Bloggerheads and others have already done great’work in exposing those journalists easily bought up by a billionaire’s favour and hospitality.
But crass Mark Franchetti wins the prize for rolling over in return for a chauffeured visit to a billionaire’s mansion and indulging in “a lunch of lamb stew and red wine served by the butler in one of his private dining rooms, a hall lined with gilded central Asian vases.” He then gives us a propaganda piece so cringeworthy as to be astonishing coming from a once great newspaper.http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article2652774.ece
He approvingly quotes Usmanov’s crude attack on me:
Usmanov rejected the charges and threatened to sue Murray “if he can first prove that he is completely sane”.
Of course I have neither mansion nor butler to entertain the Franchettis of this world, so evidently I must be mad.
Franchetti then goes on to retail without analysis Usmanov’s ludicrous account of the circumstances of his conviction for fraud, corruption and theft of state property.
Usmanov says it was all beacuse of an attempt in 1980 by the Moscow KGB to stop his friend’s father becoming head of the Tashkent KGB. To stop the father the KGB cooked up an elaborate plot to get the son to accept a bribe, tricking him into thinking this was part of an intelligence operation. However the person paying the bribe gave it to Usmanov, because he knew that Usmanov was a friend of the person he wanted to bribe. So Usmanov accidentally in good faith accepted the brown envelope for his friend, who was being set up by the KGB to get at his father.
How is your Bullshit-meter reading? Some thoughts that did not occur to Mr Franchetti:
– This is 1980. Brezhnev is the President of a confident centralist Soviet state. If the Moscow KGB wanted rid of someone under Brezhnev, they would not have to cook up cock-eyed plots involving framing their son.
– Paying a bribe is a risky occupation. How likely is it that a smuggler would pay a bribe by giving the cash to a friend of the person they wished to bribe, and asking them to pass it on?
– The Brezhnev KGB were quite efficient. If they had cooked up this cock-eyed plot, they would have got the bribe to the right person.
Those are only a few of the improbabilities about the Usmanov story. Now I can understand that under the influence of Usmanov’s red wine Franchetti was having problems of discernment. But Franchetti cannot be defended in his dealing with the issue of the diassappearance of Usmanov’s criminal record.
The convictions were later overturned by Uzbekistan’s Supreme Court, which ordered his police record to be expunged.
and Franchetti goes on to use the line:
Although he was fully absolved in 2000 and no longer has a criminal record,
In fact, being absolved by Uzbekistan’s Supreme Court means nothing whatsoever. Uzbekistan is a totalitarian state and has absolutely nil judicial independence. The conviction rate in Uzbek criminal cases is over 99%, which gives you an idea of how fair the trial procedures are. The internet is full of information about the legal, judicial and human rights situation in Uzbekistan, but this Human Rights Watch report might be a good start on judicial independence.
The Supreme Court of Uzbekistan receives its orders from President Karimov, arguably the most vicious dictator on earth and a friend of Alisher Usmanov. Karimov wiped out his criminal record for him. So how much you trust Usmanov comes down to how much you trust Karimov. Karimov’s state frequently tortures dissidents to death.
What makes Franchetti’s piece so disgusting is that he knows full well what the political situation in Uzbekistan is, and he knows full well that the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan has no independence and that a pardon from it for an oligarch has no meaning. It is simply that Franchetti chooses not to share this information with his readers, because the Times has decided to puff Usmanov. Mark Franchetti is no fool; he is rather a disgusting and unprincipled man and a disgrace to his profession. Amazing what some people will do if given the services of a chauffeur and a butler for an afternoon.
Meanwhile Usmanov is still too cowardly to sue me – and his excuses for avoiding the courts become feebler:
I won’t fall so low as to fight those who want to blacken my name.
Indeed – why have the truth tested before an honest jury, when you can just buy up cheap journalists instead?