Archive for April 2017

Mafia expert Roberto Saviano: European Leaders won’t admit to Mafia

the global conversationMafia expert Roberto Saviano: European Leaders won’t admit to Mafia   last updated: 04/04/2017 His life is inextricably linked to the Mafia, which he exposed and denounced more than 10 years ago in his book ‘Gomorrah’, now a television series.Since then Italian author and Mafia expert Roberto Saviano has lived in hiding, dodging death threats because his book so incensed the Mafia.But that has not stopped him in his relentless research into international crime, the drugs, the money and the violence that fuels them.In this edition of the The Global Conversation, euronews’ Isabelle Kumar speaks to Mr Saviano at the Italissimo festival in Paris.The anti-mafia journalist explains why he believes the UK is the most corrupt country on earth and why politicians across Europe are not prepared to tackle money laundering and organised crime.Isabelle Kumar You shot to fame with your book Gomorrah ten years ago. I imagine ten years in the world of the Mafia is a very long time, can you give me some of the main ways the Camorra group has changed?Roberto Saviano The greatest change in the Camorra is related to the generations. The heads today are delegating to very young people who control the territory.It’s as if they are closed off in a sort of aristocratic isolation. They give power to kids who are 15 to 20 years-old, they are not baby gangs – they are real mafiosi, with rules, incredible military violence, wages and they’re managing the drug-trafficking.The major revolution is essentially in terms of their age, and also because 20 year-olds are willing to die more easily.euronews The judiciary has described these groups as ‘urban terrorists’ do they have any links, any resemblance, to the jihadis who have joined groups like the Islamic State (IS)?Roberto Saviano No, there are no structural links, it is not that they speak with Jihadi groups, but there are cultural links. Today, a young Neapolitan, Mexican or South African is very similar to those in North Africa who decide to join IS.They certainly have one thing in common – only those who are prepared to die trying to get rich, or like jihadists to leave a mark, make a difference.Today, according to the Mafia, you don’t stand out by living differently but by dying differently.For example, the kids I have studied in my country lately, they write on Facebook that they will never reach 25 years of age, not even 20. A 30 year-old is considered a failure – someone who has not made it in life.euronews You describe this in your new book ‘Paranza dei Bambini’, this also seems to be fuelled by a sense of hopelessness, these youths don’t really have opportunities, there is massive urban decay in these centres, in Naples particularly – is Naples symbolic of so many other cities around the world for you?Roberto SavianoYes, absolutely. Mexico city, Lagos, Rio de Janeiro, the suburbs of Paris and Barcelona – these are all a symbol of this story.Naples and Italy are merely capable of narrating this story and voicing what is happening. Here in France, I can see the entire debate is only about the effects and they don’t look at the causes. The suburbs of Paris are full of illegal money and yet they only talk about the effects, of the dealer or the immigrant, but this dealer and immigrant have money and cocaine that are given to them by the French Mafia – the Mafia from Marseilles and Corsica.Money laundering is done by the French financial system – all this money ends up in Luxembourg.The difference between us in Naples and the rest of Europe is that we talk about it. The rest of Europe has a hard time admitting to these stories.euronews In Europe if we focus there, is there a certain amount of hypocrisy, you say these issues are talked about in Italy but European leaders are not talking about it. Are they willfully choosing not to?Roberto Saviano Absolutely. But it’s more than a choice, there is also an element of ignorance.The most extraordinary thing in the world is to listen to the political debates in France – there is not one presidential candidate who knows about these phenomena.Those who talk about immigration, don’t actually ask where the money that is going to the criminal suburbs comes from, where the cocaine comes from, how money laundering functions in Paris, who is buying apartments?The candidates don’t even know, only a part of the police service is aware of it, as well as a few specialised journalists and the rest of the country is looking elsewhere.euronews If they are turning a blind eye is it because there is a certain need for this illegal money in the economy? You have described the amount of illegal money that is flowing through the economy, the money that is laundered, it’s absolutely astronomical – so at a time of economic stagnation, withdrawing that money could bring about a collapse these leaders might not desire?Roberto Saviano Yes, of course. One of the reasons is, if you put in place rules against money laundering you will also be blocking money, not only from drug-trafficking but also from the Middle East, money from tax evasion.If you introduce legislation to make it Mafia proof – you will close the system to other capital that is needed in the economy.From this perspective Europe has given up trying to control its capital – even clean money. Brexit is one of the examples of this – it’s fed off a desire to make Great Britain an off-shore haven.euronews If the UK is to become an offshore haven, or has been previously, how do you see Brexit playing into that? How do you see the future of the United Kingdom when it comes to this illegal money laundering, this illegal centre of activity?Roberto Saviano Transparency groups have shown this with irrefutable data.The UK is already the most, without doubt, the most corrupt country in the world, not in terms of politics or police, but in terms of money laundering.No English person feels that they are in the most corrupt country in the world because they they cannot pay off policeman or easily corrupt politicians, but they don’t know that their financial system is totally corrupt.What do I mean by corruption? I mean that there is no control of the flow of money – not necessarily into London, but into Gibraltar, Malta and Jersey – these are all the doors through which Great Britain brings money in without any control.Panama used to be the money laundering capital – now it’s London. Panama got its revenge with the Panama Papers, they clearly released names to take revenge against London.euronews A new report from Europol shows how these international groups, these mafia groups, have fully embraced technology and that is allowing them to dig in deeper and hide more from authorities, is it going to become practically impossible to trace and catch these groups?Roberto Saviano If there were real laws against money laundering, it would be easy.Today it is much easier to track money than before because we are no longer dealing in banks notes, we have electronic transactions that leave traces on the web.The problem is that there are plenty of territories to make these transactions and make them disappear.Each European state has its own coffers – Spain has Andorra, Germany has Liechtenstein, France has Luxembourg and everyone has Switzerland. It is really easy to hide money in Europe.In the past, banks were frightened to take Mafia money – that was in the 80s, 90s – now they search out Mafia money, because they lack cash flow and because the economic crisis has put the banking system on its knees.So, the banks defence systems have been completely lowered and the Mafia can enter. It is a relatively new phenomenon. The Mafia used to have trouble laundering money in European banks, they used offshore banks in South America and Asia but now they have totally penetrated the legal economy.euronews These are powerful accusations that you are making. Are you receiving any backlash politically from what you are saying or are you just being ignored?Roberto Saviano I get comments every day. I am never welcome in the countries I visit because I am always told ‘this is an Italian problem, talk about your own country’.I’m accused of exaggerating, of inventing or repeating what is already known.Everything that we have talked about today is not hidden – it’s simply not observed – that’s the paradox. These days, more than ever, all the attention is focused on terrorism so Mafia money and money laundering are absolutely free to flow where they want.euronewsReports show that the European criminal world is exploiting the refugee crisis and apparently people smuggling is becoming one of the most profitable crimes at the moment, is that what you are seeing?Roberto Saviano All the boats that are crossing the Mediterranean are managed by the cartels – but not by the Italian cartels like everyone thinks. The Mafia doesn’t have a say in this.They are Turkish, Libyan and Lebanese groups that have always invested in people smuggling and Europe has not the faintest idea of this dynamic.The cartels that managed the arrivals of the Syrians in Europe are all Turkish mafia and it’s the same Mafia that manages heroin from Afghanistan.IS, the Caliphate, for example, has three primary sources of profit, all from criminal activity: racketeering, petrol smuggling and art smuggling. The fourth is drugs – Captagon which is a meta-amphetamine or marijuana that IS cultivates in Albania.We choose not to have a deeper understanding of the situation and retain a superficial reading of it – that there’s a clash of civilisations, when in fact we are dealing with a clash between criminal groups.euronews Your pursuit of your work has put your own life at risk – you seem to be willing to die for your work. Is there any going back for you, or is this going to remain an obsession of your life, where you give up the things people have at your age – family, home, friends?Roberto Saviano Yes, it’s possible. What I should be doing, I’m not doing. I should disappear. I should stop doing interviews, writing books, stop doing my job.But two things are stopping me – one is ambition – the ability that my words still have an impact on reality.Then there is the question of vengeance, of revenge, to carry on doing this even though the Mafia make my life impossible.I wouldn’t suggest my decisions to anyone else because I could have done this more cautiously. I wouldn’t do it again like this. I would do it with more care, more discipline. Instead I realise I went too fast and I crashed into a wall.euronews When you wrote Gomorrah you were very much on the ground, you were speaking to people, you were experiencing what was happening. Now your work has had to change quite drastically, now you can no longer do that. As an author how do you see yourself evolving?Roberto Saviano When I was young I had a hard time meeting magistrates or having access to tapped conversations, now they are sent directly to me. Now, everyone wants me to talk about the investigations – it’s incredible how everything changes.

Paul Manafort – Oleg Deripaska “ “the biggest Russian Mobster on the planet.”“ – Michael Francis Brassington





Paul Manafort   : In den 1980er-Jahren gründete Manafort mit mehreren Geschäftspartnern die Lobby-Firma Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly (oft auch als Black, Manafort bezeichnet). 1988 managte Manafort gleichzeitig die Wahlkampagnen von drei Republikanern, welche um die Nominierung als US-Präsidentschaftskandidaten kämpften: George Bush, Bob Dole und Jack Kemp.[2] Als Berater wirket er auch an den Präsidentschaftskampagnen von Gerald Ford und Ronald Reagan mit.[1][3][4]

Russian Oligarch in Election Probe Linked to Drug Cartel

F44444New evidence indicates that Oleg Deripaska, the Russian billionaire who paid $10 million a year to Paul Manafort between 2004 and 2009, has been in business since 2004 in Guyana with a politically powerful crime family involved in international drug trafficking whose most famous member is a drug pilot who had also been the chief pilot of the owner of the flight school in Venice Florida that taught Mohamed Atta to fly.

our-man-in-guyanaMichael Francis Brassington is a professional pilot with a sordid criminal career in international drug trafficking.

In July 2000, he was the co-pilot on the ill-starred flight of a luxury Learjet (N351WB) that was busted by DEA Agents on a runway of Orlando Executive Airport carrying 43 lbs. of heroin.

The plane belonged to Wally Hilliard, the owner of Huffman Aviation, the flight school where Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi began flight training on July 3, 2000.  When Hilliard’s Learjet was busted on July 22, Atta was not even a month into his lessons.

Hilliard-Mug-Shot-226x300According to DEA affidavits and court testimony, Brassington flew co-pilot on 39 weekly round trips on Wally Hilliard’s Learjet in the year 2000 before getting busted. Each time the Learjet flew from Florida to Venezuela and back, before heading north to end at Teterboro Airport outside New York. The connection has never been mentioned in the mainstream media.

(SEE “The Brassington Files,” for a dozen stories about Brassington which have appeared on this site as part of an investigation of the 9/11 terrorist’s time in Florida.(“Welcome to TerrorLand” is available on this site.)

Russia’s Aluminum Wars Go Global


It has been reported extensively that Oleg Deripaska fought and won three brutal wars of attrition during the 1990’s for control of a global strategic resource.

Thousands died in what were called the Russian Aluminum Wars. When they were over, Oleg Deripaska was the last man standing.

Deripaska is identified in the New York Times, as “a former nuclear physicist who wrested control of the Russian aluminum industry from a netherworld of organized crime figures.” In truth, a more accurate description of him would be as “the biggest Russian Mobster on the planet.”

In the West, the Aluminum Wars are still being contested.


Michael Francis Brassington’s “Cousin Winston” was Guyana’s Minister of Privatization. It’s a plum position— citing the Russian example—and one of the most lucrative jobs in the world.

In Guyana, on April 28,2000, Winston Brassington issued a press release headlined  “Guyana rejects bauxite bid from Reynolds Metals.

“The government has rejected a bid by the local subsidiary of U.S. aluminum firm Reynolds Metals Co. to buy out the state’s interest in a joint bauxite venture, officials announced.”

“Mike Brassington, head of the state’s privatization unit, said the government rejected the undisclosed bid because it was below officials’ price expectations.”


Reynold’s bauxite assets were nationalized “during a now-abandoned socialist experiment in the 1970s.”  The company later returned to Guyana at the invitation of the government. Based in Richmond, Virginia, Reynolds Metals is best known to consumers as the manufacturer of Reynolds Wrap.

It was a dust-up. A flare-up. A mini-Aluminum War. While the picture remains murky, like watching players in unmarked uniforms maneuver on a dimly-lit field at twilight, it was clear that Reynolds Aluminum’s 30-year history in Guyana no longer cut any ice.


“That would be great”

guya-MMAP-mdThree years later a dispatch out of Georgetown from the Associated Press reported the Guyanese government had just cut a billion dollar deal selling  Guyana’s bauxite resources to Oleg Deripaska’s RUSAL, the world’s largest aluminum producer.

“After agreeing to buy 90 percent of shares in Guyana’s state-owned bauxite company, officials from  Russian mining corporation RUSAL,  which belongs to Russian aluminum baron Oleg Deripaska, discussed setting up an aluminum plant that could process 1 million tons of bauxite per year, according to Mike Brassington, the head of Guyana’s government privatization agency,” the AP reported.

“BrasWINSTON-BRASSNGTONsington estimated it will cost $1 billion dollars to build the aluminum plant, but that it would “provide thousands of jobs” in Guyana, a South American country of 700,000 people.”

Brassington said, “That would be great.”

Somebody in Guyana finally figured out that all that bauxite was being turned into cash that wasn’t ending up in a Government of Guyana bank account.

“Company pays $11.9 billion into Consolidated Fund over 11 years, read the July 2, 2014 headline in popular Guyanese daily Kaieteur News.

“The National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL)  headed by Winston Brassington lashed out through a statement contending reports driven in the media have no basis in fact.”

“NICIL makes it clear that it paid into the Consolidated Fund $11.9 billion dollars in dividends from the profits of its operations between 2002 and 2011. It insists it is a holding company owned by the Government of Guyana, and is expected to be and is, in fact, financially self sufficient.”

Then came one of those deliberately obfuscating paragraphs that suddenly makes everything clear.

“In 2002, NICIL and the Privatization Unit were operationally merged. A Management Cooperation Agreement (MCA) was signed appointing the Privatization Unit as exclusive manager of NICIL and reaffirming that privatization of NICIL’s assets would be conducted in accordance with the Privatization Policy Framework Paper of 1993 (White Paper on privatization).

winston-brassington-and-johnathan-brassingtonIf you fall asleep reading about the “Privatization Policy Framework Paper of 1993,” you may miss the fact that The Ministry of Privatization, headed by Winston Brassington, was merged with the State Privatization Unit, led by Michael Brassington.

This fact was cited as a reason for why the citizens of Guyana weren’t being robbed blind.

While most of Guyana’s 700,000 benighted citizens subsist well below the poverty line, the Brassington’s, already famously rich, had added another swiftly-flowing revenue stream, through the simple expedient of treating the country’s resources as their own.

Oleg Deripaska probably felt right at home.


Meanwhile, in another part of the jungle

hqdefaultBeginning with a certain notoriety for flying co-pilot during the major drug bust the Orlando Sentinel called “the biggest heroin bust in Central Florida history,” Michael Francis Brassington became something of a celebrity in Guyana, the ultimate swampy backwater.

He moved in fast company. His father was the longtime CEO of Barclay’s Bank in the Caribbean. *Before that he’d been a courier— “bag man” is the less polite term—for the British Bank.)

Ten years later, when Brassington was sentenced to prison in the U.S. in the U.S. (for recklessly endangering passenger’s lives) newspapers and residents who had avidly followed coverage of his trial offered their thoughts.

“The Brassington family is well known in Guyana, a former British colony,” wrote one. “Michael Brassington’s great-grandfather came from Britain and established sugar plantations & estates throughout Guyana. The family is well-known for their wealth and power.”

“They come from a powerful old English Guyanese Family,” seconded another, “that in recent years joined forces with (current President of Guyana) Jagdeo. Their cousin Winston Brassington is an avid Jagdeo supporter. And the boys are involved in drug running with Winston and Gerry Gouveia.”

“These guys (Brassington and his brother Paul, a co-defendant) are the nephews of Peter D’Aguiar,” wrote another observer. “Their aunt is Peter D’Aguiar’s wife.”

“Uncle Peter,” as it happens, for decades controlled one of the three major political parties in Guyana, and maintained close ties with everyone’s favorite uncle, Uncle Sam. When the Agency called on him for assistance during a CIA-sponsored coup in Guyana in 1968, he was only too glad to help.

Mr. Bigski does New York

oleg-deripaskaaaBy 2005, Oleg Deripaska was richer than just about anyone before him in the history of the planet. Still, he had a problem. Because of his unsavory reputation, he couldn’t get into the U.S.  It was like Jay Gatsby getting banned on Long Island.

And the list of Deripaska’s enemies kept growing— unpaid former business partners, widows and orphans of murdered business partners—and now included the heads of beleaguered US aluminum giants, and their acolytes in the U.S. government, unhappy about Deripaska’s vise-like grip on key Third World bauxite mines.

It was time for a charm offensive.

Deripaska started buying politicians, former politicians, and original gangsta K-Street lobbyists like Paul Manafort, who was far from being only U.S. political insider selling access to Russian Mobsters. John McCain, his campaign manager Rick Davis, even former Senator Bob Dole used his one good arm to hold out a begging bowl.

The charm offensive worked. In December 2005, Deripaska was issued a multi-entry U.S. visa. During his brief stay in the U.S. he signed a World Bank loan, spoke at a Carnegie Endowment meeting, and even attended a dinner at Harvard University, where, thanks to a generous donation, he was appointed to an international council.

Of course, Harvard will let anyone in if they’ve got enough money.

goldmansachsDespite its high points, Deripaska’s trip did not end well. Under the terms of his visa, he was forced to endure lengthy FBI questioning. The interview went badly. When Deripaska left the country, his visa was revoked over concerns about his ties to organized crime.

Years later, in 2009, the U.S. government lifted the ban to let him visit New York again. This time he was taking meetings with Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Apparently, that was good enough for US Customs.


Paul Manafort and his “Olig-Daddy”

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When Oleg Deripaska and Paul Manafort hooked up in 2004, Deripaska was richer, and doing more deals, than anyone alive.

In the winter of 2004, The Ukraine, Russia’s next-door neighbor, had a revolution, or a putsch, depending on your point of view. It was either a peaceful “Orange Revolution” which overthrew the corrupt Putin-backed Viktor Yanukovich, or a diabolical opening gambit of the Fourth Reich.

Yanukovich’s opponent was pro-Western opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko. Yushchenko was poisoned, almost died, but held on to win. Afterwards, a murder investigation was launched against Yanukovich’s main backer, who then turned to Paul Manafort for a little image adjustment.

Paul Manafort worked on the presidential campaign of the candidate whose side poisoned the other guy. Remember? The one with the hideous huge bumps on his face?

After that, Manafort’s work as Trump’s unpaid campaign chairman last year must have seemed a piece of cake, at least until Trump asked him to resign after revelations that Manafort orchestrated a covert Washington lobbying operation until 2014 on behalf of Ukraine’s ruling pro-Russian political party.

Under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, people who lobby in the U.S. on behalf of foreign political leaders or political parties must provide detailed reports about their actions. Reportedly, Manafort did not disclose any details of his lobbying work to the Justice Department.

If Manafort rolls (turns state’s evidence), as now seems likely, and eventually goes into witness protection to fend off Russian assassins…For the sake of anonymity,  will they make him give up the pink ties?