By chance, I came across old and new news of a case involving many elements of a novel, but which may be quite common and mundane after all. Enter into stage SucDen (Sucres et Denrées), a French company that is reputedly the world’s leader in sugar. They “wanted in” in the Kazakh sugar market (which probably means control). The man who controlled the door was the Kazakh oligarch Rakhat Aliyev, who had married into Kazakh’s ruling family via the daughter and had been head of the country’s secret service, aside from having built his business empire through alleged thuggery and profoundly corrupt deals, before things turned sour with his father-in-law. Smell the perfume!
In any case, Aliyev was someone with power and money, and wanting more. So SucDen “gives” Aliyev 10% of its capital for 8 million*. Three years later, when the company no longer had any use for Aliyev, it tells Aliyev it’s time for him to sell his part, and it then pays Aliyev $24 million – with this 300% increase being justified by SucDen’s Financial Director, Thierry Bourvis, as an “increase in value of the company”. Precious! It gets better: all of it paid via checks signed in Malta from another company in Luxembourg that was managed by SucDen’s CEO, Serge Varsano. These were checks from a Societe Generale account, and there were a couple more from a BNP account – these are two of France’s most important banks. It just so happens that France has anti money laundering laws and procedures that banks are supposed to follow. One of them is that any time there is a suspicious transaction, they must inform TracFin, the French financial authority. Well, guess what the banks did?
Interspersed with all of this was that in 2007 Aliyev was charged in Kazakhstan for the murder of two top executives of one of Aliyev’s businesses, Nurbank. He was later charged in Austria and imprisoned there (but apparently received quite a bit of aid from the allegedly corrupt Austrian Minister of Justice, Wolfgang Brandstetter). Aliyev was then condemned in Kazakh in absentia. This February, Aliyev’s luck ran out and he was found hanged in his cell – the prison says suicide, his lawyers and family say murder. I say murder also, but I am just an Internet onlooker. More investigations have been launched in other countries relating to him, so contrary to what some people may have wanted, the story hasn’t been buried along with his death – even though important information may have.
But all of this leads us to ask if there’s actually a single non corrupt authority in all of Europe!
Because really, what good are money laundering laws when it can be done in broad day light and authorities do nothing?
* I found this info puzzling. Is it correct? I don’t know. But how could a person acquire 10% of the capital of the world leader in sugar for just $8 million? Wasn’t this suspicious enough to anybody? I didn’t search for an answer.
An excellent piece of investigative journalism can be found here by Mediapart: http://www.mediapart.fr/journal/international/280215/les-etranges-deals-de-sucden-le-geant-francais-du-sucre-avec-un-mafieux-kazakh in French, plus there are many articles on Aliyev’s doings in English.