The atmosphere of British pubs had always fascinated Franco; the melting pot of classes, and particularly in London, of cultures; above all he enjoyed the beer. He studied the early customers: office workers; young women and a small group of elderly people whom he assumed were locals. At the end of the bar a raucous group of building workers were obviously telling jokes to each other; he then spotted his contact; slightly detached from the builders but by the way he was dressed could have been a member of the group. Franco had timed his early arrival to consume one beer and then go to the bar for a refill once he had spotted his contact.
His contact was reading the Gazzetta dello Sport; Franco walked over to him; whilst waiting for his empty glass to be refilled, he turned to the apparent sports enthusiast.
“So which Italian team do you support?”
“I don’t support no f…ing foreign team, I support Charlton Athletic.” Franco was more surprised by the strong Cockney accent than the choice of team which had anyway been part of the contact code.
“I understand that you fit kitchens; I have some work that needs to be done, would you be interested?”
“Yea, buy me a pint and we can chat about it.”
Franco ordered another pint and with the two glasses in his hand indicated the table where he was sitting.
“So do you really speak Italian?”
“Yes, I do, I had a stint of two years at the Embassy in Rome, by the way call me Charles.”
“Can we talk here and how much time do you have?”
“I understand that you are a bit of an Anglophile so I think we should enjoy our beers and a ploughman’s lunch and then move on to my workshop.”
The two men chatted about Italian politics, restaurants and football. Occasionally, Charles would indicate customers who were under surveillance, in particular a suspected pimp of some Eastern European females whom, he claimed, were plying their trade in the ‘establishment’, a term he used with sarcasm. Franco immediately took a liking to Charles. Forty-five minutes later Franco and his British Intelligence counterpart were sitting in a converted sea container office at the corner of a building site two blocks away from the pub.
“This is an unusual location for an office.”
“I have borrowed it; a colleague of mine is monitoring certain Ukrainian and Bulgarian subcontractors who work here. His cover as a quantity surveyor comes in useful; he as to authorise their monthly accounts. Anyway, where do we start?”
“You have seen the dossier; there are two Russians we are particularly interested in; Brodsky and Pavlov; where do they fit into the UK scene?”
“I think before we go there, I ought to outline some of our broader concerns about the presence of Russian and ex-Soviets in this country; in particular the so-called oligarchs.”
Franco nodded in agreement.
“The Service is working on a number of theories of how to categorise these people. The first consists of a group of gangsters who have robbed their countries of most of their assets and brought their ill-gotten gains to this country. When the first wave arrived, we welcomed their money with open arms; the UK economy was in a mess; the gangsters enjoyed our lack of control over the financial sector. The problem was though, that much of the money was in transit; our wonderful financial experts in the City and elsewhere provided all the necessary vehicles to launder the money to havens around the world. At the moment we tend to take at face value the claims of the second group; those who profess to be persecuted by the regimes in Russia and other ex-Soviet countries. However, our main thrust at the moment is to understand the linkages between the ‘dissident groups’ and the third group; those who apparently have the blessing of Moscow and its close allies in other former Republics and of course Israel. The majority of this group are former KGB or Communist Party hardliners; many are still linked with the FSB. We consider this group to be the most dangerous.”
“We believe that the current regime in Moscow wants to control the world and return to a new brand of Communism.”
“What! That sound like Cold War rhetoric; how can they manage such a goal without a major conflict with the United States?”
“The chess theory is back in vogue.” Charles smiled as he winked.
“What do you mean?”
“There has always been the theory of the Soviets and now the Russians being strategists; they are not holster and gun swinging like the Americans. They have no intention of creating an armed conflict with the United States and other Western nations; they intend to use economic means to achieve their goal of world domination.”
“But they are no match for American economic power.” Franco was beginning to think this was some crazy English idea from the past.
“That is where you are wrong. We maintain, and have evidence to support the theory, that the third group, who are closely entwined with Moscow and other resource rich allies such as Kazakstan, are under instructions to buy into and eventually own the majority of western technology and energy companies.”
“That seems absurd; in Italy we accuse the Chinese of doing that with the fashion industry but I can’t see how the Russians can do the same in the sectors you mention.”
Charles returned to his Cockney accent.
“The difference is mate; that the population of Russia is less than a fifth of the bleeding Chinese and they are wallowing in natural resources; oil, gas, gold whatever, you name it; and we reckon they are in cahoots anyway, bloody commies.”
Franco smiled, it would be unwise to inform Charles of his own past. However, he was getting worried about the line of discussion. Charles continued.
“You should read Soviet history; Lenin’s New Economic Plan was a major con run by the Cheka, otherwise known as the Peoples Commissariat for Internal Affairs, NKVD, the original post-Revolution KGB. Similar to the 1990s, Communist Party officials became phoney businessmen who created partnerships with Westerners; they started to accumulate wealth; gold; foreign currencies and adopted extravagant lifestyles. It seemed like capitalism would return to the Soviet Union with a vengeance; the Party cronies started to put their money in foreign bank accounts, especially Switzerland; sounds familiar eh? Suddenly, Stalin twigged the scam; he ordered a certain Genrikh Grigoryevich Yagoda, the head of the NKVD to locate the accumulated wealth the Party phoney businessmen had stashed abroad. In good all Stalin style he executed them all. The biggest laugh of all was Yogada’s forgetting that he also had money in a safe Swiss bank account. He should have put aside some for a bullet proof vest; when Stalin found out, Yogada also had to face the firing squad. So you see dear Franco; it has all happened before; it’s in the Ruskie’s blood and we are watching it pan out again in front of our very noses: a new wave of mysterious assassinations; bandit businessmen, the so-called oligarchs jailed; assets brought back under the wing of government; you name it. The only difference is that with the progress in communication and globalisation, there are more options for these crooks to place their money; London is full of goons whizzing funny money around the globe and becoming very rich in the process; it’s a major industry, you’ve heard the Mayor of London defending them and saying we can’t live without these jumped-up bean counters and slot machine operators.”
Charles paused again to allow Franco to think about what he just said.
“Do you want to know why this theory could stand up? It’s because of our stupid politicians; they are only interested in backhanders and favours from the pricks in the City who are helping this process along; and I mean big time.” He raised his voice “Do you know how they earn their large bonuses? I’ll tell you; the big money laundering scam. They help large UK, US and European corporations register offshore to avoid tax; at the same time they advise the Russians and ex-Soviets to do the same; we suspect that there is a flow of funds from the illicit Russian to legitimate companies who have registered offshore but not only that; our City goons have advised them on how to set up shell companies in the UK and elsewhere that are fronts to buy shares in our strategic technology and energy businesses; and bingo!”
“Bingo, suddenly all these strategic businesses; aviation, telecoms, medicine and other high-tech operations; are the property of our dear friends in the FSB. Just like the Stalin purge of Lenin’s scam all these assets will ultimately be handed over to the Russian State; including private property, Great eh? In a few years time there will be Russian and Kazhak school kids having access to fantastic free education and enjoying holidays on the former Oligarchs’ yachts or in their mansions in the Mediterranean; a bit different from a crappy Black Sea resort of the old Soviet times. In the meantime my pension benefits are being cut because our government doesn’t have any money left.”
Franco laughed out loud.
“OK, I may have added a bit of colour but this is one of our theories; the extreme case but maybe not that extreme. Our problem is that we can’t fully comprehend the relationship between the dissident group and those supported by the current regimes. The Service suspects that the litigation in the British courts between members of the two groups is a ploy; a distraction that enables the dissident group to maintain good relations with the inner-circle of decision makers in this country; and for the media to focus on human rights issues, rather than the fact that these bastards are trying to take over our businesses and eventually our country. Our politicians of all colours are gullible or are being blackmailed; I’ll touch on that subject later. The other theory, and I believe that is why you are here, is that there is fighting between and within the groups as they manoeuvre for positions of advantage and power as the new scenario evolves.”
(c) Roger Short Triple Edge – Decadence 2013 –