.
A Trap for a Lawyer
Back on March 3, 2008, three weeks after the death of Badri Patarkatsishvili, when Emmanuel Zeltser didn’t even dream of any trip to Minsk, Grigory Vasilievich, Prosecutor General of Belarus, and Vladimir Naumov, Minister of Internal Affairs, received a letter from Lord Goldsmith (Devebois & Plimpton LLP) and his colleague Michel Duncan (Cadwalader, Wickersham and Taft LLP), British barristers who had been retained by Badri’s widow. Here is what the letter said:
«We are acting in the interests of Inna Gudavadze, wife of the well-known Georgian businessman and politician Badri Patarkatsishvili. From the moment of his death certain persons have tried to obtain information regarding his property and business interests both in Great Britain as well as other countries, operating on the basis of invalid, and we are certain, forged documents. These persons are trying to obtain through illegal means all the shares belonging to Mr. Patarkatsvili, using these false documents. We draw this to your attention, since we are certain that Mr. Patarkatsishvili had or could have had shares under your jurisdiction and it is very important to preserve them for his legal heirs, who are his wife and children. We trust in your rapid raction in the event that Messrs. Kay, Zeltser or Fishkin try to obtain the shares by illegal means. ”
In fact, the traps and snares were set in Belarus even earlier. What was left was to lure Zeltser into the trap. If Kay himself had come to London for talks, he himself would have likely woken up in the plane. Or the lawyer Alexander Fishkin, who had notarized the will. In the Lord’s letter, three names figure in -- for insurance. But Zeltser was the one to come to London.
On March 19, another letter to the Prosecutor General Vasilievich was sent by Goldsmith’s firm: “We are interested in cooperation in the name of our clients…we know that Michel Duncan is meeting today with your representative regarding Zeltser and we hope that this meeting will be productive. We would also be happy to answer your questions.”
KGB Agents and Lords -- Brothers Forever
Later, Lord Goldsmith was to commit one more strange act: he would agree to a meeting with Belarusian KGB investigator Sergei Vorobiev.
Vorobiev came to London in May of last year and wrote Goldsmith a letter: “My name is Sergei Vorobiev and I am the official representative of the Belarusian government, temporarily located in London. The purpose of my visit to London is collection of information on the case of Emmaneul Zeltser who is under arrest in Belarus. Last week I already questioned several witnesses. Since all my attempts to reach you by telephone have been unsuccessful, I am writing this letter to you from my personal email address. In your letters from March 19 an May 6 to the Prosecutor General of Belarus, you graciously offered your help and the help of your clients in investigating the case of Zeltser. I would like to invite you and your client Inna Gudavadze to meet me at the Embassy of Belarus in London at any time convenient to you on May 19 or 20. I would like to assure you that there is no basis for the accusations of poor treatment of Zeltser, made by his brother Mark. Despite the fact that there was no proof other than the claims of Zeltser’s brother, these accusations were disseminated by a number of official and unofficial sources.”
As it followed from the letter, Goldsmith refrained from possible contacts with the KGB. That is why Vorobiev could not get a call through -- Lord Goldsmith simply did not reply to the calls. And the letters sent from the KGB were ignored. Hence Vorobiev’s last attempt: “I am writing you from my personal address.
Lord Goldsmith finally did go to the Belarusian Embassy.
I called Lord Goldsmith and asked him why he met with the representative of the KGB, whose methods of works and principles are categorically against the principles and values of the British aristocracy. And I received an answer over the signature of Caroline Willers, a specialist in public relations with Debevoise & Plimpton:
“No representative of our firm or persons related to our firm have agreed to meet or have met with the proescutor general.” Understandably, they did not meet. In fact, the prosecutor general did not offer to have a meeting. We may consider that the phrases “representative of the KGB Sergei Vorobiev” and “Prosecutor General Vasilevich” sound alike. And to the question of whether Lord Goldsmith admitted that the story of Zeltser’s arrest was a well-planned operation by Boris Berezovsky, the answer was as follows: “The firm does not receive and never has received any instructions from Boris Berezovsky.” As to the question of whether a representative of Lord Goldsmith removed the will from the Halkin Hotel, and as to where the document was now located, Caroline Willers replied: “No one from our firm or any persons connected to it have taken the documents indicated.”
The documents were not in Belarusian court either – Zeltser left them in his hotel room. So the trial in connection with the faked documents and the verdict that followed were yet another act in a play. A year and a half later, however, according to Zeltser, Boris Berezovsky presented several boxes of papers to the British court that allegedly were printouts from the same laptop left in Halkin Hotel.
Why the British court? Because Boris Berezovsky recently initiated a case there, this time against Inna Gudavadze who cancelled the previous agreements with him.
I called Boris Berezovsky on the phone and asked him to comment on what Zeltser said and on his involvement in this case. Boris Abramovich refused to comment and said that he cannot give any comments pending the completion of court proceedings.
All parties in the case are now using computer printouts that are not regarded as valid documents in any court in the world. This is true for that ill-fated will in New York. The question is this: what was in the will, such as to provoke a real war with pursuit, arrests, prison torture, and trumped-up trials? The answer is: nothing.
Badri’s Inheritance is a Myth of The 21st Century
As stated in Badri Patarkatsishvili’s will of November 14, 2007, Joseph Kay, the executor of his will “after paying all debts, taxes and expenses has to distribute all my assets as follows in accordance with my confidential instructions: 25% - to Inna Gudavadze, 25% - to Olga Safonova, 10% each – to my daughters Liana and Iya, 10% - to my son David, 5% - to my beloved mother, 5% each – to my sisters Mziya and Nana, 5% - to my brother Jakob”. Nothing else. In the preamble, however, it is said that Badri is afraid to be killed after the presidential election in Georgia regardless of its outcome: at the time he signed the will, Patarkatsishvili was the presidential candidate in Georgia.
The first thing that catches the eye is the kinship of every name except Gudavadze and Safonova. It is against the law in Georgia, where Badri was a citizen, to name two women as one’s wives, and also in the USA where the will was signed, in Great Britain where he had his second residence, and in Russia where he married Safonova. That’s why Badri preferred not to specify the relationship.
Inna Gudavadze knew about her husband‘s second marriage. She also knew that it was unlawful. Soon after Badri’s death she brought an action in Russian court and the marriage with Safonova was annulled. Nevertheless, the record of this marriage was kept in the Palace of Marriages in Saint Petersburg under number 1253, dated May 16, 1997. It’s not important, however. What is important is that Olga Safonova remained an heiress regardless of whether she is officially recognized as married to Badri or not.
This bigamy gives an answer to the most important question: why would the billionaire Patarkatsishvili, who had the major law firm of Lord Goldsmith at his disposal need a lawyer like Emmanuel Zeltser ? It’s elementary: Zeltser was not only Badri’s lawyer for 15 years, he was his secret confidante. He was someone who could be trusted with a “delicate” errand. For example, would Lord Goldsmith, former Prosecutor General of Great Britain, a man with political ambitions bother to involve himself in the affair with the will of a bigamist? Hardly. Zeltser didn’t ask any questions.
The trials in different countries are being held around the myth that the last will of the late Badri Patarkatsishvili has become. Moreover, the original of the will has vanished. And no court in the world can pronounce it authentic or fake. The inheritance itself over the two years after his death has turned into a myth. Badri, like many businessmen in the post-Soviet region had hidden his name, transferred money to off-shore or trust companies, and registered companies using false persons – in Cypress, Panama, the Netherlands or the Cayman Islands. The huge off-shore empire that he owned together with Boris Berezovsky, a year and a half before Badri’s death was divided into two trusts: Hotspur Trust, which went to Brezovsky, and Octopus Trust that Patarkatsishvili owned. After Badri’s death, Brezovsky made a deal with Inna Gudavadze who agreed to give him half of the assets of her late husband. At that moment, they needed each other: Berezovsky at least knew where to look for the hidden money whereas Gudavadze had no idea about it. She in turn could sue the second family for the inheritance. Theirs was a mutually beneficial alliance. Joseph Kay is not an heir, but an executor. His duty was to find those hidden assets and to give them to the heirs and Patarkatsishvili’s. An executor can claim only a handsome honorarium for this job.
While the courts of different countries hear the cases of motions by Berezovsky and Gudavadze against Kay, and now of Berezovsky against Gudavadze – those trusts and off-shores where the name of Patarkatsishvili is not mentioned are successfully disappearing into the pockets of the intermediaries under whose names those companies were formally registered. If the trials continue for several more years only the TV company “Imedi” will be left out of Badri’s inheritance (after Badri’s death his assets, according to different sources, were about 2.6 billion dollars); there is no sense in claiming ownership of Imedi since de facto it belongs to the Georgian state. And all the rest will turn into a fairy tale for grandchildren.