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on 8 December 2009
I remember The Times coverage of the death of Steven Curtis in a helicopter crash. This book explains what lead up to Steven being involved with the Russian Oligarchs, his belief that he was in danger and an account of the crash and his funeral.It explains just how the Oligarchs made their money and how they chose to spend it.It is an interesting insight into the Russian mentality, their willingness to kill political opponents wherever they might be living and the attitude of the British Government to requests to live in this country.
It also details the involvement of some members of both the Government and Opposition with the Oligarchs.
A good if disturbing read.Well worth reading.
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on 23 March 2017
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on 20 June 2017
Book was as described and delivery was prompt. Excellent experience.
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on 12 August 2011
Lord Acton was right. The more the lolly the more the corruption. That is just one of the several inferences of this book that is not spelt out but left to the reader to connect the dots. The dots though are generally so close together that it is scarcely necessary to connect them. It is a subtle piece of writing because superficially it is racy journalism but some of the dots are pixel size so that the subliminal message comes out as clearly as if it were engraved in stone.

The authors do not present a polemic. They simply recount facts which we may assume are true because no overpaid lawyer has got an injunction to prevent their publication. The book deals with the accumulation of staggering amounts of personal wealth by a handful of ex-Soviet wheeler-dealers (Messrs Berezovsky, Khodorkovsky, Fridman, Gusinsky, Abramovich, Deripaska and Patarkatsishvili among others) soon after the collapse of the USSR and their gross behaviour in squandering it on themselves and their friends. The crudity of their lives reflects their extraordinarily low cultural level. They have the tastes of gangsters, and not just the tastes. They justify their grasping greed by saying it was OK because it was legal. Adolf Hitler and his merry entourage were 'legal'. Morality and law are not the same thing. To acquire, by whatever means, huge amounts of the property of the Russian people then to squirrel the proceeds away in foreign havens to protect it from taxation and being returned to its rightful owners is immorality on an industrial scale.

The main focus of this book is London where the oligarchs feel safe because courts seem reluctant to extradite them even though they are charged with serious crimes in their own country. The Chief Magistrate of London appears to sincerely believe that Berezovsky is a political refugee! They have recruited highly-placed British bag-carriers. Lord Bell was a media adviser (PR man to put it more crudely) to Maggie Thatcher who knighted him for his efforts. Tony Blair gave him a peerage. He now is employed to improve the image of London-based oligarchs and to represent the interest of the rich and powerful such as the Saudi government. (What on earth had this man done to benefit his country that justified him being appointed to the upper house and to sit in government over the British people at their expense? The authors of this book don't ask the question). A fellow Peer of the Realm, Lord Goldsmith, the man who gave flexible advice on the legality of attacking Iraq, is another hanger-on in the entourage that surrounds plutomaniac Russians. He provided legal advice to Patarkatsishvili - a late client of Lord Bell.

The political spectrum is well-represented among the Russian's spongers. Another noble Lord, Mandelson, of the then ruling Labour Party and George Osborne, at the time Shadow Chancellor in the Tory opposition and Nat Rothschild, of the famous banking family were notoriously entertained by Depriska on his luxury yacht in Corfu. In case the middle-ground of British politics feel left out Lord Owen was up to his neck with Khodorkovsky. It's amazing how many of the flies buzzing around have the title Lord. Connecting the obvious dots is it any wonder that not only British but also French, Italian, Canadian, and perhaps most of all, American citizens are disillusioned with their leaders. It is unimaginable that Roy Jenkins, or Lord Carrington or in more recent times Shirley Williams, would stoop so low as to associate with these people. How many times have leading politicians of any stripe been entertained in their homes by working people in Wolverhampton or Tottenham? Do Britain's political leaders have no interest in the British poor, just the foreign rich? Lord Acton was right and so was Oliver Goldsmith (no relation) when he says that wealth accumulates but men decay.
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on 10 December 2012
Well, I had a rather double feeling about this book. On one hand it looked like a very interesting journalist piece with some good work. It's always interesting to read about extraordinary people, even if they are Russian oligarchs, with criminal or almost-criminal part.

What I hated about it: once you actually start liking the storyline of interesting and incredibly complicated international financial schemes, it falls into boring listing of assets: how many square feet and acres houses they have, the size of the boats and materials used. They could have managed to transfer the idea of how rich the Russians in a couple of pages and focus on their stories rather than enumeration of properties. But the authors choose to remind us about it throughout the whole books. Apartments, houses, villas, designers' names, cars, helicopters. It very quickly bores the hell out of you.
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on 7 November 2011
I totally agree with a couple of other reviewers here in that this is a poorly researched book,riddled with inaccuracies,eg Abramovich's purchase of the Hotel du Cap - Eden Roc in the South of France which of course never happened.It appears to rely on a large number of newspaper articles,totally lacking in original research.There are far better books that have been written on modern day Russia and its oligarchs and indeed you would get a far better insight into some of the characters in this book by simply surfing the web !
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on 14 March 2011
I picked this book up out of curiosity, being neither an expert on the subject, or familiar with other works by the writers. In this context it suited my needs perfectly. The book is not an academic tome but is obviously written by skilful and experienced journalists who know how to engage a reader. Judging by the bibliography, it looks like much of the research is second hand but you cannot fault the writers' attention to detail and confidence with the subject. One criticism might be that the writers' seem a tad schizophrenic as they can't quite decide whether to adopt an ethical moral tone or enjoy the salaciousness of it all. But then I suspect most of us suffer from this dichotomy! Whilst I'm sure there are more serious and academically rigorous books on this subject, I doubt any of them are as enjoyable or as readable as this one. I'd definitely recommended the book for those who are new to the subject.
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on 12 February 2010
Unsurprisingly for a book written by journalists, Londongrad has the feel of a newspaper article about it.. albeit a very long one. The basic premise, namely the exodus of rich Russians from Moscow to London and the obscene wealth that surrounds their lifestyles, is interesting and relevant given the knock on effects for the UK - in terms of house prices, sales of luxury goods, and of course crime - covered in the chapter focusing on the murder of Alexander Litvinenko. At times there seems to be a glut of information on just how long a yacht is, how many cars this oligarch has and exactly how much each of his 35 homes cost (although it's amazing how the information lures you in) and in some ways I wish it was a newspaper article - i.e. a shorter read that still conveyed the salient facts. If you are particularly interested in the topic, or have plenty of time on your hands to read then this is a great book to read... if time is short and you have just a passing interest then it's possibly not for you.
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on 15 May 2015
Incredible but since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Russia is still unfamiliar territory. If the US is still considered the most unequal in wealth, Russia records more billionaires in proportion to economic size to any other country, and the highest concentration of wealth. Many enjoy it elsewhere. London, here we come!

Russian exiles have existed in the past; these mega rich today buy the largest, the most expensive homes; they send their kids to the top private schools and universities; buy up the top cars, yachts, jets, jewels, arts; take over Chelsea FC (Abramovich), the Evening Standard, the Independent (Lebedev); they hob nob with the British establishment, and have made London unaffordable even for affluent Brits, but with their bulging wallets they have helped to keep high street businesses in central London afloat throughout the severe financial crisis after 2008, exhibiting lavish opulence unseen since the roaring 1920s.

For adventurous girls, Londongrad does mention how a middle-aged Russian oligarch can be ensnared by smart bimbos, the likely risks of ending up with nothing in a very male dominated Russian court, the life of a "sponsored woman" - a long legged, high-cheeked super-rich model in a loveless partnership, carefully setting up her own independent personal court, with cultured antique expert clients, interior designer courtesans, idle society columnist flatterers and jesters, like Irina Abramovich, a latter day Anne Boleyn Wolf Hall [DVD], to remind her prince of her presence, her potential powers, as well as to pursue her own career. Almost dark and Jewish in humour, Russians even scream at the joke of the rich émigré asking his wife to be buried at Harrods because in death he'll know she certainly will be visiting him at the store at least once a week.

Each benefit, however, brings its den of serpents, its sword of damocles. From page one - the unexplained death in March 2004 of Stephen Curtis, a British lawyer, near Bournemouth Airport, whose clients included Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Boris Berezovsky, one realises most of these privileged businesspersons had fled a life prison sentence at home, as media tycoon Vladimir Gusinsky, or the bullet, as journalist Anna Politkovskaya, could not, hiding in ivory prisons,and plotting revengeful moves against their nemesis, President Putin - some who previously had helped elevate him to the top spot in the Kremlin.

The presence of shady underworld of hoods, and the state secret services, becomes complicated if Hollywood's one dimension good v evil if used, when Russian businesses and their tycoons either were in the ex KGB or still operated within or close to its successor FSB. So, as the authors declare the barricade never divided Mother Teresa from Mike Tyson: it was different forms of personal cruelty used by both sides, but with the added bonus that for the despotic President legitimately being authorized to use the repressive instruments of the state to the full.

By focusing on Hello society-type stories, Mark Hollingsworth & Stewart Lansley do not emphasize enough as their journalist rival Edward Lucas has The New Cold War: Putin's Threat to Russia and the West, that these Russians receive the full wrath and anger of Putin because he does not distinguish the difference between personal private property of Russians from the Russian state - i.e. Russian democracy has not progressed Beyond Soviet authoritarianism; business is fully part of Russia's foreign economic policy, and should they refuse to comply to his terms their properties will be confiscated, and handed over to more amenable friendly poodles of the President. It is part of his second idea that the strengthening of the state - the rebirth of Russia, brings a further freedom of his people, the collectivist spirit of the Leader.

This "growing freedom", instead, merely hints that the private life of all Russians abroad is under closer scrutiny. When Roman Abramovich was planning to separate from his wife, Irina, the authors do recount he heard loud and clear the moral catechism of the President, showing a hypocritical public-private traditional image of family marital life, almost resembling those expected of leading public persons in Nazi Germany - no western half breed families even for the rich: either break up and re-marry, or else.

The journalists show that local supporters of Putin's enemies will receive their just deserves; former left-wing actress and human rights campaigner Vanessa Redgrave was harassed in 2005 by "Marching Together", a pro-Putin rent-a-mob, outside her north London home for supporting the Chechen actor and polemic, Akhmed Zakayev. They left much space for the case and the conflicting theories about Alexander Litvinenko, cruelly murdered in November 2006 with a dose of the radioactive chemical polonium, showing the ever growing tentacles of the Russian FSB state, to warn the enemies and their fifth columnist, western liberal mud-rakers that London is no longer a safe haven and still not sufficiently far away from Big Brother.

The authors then went over the real reasons for the meeting between Euro Commissioner Peter Mandelson, Shadow Chancellor George Osborne, London banker Nat Rothchild, and aluminium magnate and owner of Rusal, Oleg Deripaska, on board the Queen K, off Corfu, in the summer of 2008, and showed Osborne had been foolish to make domestic political capital at the time.

It is perhaps the most revealing part of the book, as it covers the reasons why Russian exiles chose to move and work in the UK - transforming London town into Londongrad, sometimes being prevented since 9/11 with recent legislation from entering the US, and only with big bucks, old connections and heavy muscle lobbying did US Congress comply to pleading requests for exceptions to be made. But, here Hollingsworth & Lansley should have been stronger in underlining the weaknesses of the British financial system in being unable to prevent Russian state money laundering to predominant, something extremely dangerous should the Kremlin take a more aggressive line.Nothing is True and Everything is Possible: Adventures in Modern Russia

Though the book, published in 2010, it can be read with a purpose by all Londoners until the end of the decade -especially the next time, in 2016, when it holds the mayor and assembly elections when neither Ken Livingstone (Labour) nor Boris Johnson (Conservative) will be running as official party candidates. People should ask how far did either mayors realise the increase in criminality and the weakening of the finances in their own backyard, what they had done, and in particular what did they claim to have to done to prevent possible open clan battles breaking out between the Russians either behind closed doors, or indeed on the streets of London?

They might also ask themselves how much self-preservation is important, and should they, as Londoners, be now prepared to pay more for the police or the security forces for their safety. No doubt some activists will urge handouts either freely coming from or taxed on the Russian exiles themselves, and their opponents will respond it will solely drive them to other climes at the expense of business. In reality, the Russians would be happy to pay just to live freely in peace even away from the roving eye and the ears of Moscow - and thousands of pounds for these poor billionaires is merely chicken feed. Living in the west with the freedom to refuse, even the thought of a stronger mighty Russia, being told that strength means being free, is no individual freedom to them.

Mark Hollingsworth & Stewart Lansley's Londongrad: a down-to-earth vision of the richest Russians in London is more meaningful to a Londoner than a work on Putin's dream of global domination. Their message is clear watch the Russians, but take care. Oh, fun loving available Russian speaking girls ought to try a season of picking up a romantic oligarch .. shoes, hautecouture, leather bags, regular partying and overseas trips are always on offer. Excitement guaranteed.
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on 5 March 2016
Started with a lot of potential and then proceeded to be a chapter on the Oligarchs buying houses..a chapter on them buying yachts...a chapter on them buying cars...a chapter on them buying Art...etc etc. Became too repetitive and not enough detail on them building their fortunes.Struggling to find the will power to finish reading it.
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