Alexander Lebedev: I have fought for years to bring Luzhkov's corruption to light

Wednesday 29 September 2010 00:00 BST

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


I have a long history with Yuri Luzhkov. I ran against him for the job of Moscow Mayor in 2003, shortly before elections for regional leaders in Russia were abolished. I have spent the years since attempting to bring evidence of the corruption and abuses of power that took place under Mr Luzhkov's rule to light.

Now that President Dmitry Medvedev has finally fired him, I've been getting a lot of phone calls with apparent "congratulations" from friends and colleagues. But this isn't a time to celebrate. My fight against Mr Luzhkov and his wife, Elena Baturina, has been nothing personal, because they are not just individuals, but represent a broader social phenomenon.

I don't like the way that Moscow has been run during Mr Luzhkov's time in charge. Moscow has become a city that is impossible to live in. The air is poisonous to breathe, and prices are artificially high. Mr Luzhkov has run the city primarily to benefit the business interests of his wife.

Today I have sent an appeal to the relevant authorities in Russia, Britain, the US, the European Commission and the United Nations, asking them to investigate the corrupt activities of Mr Luzhkov and Ms Baturina. In the first instance, this appeal is based on information presented to the High Court in London by a leading Russian developer, Chalva Tchigirinsky, that Ms Baturina secretly held a 50 per cent stake in his firm, Sibir Energy, because "no major projects can proceed in the city without her backing". Mr Tchigirinsky also said he spent around $12m on Ms Baturina's behalf for bills including maintaining her private jet.

We also have documentary evidence of several instances where Mr Luzhkov has used his position corruptly to benefit the business interests of his wife. I believe an international investigation into the business dealings of Mr Luzhkov and his wife is imperative as corruption should be fought everywhere it rears its head.

Governments need to work together to get rid of offshore banking centres, and blacklist banks involved in money laundering. As part of the fight, I envisage an international network of investigative journalists that would look into corruption across the world. We are sitting on a volcano that could erupt at any minute – how many more cases like Enron, Parmalat or Bernie Madoff on the one hand, and Mr Luzhkov or corrupt African dictators on the other do we need to spur us on to action? We only find out the full extent when it's too late. Moscow's former mayor is just one part – albeit a big one – of corruption on a global scale. This evil must be treated in the same way as apartheid was in its time, because like apartheid, it deprives whole nations of their futures.

Alexander Lebedev is the proprietor of 'The Independent'

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