HOTLINE KLEPTOCRACY REPORTS

The Mysterious Mr. Mirtchev

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When U.S. polit­i­cal web­site Washington Babylon pub­lished an arti­cle in December 2017 claim­ing that spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller was look­ing at a rather obscure Bulgarian-born polit­i­cal con­sul­tant, it did not, per­haps under­stand­ably, gen­er­ate many head­lines. Ultimately, the man in ques­tion, Alexander Vassilev Mirtchev, was not indict­ed as a result of Mueller’s inves­ti­ga­tion and he is not named in the recent­ly released redact­ed report.

Georgette Mosbacher with Alexander Mirtchev

But Mirtchev’s career high­lights the often murky links between those lob­by­ing for the inter­ests of for­eign pow­ers and the polit­i­cal infra­struc­ture of the United States. As this report will dis­cuss, Mirtchev’s exten­sive work with the auto­crat­ic gov­ern­ment of Kazakhstan calls into ques­tion the links he has forged with the Republican Party and a vari­ety of think-tanks in Washington DC, links that con­tin­ue to this day.

For exam­ple, a series of leaked emails – revealed here for the first time – indi­cates a rather curi­ous rela­tion­ship between Mirtchev and the cur­rent U.S. Ambassador to Poland, Georgette Mosbacher.

Reports that Mirtchev has also been inves­ti­gat­ed by the FBI for alleged mon­ey laun­der­ing and fraud only deep­ens the con­cern about the nature of these rela­tion­ships. It is in the pub­lic inter­est for there to be an exam­i­na­tion of these links, and the ori­gins of Mirtchev’s seem­ing­ly lim­it­less wealth.

Bulgarian Communist to United States’ citizen

Bulgarian Communist to United States’ cit­i­zen Mirtchev’s path to DC’s polit­i­cal elite is a rather remark­able sto­ry. He was born in 1957 in Bulgaria, and served from the late 1980s as the head of the Komsomol, the Communist Youth Party of Bulgaria. Just before the Communist Party was forced out of pow­er in Bulgaria in February 1990, Mirtchev was elect­ed to serve in the country’s Supreme Soviet, the Soviet equiv­a­lent of a par­lia­ment.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Mirtchev moved to America, and start­ed to work for Stewart & Stewart, a Washington DC based law firm. In 1992 he found­ed Krull Corporation, a U.S. con­sult­ing firm. At some point he even acquired U.S. cit­i­zen­ship – a right almost uni­ver­sal­ly denied to high-rank­ing for­mer Communist offi­cials, lead­ing to a belief in some cir­cles in Washington DC that Mirtchev may have been an intel­li­gence asset for the United States while he was an offi­cial in Bulgaria. Over the next decade Mirtchev cre­at­ed an exten­sive net­work of con­tacts in Washington, espe­cial­ly mem­bers of the Republican Party – Rudy Giuliani, Henry Kissinger, John McCain, Lindsay Graham, amongst many oth­ers.

Rakhat Aliyev – for­mer son-in-law to Kazakhstan’s first pres­i­dent Nursultan Nazarbayev – relates in his book The Godfather-in-Law that dur­ing one of Mirtchev’s first con­ver­sa­tions with Nazarbayev’s daugh­ter Dariga, Mirtchev tried to impress her by speak­ing about meet­ings he had had with Condoleezza Rice and Dick Cheney.

Despite being well-known in DC polit­i­cal cir­cles, Mirtchev stayed very much out of the pub­lic eye until 2008 when media reports2 indi­cat­ed that he had been work­ing for at least six years for the gov­ern­ment of Kazakhstan, an auto­crat­ic coun­try often described as a ‘kleptocracy’3 – where a nation’s rulers enrich them­selves at the expense of the state. Mirtchev seems to have no qualms rep­re­sent­ing peo­ple or gov­ern­ments with dubi­ous rep­u­ta­tions.

One of his ear­ly clients was Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oli­garch who made his mon­ey in Russian alu­mini­um in the 1990s, an indi­vid­ual barred4 from enter­ing the U.S. in 2006 over fears that he was tied to Russian organ­ised crime5, an accu­sa­tion that Deripaska has denied. Through Global Options Management, Mirtchev also worked with Gulnara Karimova, the daugh­ter of the then pres­i­dent of Uzbekistan, who would be caught up some years lat­er in an inves­ti­ga­tion by the U.S. author­i­ties who alleged in 2016 that she received bribes of up to $800 mil­lion from tele­coms com­pa­nies look­ing to gain access to Uzbekistan.6 Karimova is cur­rent­ly serv­ing five years in Uzbekistan for crimes includ­ing embez­zle­ment, extor­tion, and tax evasion.7 (There is no sug­ges­tion that Global Options Management worked for Karimova dur­ing the time these crimes were com­mit­ted.)

Mirtchev helps ‘launder’ Kazakhstan’s reputation

The back­ground to Mirtchev’s hir­ing by the Kazakh gov­ern­ment in 2002 is a scan­dal that came to be known as ‘Kazakhgate’: an American busi­ness­man, James Giffen, had been arrest­ed in the United States, accused of set­ting up schemes that ben­e­fit­ted high-rank­ing Kazakh offi­cials.

One such offi­cial was the then President of Kazakhstan him­self, Nursultan Nazarbayev, whom the U.S. Department of Justice alleged to con­trol a Swiss bank account that held around $87 mil­lion, mon­ey that was viewed as pro­ceeds of bribery on behalf of Giffen.8

Ultimately, the poten­tial­ly explo­sive tri­al dragged on for years amidst legal argu­ments and end­ed up as a damp squib, with the U.S. gov­ern­ment agree­ing to a plea deal in 2010 which saw Giffen escape jail time – although Giffen’s com­pa­ny was found guilty of hav­ing bribed Nazarbayev and his wife with two $16,000 snow­mo­biles.

Back in 2003, Kazakhstan’s inter­na­tion­al rep­u­ta­tion had tak­en a hit amid all the media report­ing on Giffen’s arrest. It had caused extreme embar­rass­ment for the Kazakh pres­i­dent, who even avoid­ed trav­el­ling to the United States for a num­ber of years in fear of arrest. Enter Mirtchev, who cou­pled with a U.S. firm, Global Options Group, to form a new com­pa­ny called Global Options Management, which Mirtchev chaired and owned half of.

This com­pa­ny pro­duced a report on how the Kazakh gov­ern­ment, and Nazarbayev in par­tic­u­lar, should man­age the Kazakhgate scan­dal. A ‘work­ing’ ver­sion of the report pre­pared towards the end of 2003 says that “the appro­pri­ate tech­niques to be used in off­set­ting upcom­ing attacks against [Nazarbayev9], his close cir­cle and mem­bers of his gov­ern­ment from the law enforce­ment quar­ter” should include using “pub­lic, pri­vate, and legal meth­ods of pos­i­tive­ly influ­enc­ing the even­tu­al res­o­lu­tion of the crisis.”10

Mirtchev with Dariga Nazarbayeva

The report involved a major intel­li­gence-gath­er­ing exer­cise: “to com­pile this report, a task force of for­mer senior law enforce­ment offi­cials and experts was assem­bled – includ­ing two for­mer direc­tors of lead­ing nation­al law enforce­ment agen­cies, and a for­mer direc­tor of an inter­na­tion­al law enforce­ment agency – com­bin­ing over 300 years of secu­ri­ty and inves­tiga­tive expe­ri­ence.” In total, 97 “high-lev­el offi­cials” were inter­viewed off-the-record for the report, with the report’s “task force” trav­el­ling “exten­sive­ly through­out the U.S. as well as to Switzerland, Belgium, France, Italy, United Kingdom, Israel, etc.,” to con­duct research.11

The report goes through the infor­ma­tion col­lect­ed by a vari­ety of U.S. law enforce­ment and oth­er agen­cies and bod­ies on Kazakhgate, with the a major empha­sis placed on how Global Options should go about ‘cor­rect­ing’, ‘cleans­ing’, ‘redefin­ing’, or ‘rebut­ting’ the ‘adverse views’ and ‘mis­im­pres­sions’ of these bod­ies, by car­ry­ing out the “appro­pri­ate deliv­ery of these rebut­tals to rel­e­vant offi­cials, depart­ment heads, and pol­i­cy­mak­ers in the US and inter­na­tion­al law enforce­ment agen­cies con­cerned via the appro­pri­ate channels.”12 One sec­tion argues that the U.S. Attorney General’s office pos­sess­es “such an exten­sive list of ‘inves­tiga­tive facts’ relat­ed to KG and ST [Kazakhgate and Nazarbayev]” that it:

puts [Nazarbayev] and mem­bers of his close cir­cle in direct jeop­ardy of poten­tial involve­ment in, and pos­si­ble pros­e­cu­tion under, U.S. crim­i­nal law. Therefore, actions must be tak­en to cor­rect these impres­sions. On an imme­di­ate basis, our con­tacts in the Attorney General’s Office (and their White House coun­ter­parts) should be fos­tered.

At the same time, those agen­cies that have com­pro­mis­ing infor­ma­tion on Nazarbayev’s polit­i­cal ene­mies should be “care­ful­ly cul­ti­vat­ed in the process of ‘assist­ing’ their inves­tiga­tive activities.”13 Although Global Options were keen to stress the legal­i­ty of their tac­tics, the word­ing in the above report very much sug­gests that a for­eign gov­ern­ment was pay­ing a com­pa­ny to inter­fere into a U.S. crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion.

The Global Options report also – rather iron­i­cal­ly – details and pub­lish­es some alle­ga­tions against the Kazakh gov­ern­ment col­lect­ed by law enforce­ment agen­cies. So for exam­ple, we learn that a Kazakh del­e­ga­tion “fea­tur­ing top offi­cials and peo­ple close to [Nazarbayev]” spent $3 mil­lion on a vis­it to the United Kingdom which “accord­ing to the offi­cials, can­not be explained oth­er­wise but on the basis of exist­ing bribery schemes and mis­use of state funds.”14

Through this work, Alexander Mirtchev clear­ly got close to the country’s first fam­i­ly; when Global Options Group threw a recep­tion in hon­our of the Kazakh president’s daugh­ter, Dariga, in February 2004 at the Metropolitan Club in Washington DC, it was Mirtchev who escort­ed her to the receiv­ing line of invit­ed guests. However, Mirtchev’s work for Kazakhstan also alleged­ly includ­ed more sin­is­ter aspects, with the lob­by­ist reportedly15 pro­vid­ing Nazarbayev with restrict­ed U.S. Customs infor­ma­tion and mobile phone records of the regime’s polit­i­cal oppo­nents. Furthermore, The Times alleged16 in an arti­cle from 2009 that offi­cers from the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, leaked con­fi­den­tial infor­ma­tion to Global Options Management about Kazakhstan.

Whatever work Mirtchev did com­plete must have impressed the Kazakh lead­er­ship, as they turned to him and Global Options Management again in 2007 to pro­duce oth­er reports. Dubbed, along with oth­er mate­r­i­al as “the Super Khan papers,” these reports (totalling over 400 pages) have proved con­tro­ver­sial, as they detailed meth­ods to keep Kazakhstan’s rul­ing dynasty in pow­er until 2035. A con­fi­den­tial strat­e­gy doc­u­ment relat­ed to these files states that this is to be achieved by “prevent[ing] inten­tion­al and unin­ten­tion­al, inter­nal and exter­nal interference.”17 (The Super Khan papers’ authen­tic­i­ty has been dis­put­ed by the Kazakh government.18)

What is beyond doubt is that Mirtchev con­tin­ued to work at a very high lev­el in Kazakhstan, lead­ing Intelligence Online in 2009 to call Mirtchev “Nazarbayev’s clos­est asso­ciate in the U.S.”19 In 2007, Mirtchev became a Senior Economic Adviser to the then Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, Karim Massimov,20 and in October 2008 became an inde­pen­dent direc­tor of Samruk Kazyna, the main hold­ing com­pa­ny for Kazakh state busi­ness­es, a posi­tion he held until March 2018. He does not seem to have been a very hands-on direc­tor, tak­ing part in only 4 of the 18 meet­ings of Samruk Kazyna’s audit com­mit­tee in 2016, includ­ing none of the 14 in per­son meet­ings. He attend­ed 16 out of 19 of the oth­er meet­ings, though this was still the worst atten­dance record that year of any of the direc­tors. 21 His 2017 record was slight­ly bet­ter – this time he had the sec­ond worst atten­dance record of the board.22

A celebrity lifestyle

Mirtchev cer­tain­ly enjoys the high life; while his main res­i­dence is a lux­u­ry con­do­mini­um in Washington DC’s Georgetown neigh­bour­hood, he also owns or con­trols prop­er­ties in Italy and on Miami’s ocean­front South Beach. Information relat­ed to Mirtchev’s finan­cial trans­ac­tions demon­strates that the man has mon­ey to burn. Unverified details relat­ing to Mirtchev’s finan­cial trans­ac­tions indi­cate an incred­i­ble spree of spend­ing in June 2015, where in just a 19-day peri­od (June 9 to June 27), he spent over $180,600. This includes some of the fol­low­ing expen­di­ture, high­light­ing his almost A-list celebri­ty lifestyle:

  •  On 11 June 2015, Mirtchev spends over $34,000 in Christie’s in London, and takes a flight cost­ing near­ly $7,000 to Frankfurt, Germany.
  •  He spends over $52,000 at a lux­u­ry health spa on the shore of Lake Wörth in Austria on 12 June (which includes a $9,400 pay­ment to one of the clinic’s med­ical direc­tors), and flies back to London from Ljublana on 13 June.
  •  He spends anoth­er $5,860 at Christie’s – this time in Paris – on 15 June.
  •  Mirtchev drops $26,360 at The 5* Stafford hotel in London on 18 June, takes a flight cost­ing $3,735 from London to Astana, Kazakhstan on the same day.
  •  While in Kazakhstan, he spends over $17,000 at The Radisson in Astana, and flies back to London on 23 June spend­ing $8,442 on the flight and $4,648 for a one-night stay at the 5* Athenaeum Hotel in Mayfair.
  •  The next day (24 June) he flies to Washington DC on a flight cost­ing him $9,364, before trav­el­ling to New York where he spends over $1,600 in a wine shop.
Luxury health spa in Austria fre­quent­ed by Mirtchev

Other records sug­gest that such prof­li­gate spend­ing was not unusu­al for Mirtchev: he charged more than $1 mil­lion to his AmEx card in 2013, about half of it for trav­el.

$500 million to burn? Correspondence with a GOP fundraiser

What is Mirtchev’s net worth? The above spend­ing pro­file sug­gests Mirtchev has at his dis­pos­al a for­tune at least in the tens of mil­lions of dol­lars. Yet oth­er pur­chas­es sug­gest he has a for­tune far in excess of that. For exam­ple, Mirtchev pur­chased a post-Impressionist art­work by Pierre Bonnard for $15 mil­lion in 2014. Following the pur­chase, Mirtchev was emailed by a woman called Georgette Mosbacher.

At the time of the cor­re­spon­dence with Mirtchev, Mosbacher held the posi­tion of CEO of Borghese, a cos­met­ics man­u­fac­tur­er based in New York. However, she is bet­ter known for her work with the Republican Party in the United States. Not only was she a for­mer co-chair of the Republican National Committee’s Finance Committee, she was nation­al co-chair­man of Senator John McCain’s 2000 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and helped fundrais­ing efforts for his lat­er bid in 2008, as well as, amongst oth­ers, George W. Bush’s run in 2004. Unlike many of the Republican Party elite, she sup­port­ed the pres­i­den­tial bid of Donald Trump, whom she has known for sev­er­al decades, say­ing to the Financial Times in 2016 that he was “a decent man… He treats women very well.”23 Such loy­al­ty appears to have paid off: Mosbacher was con­firmed by the United States Senate as the U.S. Ambassador to Poland in July 2018.

In Mosbacher’s November 2014 to Mirtchev, she wrote:

Alexander My Darling, I under­stand the deal for the Bonnard has been final­ized. In all due respect, had you bought this paint­ing at auc­tion, you would have paid a com­mis­sion, I ful­ly expect­ed to hear from you with some offer in appre­ci­a­tion. […] Friendship should not be tak­en for grant­ed […] I’m still hop­ing you will do the right thing.

The tone of the email indi­cates a close friend­ship, and sug­gests that not only was Mosbacher involved in the pur­chase of the paint­ing, but that she expect­ed some­thing of val­ue in return, sug­gest­ing per­haps a finan­cial rela­tion­ship between the two.

Pink Nude in the Bathtub by Pierre Bonard. Purchased by Mirtchev for $15 mil­lion in 2014

A lat­er email to Mirtchev from Mosbacher, sent in June 2015, sug­gests that Mirtchev’s wealth could be much greater than even what the above spend­ing sug­gests:

The only Formula 1 race­track in the U.S., locat­ed in Texas, is up for sale. No one is aware of this at this point. Please see the attached. If you would like to talk more I can put you in con­tact direct­ly with the prin­ci­pal […]. I esti­mate the cost will be about $500 mil­lion. The com­plex is prof­itable. Financial’s [sic] are avail­able with a signed Confidentiality agree­ment (upon request). […] I want­ed to alert you to this unique and extra­or­di­nary oppor­tu­ni­ty. Though the phrase ‘once in a life­time oppor­tu­ni­ty’ may sound cliché, this one- as you will see- fits the bill

At such an extreme price – a mere $500 mil­lion – the race­track, the Circuit of the Americas, could only be of inter­est to the world’s rich­est bil­lion­aires, so it seems sur­pris­ing that the per­son Mosbacher was pitch­ing to Mirtchev, who is not an oli­garch, or some­one even on the Forbes 400 list. Ultimately Mirtchev did not buy the race­track, but it sug­gests that Mosbacher at least con­sid­ered Mirtchev’s wealth to be in the hun­dreds of mil­lions, if not bil­lions. Was Mosbacher send­ing Mirtchev the infor­ma­tion in order for him to for­ward on to his wealthy con­tacts? Possibly, although there is no indi­ca­tion of this in the email: Mosbacher specif­i­cal­ly says that she can put Mirtchev him­self in con­tact with the track’s prin­ci­pal.

If Mirtchev did have this mon­ey at his dis­pos­al, just where was he get­ting it from?

Clearly, Mirtchev is like­ly to have been paid hand­some­ly – many mil­lions of dol­lars – for his work pro­mot­ing the inter­ests of Kazakhstan and indi­vid­u­als like Gulnara Karimova.

In his book The Godfather-in-Law, Rakhat Aliyev alleges that Mirtchev was paid $26 mil­lion for his work for the gov­ern­ment of Kazakhstan, most of it in cash. Such a high fee might not be unusu­al in such cir­cles: Paul Manafort, a 8 polit­i­cal con­sul­tant indict­ed on fed­er­al charges as part of the Mueller inves­ti­ga­tion, is accused by pros­e­cu­tors work­ing on the case of receiv­ing up to $60 mil­lion for his con­sul­tan­cy work in Ukraine.24

Manafort, like Mirtchev, did some work for Oleg Deripaska, who, accord­ing to The Wall Street Journal, paid Global Options Management – 50 per­cent of which was owned by Mirtchev – at least $9.75 mil­lion in a sin­gle wire transfer.25

Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas

Mirtchev’s posi­tion at Samruk Kazyna would also be well remu­ner­at­ed. According to Rakhat Aliyev, Mirtchev received $70,000 per annum for his work at Samruk Kazyna, a fig­ure which rough­ly tal­lies with the company’s annu­al report which states that the total remu­ner­a­tion of the Samruk Kazyna man­age­ment board in 2016 was 293 mil­lion Kazakh tenge26 – around $890,000 – mak­ing an aver­age salary of $80,000 for each of the 11 direc­tors (although it is unclear from the report if the salaries would be split even­ly).

Mirtchev is also like­ly to receive a salary from the law firm Stewart & Stewart, where he is a direc­tor, and from his posi­tions on a vari­ety of think-tanks: Mirtchev is a Board Director and Member of the Executive Committee of the Atlantic Council, and was also mem­ber of the Wilson National Cabinet at the Wilson Center. It is worth not­ing that Mirtchev has giv­en between $100,000 and $250,000 per year to the Atlantic Council in 2015, 2016 and 201727, and has donat­ed at least $470,000 to the Wilson Center.

But these roles and their asso­ci­at­ed salaries would still not explain Mirtchev’s poten­tial abil­i­ty to acquire a race­track val­ued at half a bil­lion dol­lars. Mirtchev has nev­er appeared in the Forbes 400 of the rich­est Americans, the low­est rank­ing mem­bers of which in 2018 have a net worth of $2.1 bil­lion.

Indeed, Mirtchev’s biog­ra­phy in the 2010 Samruk Kazyna annu­al report details lit­tle involve­ment in busi­ness apart from his own Krull Corporation, instead describ­ing him as hav­ing had “a dis­tin­guished aca­d­e­m­ic career”. Even Mirtchev’s own lawyers describe him as “an aca­d­e­m­ic, macro­eco­nom­ic advi­sor, and author.”28 Perhaps real­is­ing the strange­ness of hav­ing an American aca­d­e­m­ic sit on the board of Kazakhstan’s most impor­tant state com­pa­ny, Mirtchev’s Samruk Kazyna biog­ra­phy was changed in 2015 to the fol­low­ing:

he serves and has served as a chair­man and direc­tor of mul­ti-bil­lion dol­lar inter­na­tion­al indus­tri­al enter­pris­es, chair­man of a NASDAQ-list­ed joint ven­ture cor­po­ra­tion with a high-end risk-mit­i­ga­tion ser­vices, an inde­pen­dent direc­tor and chair­man of the board of direc­tors of Sustainable devel­op­ment fund Kazyna, a direc­tor of Stewart & Stewart – a top-rat­ed Washington, D.C. law firm.”29

There is no indi­ca­tion of what the mul­ti-bil­lion dol­lar inter­na­tion­al indus­tri­al enter­pris­es Mirtchev sup­pos­ed­ly chaired are. Performing a direc­tor search for Alexander Mirtchev on Orbis, a data­base with infor­ma­tion on over 300 mil­lion com­pa­nies world­wide, results in only three hits: Krull (UK), Simara Ltd (a UK com­pa­ny reg­is­tered in 2018 that Mirtchev directs), and the Atlantic Council. Media data­bas­es such as Factiva also give no hits on Mirtchev’s appar­ent involve­ment in such “high-end” com­pa­nies, nor are there any media reports of Mirtchev ever own­ing or sell­ing major stakes in any com­pa­nies. In 2017, a London based invest­ment man­ag­er announced it had hired a man called Alexander Mirtchev as a Senior Analyst, though it is unclear whether this is Alexander Vassilev Mirtchev. Even if it is, and even if Mirtchev is rak­ing in fees from these as yet unknown direc­tor­ships and chair­man­ships, these salaries would like­ly be six fig­ure dol­lar sums per annum, per­haps sev­en, but not more.

A Kazakh middleman?

There is anoth­er the­o­ry – that Mirtchev is respon­si­ble for mon­ey that does not belong to him, and is thus act­ing as mid­dle­man in such deals as the poten­tial Formula One race­track pur­chase.

His lav­ish lifestyle would there­fore be sup­port­ed by the peo­ple he is mov­ing mon­ey for. Such alle­ga­tions that Mirtchev is involved in this kind of activ­i­ty on behalf of fig­ures in pow­er in Kazakhstan are in the pub­lic domain. A leaked 2009 report from intel­li­gence com­pa­ny Stratfor com­ment­ed that Mirtchev was “thought to have stashed away mil­lions of dol­lars from the country’s deep ener­gy cof­fers to help line Nazarbayev’s pockets”30 – in effect, hold­ing the posi­tion that James Giffen held in the mid to late 90s. And while there is no proof to be found in com­pa­ny doc­u­ments, there is cer­tain­ly a paper trail that sug­gests a link between Mirtchev’s asso­ciates and pow­er­ful fig­ures in Kazakhstan.

Documents from Companies House in the United Kingdom show that Mirtchev was a direc­tor of a com­pa­ny called Krull Corporation (UK) Ltd that was reg­is­tered in January 1996.

The company’s accounts from 1996–1998 state that the ulti­mate con­trol­ling par­ty was at this time Krull Corporation Inc., the U.S. con­sul­tan­cy firm head­ed by Mirtchev.

From 1999–2004, the ulti­mate con­trol­ling par­ty was Brookrange Ltd, a com­pa­ny reg­is­tered in Gibraltar, and owned, accord­ing to Krull UK’s accounts, by a woman called Stefka Nikolova, whose dis­tinct lack of an online pres­ence sug­gests she may be a nom­i­nee or proxy own­er. Despite this change of own­er­ship, Krull Corporation Inc was still named as a ‘relat­ed par­ty’ and Mirtchev retained his role as direc­tor.

From 1996–2004, Krull UK did not make any mon­ey, its mod­est prof­its in some years can­celled out by oth­er years’ loss­es, result­ing in a net loss of over £56,000 in that time­frame. We know from the above that Mirtchev start­ed to work for the Kazakh gov­ern­ment around 2002/2003, and the change in Krull UK’s struc­ture from 2004 is notice­able.

It is in 2004 that a man called Kaloyan Dimitrov, who had been a direc­tor of Krull UK from August 1999, bought Krull UK’s shares from Brookrange Ltd. Mirtchev resigned as a direc­tor of Krull UK at the end of 2004, and accounts state that Krull Corporation Inc ceased to be a relat­ed par­ty at the begin­ning of 2005. So on the sur­face, it would seem that Mirtchev sev­ered ties with Krull UK.

However, not only did the com­pa­ny con­tin­ued to bear the Krull name and be owned by an asso­ciate of Mirtchev – Kaloyan Dimitrov, his fel­low direc­tor in Krull UK from 1999–2004 – but emails from Dimitrov to a bank offi­cial at HSBC in January 2008 speak of “pay­ments that came into the accounts of Krull Corp. and GlobalOptions Management Inc”, both of which were enti­ties owned or co-owned by Mirtchev.

Furthermore, in 2008 the Wall Street Journal reported31 that Mirtchev was involved in dis­cus­sions regard­ing American oil com­pa­nies look­ing to get into Kazakhstan, along with “an asso­ciate of his, Kaloyan Dimitrov.” The fact that Dimitrov’s rela­tion­ship with Mirtchev appears to have extend­ed to Kazakhstan sug­gests a con­tin­ued close link between the two.

Enter a Kazakh PEP

Another impor­tant change hap­pened to Krull UK around 2004: it formed a rela­tion­ship with two more ‘relat­ed par­ties’ – com­pa­nies called Global Industries (UK) Ltd and New Mount Limited. Krull UK’s accounts indi­cate that Global Industries (UK) Ltd first became a ‘debtor’ – in oth­er words, a cus­tomer – in 2004, when Mirtchev was still a Krull UK direc­tor, and that New Mount Limited became a cred­i­tor – an organ­i­sa­tion finan­cial­ly back­ing the com­pa­ny – in 2005, to the tune of £1.6 mil­lion.

Global Industries (UK) Ltd, a com­pa­ny reg­is­tered in the UK, was pre­vi­ous­ly called Krull Metals Corporation (UK) Ltd pri­or to August 2004. Like Krull UK, this com­pa­ny failed to make any sig­nif­i­cant prof­it until 2004, though in 2006 – sev­er­al years after Mirtchev offi­cial­ly sev­ered ties with Krull UK – it made £64,000 and £72,000 in 2007.

Krull UK’s accounts state that a woman named Aigul Nurieva owned at the time 50 per­cent of the share cap­i­tal of Global Industries (UK) Ltd and was the con­trol­ling par­ty of New Mount Ltd. This is impor­tant because Nurieva is alleged to be a key fig­ure in the man­age­ment of the Kazakh rul­ing elite’s wealth. At the very least, she is a polit­i­cal­ly exposed per­son (PEP) – a close asso­ciate of a politi­cian – a des­ig­na­tion which caus­es enhanced lev­els of due dili­gence to be per­formed in busi­ness trans­ac­tions.

In 2014, Tele2, a Swedish tele­coms com­pa­ny that part­nered with Nurieva in Kazakhstan, des­ig­nat­ed her as a PEP, not­ing

a poten­tial link between Ms. Aigul Nuri[y]eva and [the then Kazakh] Prime Minister Massimov… She con­firms that she knows Mr. Massimov from the peri­od pri­or to him enter­ing pol­i­tics, when they were col­leagues, but that they do not have a busi­ness rela­tion­ship today.”32

The Wall Street Journal report­ed that Nurieva, a banker by pro­fes­sion, is also an investor with Massimov, who was the prime min­is­ter of Kazakhstan at the time, in a com­pa­ny in Singapore.33

As not­ed above, Mirtchev was an advi­sor to Massimov from around 2007. Nurieva remained a direc­tor of Global Industries (UK) Ltd until August 2008, accord­ing to fil­ings from Companies House in the UK. Krull Corporation (UK) Ltd was dis­solved in 2010.

Less is known about the oth­er of Krull UK’s ‘relat­ed par­ties’ – New Mount Ltd. Accounts from Global Industries (UK) Ltd indi­cate that the mon­ey invest­ed into Krull UK like­ly came from there: New Mount gave £1.6 mil­lion to Global Industries (UK) Ltd in 2005. It is not clear where New Mount Limited is reg­is­tered. Without fur­ther infor­ma­tion it is dif­fi­cult to ascer­tain the exact rela­tion­ship between Nurieva and Krull UK, but the finan­cial link to a PEP is curi­ous: why was a Kazakh banker seem­ing­ly bankrolling Krull UK after Mirtchev’s appar­ent depar­ture from the com­pa­ny?

The Wall Street Journal alleged that Nurieva “help[ed] Mr. Mirtchev man­age off­shore assets of the Nazarbayev clan,
34

” cit­ing peo­ple with knowl­edge of the Nazarbayev family’s finances. It added that both the FBI and the Manhattan District Attorney were look­ing into Mirtchev’s bank­ing activ­i­ties.

At the time a lawyer for Mirtchev com­ment­ed that he “has nev­er moved any mon­ey to any accounts on behalf of the gov­ern­ment or senior offi­cials of Kazakhstan,” and a spokesman for Aigul Nurieva denied that she man­ages mon­ey for the Nazarbayevs.35

Opaque money trails

The Wall Street Journal report­ed that after Brookrange Ltd ceased to be the own­er of Krull UK it made wire trans­fers some of which were over $100 mil­lion to obscure com­pa­nies around the world, accord­ing to peo­ple who had seen records of the trans­fers. The arti­cle report­ed: “People with knowl­edge of the Nazarbayev fam­i­ly finances say they believe Brookrange has been used to man­age the Kazakh first family’s assets.”36 By this point Brookrange Ltd may have ceased its rela­tion­ship with Mirtchev’s Krull Corporation, although it is unclear whether Mirtchev had any link or involve­ment in Brookrange from 2004: infor­ma­tion regard­ing this peri­od of the company’s his­to­ry is not avail­able from Gibraltar Companies House, which only pro­vides infor­ma­tion on the company’s present sta­tus.

A memo attached to Dimitrov’s emails, signed by Stefka Nikolova, sug­gests that in one instance the mon­ey being moved amount­ed to over $50 mil­lion and per­tained to cer­tain com­pa­nies receiv­ing “syn­di­cat­ed financ­ing from cor­po­rate sources in the Baltic Republic and the CIS” in rela­tion to “a devel­op­ment project in Central Asia and Ukraine in the ener­gy indus­try.”

However, it appears that the bank that held the mon­ey – Barclays – had some con­cerns as to the ori­gin of the mon­ey flow­ing through Brookrange’s accounts and asked Kaloyan Dimitrov – known as Kal – for more clar­i­fi­ca­tion: a December 2007 email sent by an employ­ee of Barclays Bank to Kal Dimitrov’s Brookrange AOL email address reads as fol­lows:

I have reviewed the paper­work you pro­vid­ed in respect of the US$ funds due and of course the account pro­file. You will I am sure under­stand that I am oblig­ed for legal rea­sons to ascer­tain the ori­gins of these funds pri­or to them being cred­it­ed to the account. To this end could you please let me have copies of any sup­port­ing paper­work (in addi­tion to the mem­o­ran­dums that I hold) that pro­vides evi­dence of the sources of these funds. Regrettably I am unable to accept assur­ances that these are from syn­di­cat­ed funds. I need to under­stand the source of these funds whether the names of investors or the banks pro­vid­ing the facil­i­ties. This doc­u­men­ta­tion will be need­ed pri­or to the funds being remit­ted. I do not wish
to be placed in appo­si­tion [sic] of being unable to accept these and look for­ward to your ear­li­est attention.37

Dimitrov replied lat­er the same day ask­ing for a secure email address in order to send the doc­u­men­ta­tion. It is not known what doc­u­ments were sent and whether the trans­ac­tion was ulti­mate­ly accept­ed. Two weeks lat­er, anoth­er Barclays employ­ee wrote to Kal Dimitrov with a sim­i­lar query:

A cou­ple of large pay­ments have land­ed on my desk today. I know you have been in touch with [redact­ed] recent­ly and my guess is that he would be expect­ing these… Could you kind­ly send me a note detail­ing the nature of these trans­ac­tions and how they fit in with the funds recent­ly received into the account? Some copy invoic­es / con­tracts per­tain­ing to these trans­ac­tions would also be appre­ci­at­ed.

Further alle­ga­tions fol­lowed in 2015 when Kaloyan Dimitrov’s broth­er, Asparuh, brought a legal case in Hong Kong against a Chinese financier, Dominic Lau. As report­ed by Intelligence Online38, Asparuh Dimitrov was attempt­ing to recov­er $25 mil­lion on behalf of Kaloyan who had died the year before.

This is the same Kaloyan Dimitrov who was co-direc­tor with Mirtchev in Krull UK from 1999–2004, the man who stayed on as a direc­tor of Krull UK after Mirtchev left the com­pa­ny, but was report­ed­ly involved along with Mirtchev in dis­cus­sions regard­ing American oil com­pa­nies look­ing to get into Kazakhstan in 2008.

According to Intelligence Online, Kaloyan had instruct­ed Lau to invest $25 mil­lion on his behalf in Hong Kong from 2008 to 2010 in a series of Chinese com­pa­nies. After Kaloyan’s death, Lau refused to return the mon­ey to his fam­i­ly, assert­ing that it had actu­al­ly belonged to Mirtchev, and that Kal Dimitrov was act­ing as an agent for Mirtchev. However, the judge reject­ed Lau’s ver­sion of events due to lack of evi­dence in October 2017.

The case shines more light on Mirtchev’s asso­ciate, Kal Dimitrov. The court case from Hong Kong indi­cates that Kal was a rich man in his own right. Where had the mon­ey come from? Intelligence Online arti­cle says that the Dimitrov broth­ers both used to head the London based footballer’s agency Etar.

However, infor­ma­tion from the UK’s Companies House shows that Etar Ltd – along with two oth­er com­pa­nies reg­is­tered in the UK and direct­ed by the Dimitrovs – did not make much prof­it. The above cit­ed email cor­re­spon­dence with Barclays indi­cate that Kal Dimitrov was clear­ly involved with mul­ti-mil­lion deals out­side of the UK through Brookrange though, as with Mirtchev, lit­tle infor­ma­tion is to be found on the Orbis com­pa­ny data­base regard­ing Dimitrov’s involve­ment in a oth­er com­pa­nies.

The above emails to Barclays cou­pled with the Intelligence Online arti­cle raise the pos­si­bil­i­ty that this mon­ey was earned direct­ly or indi­rect­ly through his rela­tion­ship with Mirtchev.

The con­ceal­ment of one’s involve­ment in com­pa­nies’ share­hold­ing through the use of prox­ies is a legal prac­tice, though it is inter­est­ing to note how both Kal Dimitrov and Mirtchev were hap­py to put their names to UK com­pa­nies that have made lit­tle mon­ey, while seem­ing­ly mak­ing mil­lions of dol­lars through com­pa­nies reg­is­tered else­where in rather more opaque cir­cum­stances.

In a curi­ous foot­note, Dimitrov’s Etar Ltd – which describes itself as “ded­i­cat­ed to the mar­ket­ing and man­age­ment of sport”39 – appears to have rep­re­sent­ed both Mirtchev and Georgette Mosbacher:

sev­er­al press releas­es which fea­ture com­ments by Mirtchev and one writ­ten by Mosbacher are both foot­not­ed with the words “for fur­ther infor­ma­tion please con­tact etar.co.uk”.40

Questions raised

Mirtchev has nev­er been charged with any crime, and, as men­tioned above, Robert Mueller’s probe end­ed with­out any offi­cial men­tion of Mirtchev. One can spec­u­late that Mirtchev’s rela­tion­ship with Deripaska may well have been the focus, giv­en that Paul Manafort also worked with the Russian oli­garch, although there is no evi­dence to sug­gest that Mirtchev ever worked with Manafort in this or any oth­er mat­ter. But at the very least, the source of Mirtchev’s vast wealth is unclear, and there appears to be a case for him to answer, an opin­ion appar­ent­ly shared by the FBI, whose inves­ti­ga­tion into Mirtchev that began around 2008 was still open as of 2016, accord­ing to a source famil­iar with the inves­ti­ga­tion.

There are also a con­sid­er­able num­ber of ques­tions raised by the above research on whether Mirtchev’s close ties with the polit­i­cal elite in Washington DC and posi­tions in var­i­ous U.S. think­tanks has had any effect on the U.S government’s pol­i­cy toward Kazakhstan, dat­ing right back to the Department of Justice’s pros­e­cu­tion of James Giffen.

The above quot­ed emails also raise ques­tions for the cur­rent U.S. Ambassador to Poland, Georgette Mosbacher.

At the time she wrote the emails – 2014 and 2015 – it was not only known that Mirtchev had rep­re­sent­ed dubi­ous char­ac­ters such as Gulnara Karimova, but media arti­cles regard­ing the FBI inves­ti­ga­tion into Mirtchev and alle­ga­tions about his pos­si­ble involve­ment in the man­age­ment of the finan­cial affairs of the Kazakh elite were also in the pub­lic domain. Mosbacher, as a Republican Party fundrais­er, should be well aware of the need for due dili­gence of indi­vid­u­als and close scruti­ny of the ori­gin of funds.

Time will tell whether oth­er par­ties are ask­ing sim­i­lar ques­tions about the nature of the rela­tion­ship between Ambassador Mosbacher and Alexander Mirtchev, and about Mirtchev’s close rela­tion­ship with key fig­ures in Kazakhstan’s rul­ing elite.

Investigation sources and links:

  • 2 Wall Street Journal, 22 July 2008, Kazakhstan Corruption: Exile Alleges New Detail, https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB121667622143971475
  • 3 The Diplomat, 24 October 2016, Nazarbayev and the Rise of the Kleptocrats https://thediplomat.com/2016/10/nazarbayev-and-the-rise-of-the-kleptocrats/; CNBC, 16 January 2018, Kazakhstan is a ‘klep­toc­ra­cy’ ruled by an auto­crat. It’s also an increas­ing­ly impor­tant strate­gic ally, https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/16/kazakhstan-is-a-kleptocracy-ruled-by-an-autocrat-its-also-an-increasingly-importantstrategic- ally.html
  • 4 Reuters, 11 May 2007, U.S. revoked Deripaska visa — State Dep’t offi­cial, https://www.reuters.com/article/deripaskachrysler- usa/u-s-revoked-deri­pas­ka-visa-state-dept-offi­cial-idUSN1143738620070511
  • 5 New York Times, 26 May 2017, Russian Once Tied to Trump Aide Seeks Immunity to Cooperate With Congress, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/26/us/politics/oleg-deripaska-paul-manafort.html
  • 6 US Department of Justice, 18 February 2016, VimpelCom Limited and Unitel LLC Enter into Global Foreign Bribery Resolution of More Than $795 Million; United States Seeks $850 Million Forfeiture in Corrupt Proceeds of Bribery Scheme, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/vimpelcom-limited-and-unitel-llc-enter-global-foreign-bribery-resolution-more-795- mil­lion
  • 7 RFE/RL, 24 June 2018, Defense Attorney Meets With Gulnara Karimova, Indicates She Is Open To ‘Concessions’, https://www.rferl.org/a/uzbekistan-gulnara-karimova-defense-lawyer-concessions-corruption-mirziyoev/29316295.html
  • 8 Southern District of New York, United States Of America V James H. Giffen, Defendant. Sealed Complaint. (filed 28 May
  • 2003), http://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/criminal-fraud/legacy/2011/02/16/03–28-03giffen-complaint.pdf. The
  • indict­ment does not refer to Nazarbayev by name, but as “KO-2”: a doc­u­ment from an appeal court in rela­tion to the case
  • states that the bribes were made to “the President of Kazakhstan” con­firm­ing that KO-2 is Nazarbayev: United States
  • Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. United States of America V James H. Giffen, Defendant-Appellee. (8 December
  • 2006 – deci­sion), http://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/criminal-fraud/legacy/2011/02/16/12–08-06giffen-opinion.pdf.
  • Furthermore, tes­ti­mo­ny heard dur­ing the tri­al iden­ti­fies each of the par­ties by name in rela­tion to their bank accounts. See
  • Southern District of New York, United States Of America V James H. Giffen, Defendant. Hearing (3 June 2004), http://courses.wcupa.edu/rbove/eco343/040Compecon/Soviet/Kazakh/040603giffen.txt
  • 9 Nazarbayev is referred to in the doc­u­ment as “ST” but cer­tain parts of the doc­u­ment use Nazarbayev’s name in sec­tions relat­ed to ST, clear­ly indi­cat­ing that ST is Nazarbayev. In anoth­er sec­tion, the doc­u­ment says that “KO-2 is ST” in ref­er­ence to the Giffen indict­ment. Footnote 4 above estab­lish­es that KO-2 is Nazarbayev.
  • 10 GlobalOptions Management, 2003, Project ST (unpub­lished).
  • 11 Ibid.
  • 12 Ibid.
  • 13 Ibid.
  • 14 Ibid.
  • 15 Wall Street Journal, 22 July 2008, op. cit.
  • 16 The Times, 11 January 2009, MI6 offi­cers alleged­ly leak oil dossier to Kazakhstan, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/mi6-officers-allegedly-leak-oil-dossier-to-kazakhstan-v3kvgkslghw
  • 17 Spiegel, 19 May 2009, Ex-Stepson Talks in Family Feud: The Long Arm of Kazakhstan’s President, https://www.spiegel.de/international/world/ex-stepson-talks-in-family-feud-the-long-arm-of-kazakhstan-s-president-a-625720–2.html
  • 18 DC Legal Truths, 31 May 2013, Hourani v. Mirtchev Case Background, https://dclegaltruths.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/hourani-v-mirtchev/
  • 19 Intelligence Online, 16 July 2009, Dealing with Dissidents Who Flew Coop
  • 20 Reported in Samruk Kazyna Annual Report 2010
  • 21 Samruk Kazyna Annual Report 2016, https://www.raexpert.kz/go/2016_en_fnb_sk_1.pdf, p77.
  • 22 Samruk Kazyna Annual Report Part 1 2017, https://sk.kz/local/ajax/download.php?id=874884 , p72.
  • 23 The Financial Times, 13 October 2016, Fundraiser Georgette Mosbacher on why Trump is a ‘decent man’,
  • https://www.ft.com/content/dbe6d0c6-8f92-11e6-a72e-b428cb934b78.
  • 24 CNN, 30 July 2018, Mueller says Manafort earned $60M from Ukraine con­sult­ing, https://edition.cnn.com/2018/07/30/politics/mueller-says-manafort-earned-60m-from-ukraine-consulting/index.html
  • 25 The Wall Street Journal, 10 October 2008, Russia’s Deripaska Faces Western Investigations, https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB122359420472121077
  • 26 Samruk Kazyna Annual Report 2016, p93.
  • 27 Atlantic Council Annual Report 2017–2018, https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/images/publications/20180514-Atlantic-Council-Annual-Report-sm.pdf, p74.
  • 28 Medium.com, 15 August 2018, Bracewell Wins Dismissal for Dr. Alexander Mirtchev and Krull Corporation, https://medium.com/@alexandermirtchev2/bracewell-wins-dismissal-for-dr-alexander-mirtchev-f68aab7cc95c
  • 29 Samruk Kazyna Annual Report 2015.
  • 30 Stratfor Global Intelligence, 30 April 2009, Kazakhstan And Turkmenistan: A Look at Political and Regulatory Environments, https://wikileaks.org/gifiles/attach/175/175880_PARKER%20090430.pdf
  • 31 Wall Street Journal, 29 July 2008, Perle Linked to Kurdish Oil Plan, https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB121729971113092303
  • 32 Tele2, 17 December 2014, White paper: Tele2’s oper­a­tions in Kazakhstan, https://www.tele2.com/globalassets/global/tele2_whitepaper_kazakhstan.pdf
  • 33 Wall Street Journal, 22 July 2008, op. cit.
  • 34 Ibid.
  • 35 Ibid. Furthermore, in response to a lat­er Wall Street Journal arti­cle about Global Options work with Deripaska, Mirtchev wrote a let­ter say­ing that “I can assure read­ers, as I did in the arti­cle, that Global Options Management fol­lows all laws and reg­u­la­tions in the juris­dic­tion in which it oper­ates. The per­cep­tions gen­er­at­ed about me and my com­pa­ny from this arti­cle por­tray an unfair pic­ture of my busi­ness prac­tices and activ­i­ties, while the sources for this sto­ry remain unnamed. Any endeav­ours that I have ever under­tak­en, busi­ness or per­son­al, have been per­formed law­ful­ly and eth­i­cal­ly.” Wall Street Journal, 22 October 2008, Deripaska Affirms They Are Honorable, https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB122463389468656739
  • 36 Wall Street Journal, 22 July 2008, op. cit.
  • 37 Correspondence between Barclays Knightsbridge International Banking Centre and Brookrange, 2007 (unpub­lished).
  • 38 Intelligence Online, 15 November 2017, Hong Kong case sheds light on Kazakh-Chinese con­nec­tions, https://www.intelligenceonline.com/international-dealmaking/2017/11/15/hong-kong-case-sheds-light-on-kazakhchinese-connections,108280874-art.
  • 39 LinkedIn, undat­ed, https://www.linkedin.com/company/etar-ltd
  • 40 Accessed via the Factiva data­base. For exam­ple, a 16 December 2013 Press Association newswire writ­ten by Mirtchev on ener­gy issues and a 25 April 2011 Marketwire press release by Mosbacher on the uncer­tain­ty of short and long-term trade­offs between debt and tax cuts are both foot­not­ed in this way.
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