Author: Kent Moors, Ph.D.
My negotiations with “mother” have hit some serious roadblocks. The intended “call them like they were” entries thus far completed by which I intend to name names and write about less than savory episodes have been resisted. There are several reasons for the push back, some expected, some not.
I still intend to print these, and in some cases the subject matter can be addressed in ways that fall outside organizational purview. But for now, it is one grappling tug of wills.
As I have observed on several occasions over the almost two years in which Classified Intelligence Brief and its Spy Tale series have been appearing, I decided to allow prior vetting of my writings when they involved matters impacting upon sources and methods, ongoing active undertakings, or ops still classified. For that, “mother” has had a (sometimes truculent) say on what has appeared in print.
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When a pronounced disagreement has taken place, and an intended piece has been pulled, I have turned either to my wife Marina’s previously published syndicated column Moscow Diary or to my encrypted personal journal kept during my years of sporadic residence in Russia. That is the case this week.
These writings remain beyond the reach of the Company and deal with matters that have no direct connection to intel ops.
As has been the case in several recent installments, this one is coming from that journal of mine in which I would jot down events, matters I would observe or hear about, always unrelated to my genuine activities – either overt (my cover for being there) or covert (the op with which I was involved at the time). The notes could later be embellished to more detailed snapshots portraying a nation undergoing massive changes.
Today’s installment comes from events unfolding toward the end of the last century (it still seems strange to say that). Given the present day fascination with Russian oligarchs, their money and toys, and the political connections that gave them rise, this one has some current resonance.
It addresses one Viktor Molosov, at the time considered one of the leading success stories in the new Russia. He became wealthy by merging utility companies in the city of Zhukovsky, some 13 miles east of Moscow. In his case, he parlayed financial power into political clout to become elected city mayor. At only 41, he was being touted as a figure to be watched.
Less than three months later he was found dead, shot in the head at close range. The initial reactions to his murder were predictable. Most Moscow newspapers quickly concluded that another successful business figure and community leader had been senselessly sacrificed to the appetite of criminals. The central government was outraged; the powerful mayor of neighboring Moscow demanded action.
Within a short time, however, there were no further calls for justice. The unfolding details indicate that the death of Viktor Molosov resulted from organized crime all right – his.
By 1989, Molosov was manager of the city’s utilities. Over the next several years he rode waves of privatization (turning state assets into private hands) to amazing wealth. All electricity, power and water services were under his control.
Most residences had meters, but they were rarely read. The bills were determined by how much Molosov decided to pocket that month.
His company expanded its purview into public buildings, water and sewage treatment plants, the local electrical grid, and entire city blocks in direct violation of law and without any payment. Customers were charged billions of rubles for repairs that were never made. Despite all the facilities being public property, no purchase was ever made and no taxes ever paid.
Following the collapse of the USSR, the legal situation changed and Molosov along with it. He reregistered his firm as a closed joint-stock company, promptly acquired 100 percent of the shares, and succeeded in turning huge tracts of public property into personal possessions. He never officially paid anything for anything, although the lack of objections from local administrators indicated that money was changing hands.
Finally, somebody started looking into it. The new mayor (Molosov was now far too busy fleecing people to worry about public responsibilities) appointed his deputy to review the utility records. Court cases were instituted and in rapid succession three judgments were handed down against Molosov’s company for illegal use of public property.
Molosov ran to the regional governor who promptly (and questionably) fired the mayor and quashed the cases. Twice arbitration courts reinstated the mayor and twice the governor sent him again packing. By the end of the year, the former mayor was now a member of the governor’s staff and Molosov himself was the newly appointed head of the city – certainly among the most bizarre examples of political logic to emerge from an often chaotic Russian scene.
The best, however, was yet to come. In accordance with a new national law, mayoral elections were held. Molosov was elected with more than 70 percent of the vote. Hailed by the media as a shining example of democracy’s triumph over the remnants of communism, he now appeared to be absolute czar over his little part of the world.
Unfortunately, his empire started unravelling. Some questioned why a man so wealthy would need to be in the public limelight. Others contended he needed to be mayor to insure the profitability of his many investments.
Ultimately, the most popular explanation for his eventual gangland style execution involved a complex series of financial and political deals that went sour. According to this account, Molosov had expected the regional government to provide funds for the completion of major road repairs and the upgrading of the local telephone system.
Well, the latest move to transform public property into person profits was vintage Molosov. He had used court judgments to strip others of property, money, and claims. The losers were certainly angry, but Molosov had far stronger support from shady partners also expecting large returns.
Of course, those guys could also be nasty if the money did not show up.
The complicated con centered on obtaining generous credit from Unikombank – at one time the largest underwriter of Moscow area public works projects – which would be repaid out of proceeds from regional government grants. The public books would balance, Molosov and his cronies would make another fortune, and additional giant construction projects would never be completed.
Unexpectedly, Unikombank went insolvent and was taken over by the Russian Central Bank for reorganization. When the accounts were reviewed, auditors found (surprise, surprise) massive problems in the regional government’s use of funds. The governor promptly ran for cover and Molosov was left exposed and alone.
Whether Molosov’s subsequent murder was the work of wronged property owners or frustrated underworld figures will probably never be known. In Russia when I was writing about this in my journal, such crimes had a way of remaining unresolved.
On the other hand, one thing became very clear. Politics, even the kind aspiring to be democratic, is an imperfect hedge against greed. Unfortunately, only the greedy seem to know that.
Dr. Kent Moors
This is an installment of Classified Intelligence Brief, your guide to what’s really happening behind the headlines… and how to profit from it. Dr. Kent Moors served the United States for 30 years as one of the most highly decorated intelligence operatives alive today (including THREE Presidential commendations).
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