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Jan. 11 2010 - 6:46 pm | 2,543 views | 0 recommendations | 9 comments

The Near Assassination of… John Helmer?

THREE armed men have been arrested outside the home of an Australian freelance journalist in Moscow just a week after the federal government warned him it had confidential information he was in danger.

The journalist, John Helmer, said he might have been targeted because of his aggressive reporting on powerful Russian businessmen, including 42-year-old billionaire Oleg Deripaska.

The [Australian] Department of Foreign Affairs has refused to tell Helmer what information led it to fear for his safety, and appears not to have provided any such information to Russian police investigating the case.

via Weekend Reading Assignment: A Russian Tale | New Jersey Nets – - New Jersey Nets Basketball – NJ.com.

If you didn’t live in Russia in the nineties, you don’t know how weird this news is. I knew John Helmer pretty well. I used to pick on him and his affable buddy Fred Weir for their constitutional inability to keep Starlight Diner food from sticking in their impressively unkempt journo-beards.  Helmer’s tiny (and usually ink-smudged) columnist photo in the Moscow Tribune was one of the great literary Sasquatch sightings of all time.

I actually liked John quite a lot, but — and I mean this in the most complimentary possible way, if he happens to be reading this — I can certainly see wanting to kill him. That said I’m more than a little shocked that things in Russia have deteriorated to the point where people like aluminum king Oleg Deripaska are sending trios of bumbling assassins after him:

Helmer said Russian police who interrogated the three arrested men told him the men said they worked for a private security company that had been acting on behalf of Rusal, the Deripaska-controlled giant, which has major interests in the Australian aluminium and bauxite industry through holdings in Queensland.

Helmer said the three men were found to be carrying a dossier on him that included photos of him and his wife, and a sketch of the layout of his apartment building.

Anyway,  John, best of luck to you and please try to avoid getting your face blown off.


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  1. collapse expand

    if the Bastards aren’t trying to kill you….you ain’t doing your job right

  2. collapse expand

    That led to a nice trip through Helmer’s articles. Yea, he’s commenting on Rusal (cute for Russian Aluminum) biz tactics outloud. Considering how the power elite seems to be following Time’s Man of the Year’s tactics in (shall we say) defocusing spirits who view life differently, I guess it is just sort of a preobit sort of thing now. The damn thing is, Putin teaches to keep trying on this stuff. Ugh… I was in Moscow in 88 and I remember May 9th being a hug-a-veteran day and life seemed to be getting more mellow…but somewhere this hard undercurrent a la Uncle Joe came up in the 90’s. I would not say from nowhere as it must have been in someone’s closet. Oh yes, Putin was named to his Time Prize for bringing…stability…guess it is the old Roman way…

  3. collapse expand

    Deripaska just couldn’t stand another one of his pics crudely photoshopped onto porky pig’s body – http://johnhelmer.net/?p=2360

  4. collapse expand

    I don’t know what neurosis emboldens some people to expose truth that tweaks the noses of people who could have them killed, but we could use a lot more of that kind of neurosis.

  5. collapse expand

    I’ve long been very confused by the apparent riches of people like Abromavich and just how the hell the Russian business world works. Now I’ve found Helmar’s site I will visit often because there’s a hell of a lot of info there.

    His most recent posting contains one observation – The aluminium business in Russia is a monopoly owned by one guy (the one who apparently wanted him dead) and yet the holding company is something like $17 billion in debt with tons of problems around the world and no equity value to speak of.

    The first thought is – how the hell can someone with the monopoly on a valuable resource like aluminium ever lose money? What kind of hare-brained management must they have there?

    Then later you realise it’s like that because he’s siphoned off the $17b into his own accounts and is now lining up to get the company bailed out by the Kremlin. Needless to say a goods chunk of that $17b will end up in the bank accounts of one Vladimir Putin as well.

    It all makes the US and it’s corruption seem rather tame. Russia is what would happen if the guys from Enron never got caught…

  6. collapse expand

    I thought this was weird that the story appeared in the NJ Nets blog until I read the 1 reader’s comment:

    >Regretfully, your barely-veiled cheap shot at Mikhail Prokhorov is uncalled for and displays your profound lack of knowledge about Russian business. Oleg Deripaska is the power at Rusal – not Mr. Prokhorov….

    >”It seems to me you are upset about the Nets moving to Brooklyn. Boo-hoo. Congratulations to Brooklyn – and the Nets – for finding a competent deep pocket. My advice to you is to do some research on Mr. Prokhorov – right away. He is the real deal – and he’s coming to a town near you.”

    Thanks to Facebook User for your link – helpful in putting the pieces together.

    Taniwha, you’re pretty close with your Enron comment:

    >”Rusal, which is planning a highly sensitive, $US 2.6 billion ($2.84bn) initial public offering on the Hong Kong stock exchange, yesterday vigorously denied any involvement in the case.”

    Still, dead journalists in Russia seem to be de rigueur, and I feel for Helmer and his wife. Fortunately offing journos doesn’t seem to have infected this country, but like papaboule, I’d like to see more who hold people’s feet to the fire.

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