By Henry McRandall
The United States and the European Union have been tripping over themselves and each other in recent days in their respective determinations to champion the cause of the richest man in Russia – mega-billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Khodorkovsky was sentenced today to an additional six years in prison – on top of the eight years he was already serving – after his conviction on charges of embezzlement and money laundering. And both the U.S. and the E.U. have become positively apopleptic at the possibility this billionaire felon may have to spend even more time behind bars.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in fact, was both shrill and intemperate in her denunciation of the Russian legal system.
Khodorkovsky’s original conviction – the one that brought him the eight-year sentence – was for fraud and tax evasion.
None of these were petty crimes. In fact, the total amount of money involved in the Russian oil tycoon’s various crimes totalled in the tens of BILLIONS of U.S. dollars.
Similar convictions in either the U.S. or the European Union also call for very lengthy prison terms.
But there is a difference between Russia, on the one hand, and the U.S. and E.U. on the other.
Russia is actually willing to prosecute and even imprison its capitalist billionaires for their corruption and criminality. Amerikkka and the European Union are not.
In fact, the governments of the U.S. and the E.U. countries have probably never seen a capitalist billionaire – or even a capitalist mega-millionaire – they did not want to bow down and worship.
This bizarre political deification of the econocorporate socioeconomic elite throughout the western hemisphere would be hilarious if it weren’t so utterly tragic.
The steadfast refusal of officialdom in either North America or the European Union to accept that billionaires can and do commit crimes and should be punished for their crimes is what has allowed the econocorporate socioeconomic elite to hijack democracy.
Does anyone really believe that anyone can become a mega-billionaire in less than twenty years without resorting to corruption and crime?
Consider Khodorkovsky. Twenty years ago, Russia was still part of the Communist Soviet Union and presumably Khodorkovsky was no more and no less wealthy than his average Communist comrade – in fact, almost inevitably dirt-poor.
We’re supposed to believe this oil buccaneer came from nowhere to accumulate an after-tax fortune of more than $30 billion U.S. in just 15 years without stepping on anyone’s toes, stabbing anyone in the back or exploiting the weaknesses of vulnerable underlings?
For that matter, does anyone seriously believe that Microsoft founder Bill Gates accumlated a net worth of $53 billlion in less than 20 years while paying his fair share of taxes and not resorting to a single episode of corruption or criminality?
The real injustice here is not that Khodorkovsky has been duly prosecuted and imprisoned for his crimes, but that a similarly situated malefactor in either the U.S. or the E.U. would certainly go unpunished and, most likely, even unprosecuted.
Yes, the western politicians and press may decry Khodorkovsky’s appointment with justice but they know they are really defending the indefensible.
U.S., E.U. rush to defend the indefensible
By Henry McRandall