Posted Sunday, July 11, 2004

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If Mr Hooper's lifeless body is found with four gunshot wounds on a sidewalk in Chancery Lane, we shall know whom to suspect of "whacking" him.-- David Irving


London, Sunday, July 11, 2004


Shooting of editor may be revenge for delving into Russia's rich

by Mark Franchetti

THE London-based Russian billionaire Boris Berezovsky claimed yesterday that Paul Klebnikov, an American-born magazine editor who was gunned down by a contract killer in Moscow, must have "seriously upset someone" with his reporting.

Klebnikov, 41, (right) editor of the Russian edition of Forbes, the American business magazine, was shot four times by an assailant in a car as he left his Moscow office on Friday. It was the first such killing of a foreigner in Russia since Paul Tatum, an American businessman, was murdered in 1996, apparently in a dispute over property ownership.

Berezovsky, who was embroiled in a six-year legal battle in London with Klebnikov over a critical profile written about him, said that the journalist may have offended a powerful businessman with the publication in Forbes two months ago of a list of Russia's 100 wealthiest people. The list included detailed estimates of their assets and accounts of how they made their money.

"Everywhere in the world rich people don't like it when their wealth is splashed all over the papers," said the billionaire, who was granted political asylum in Britain last year after he claimed that his own life was at risk.

"This is especially true of Russia, where such attention can be tantamount to sending a letter to the prosecutor's office asking for that particular businessman to be investigated."

Alternatively, he said, the magazine may have written about business figures close to President Vladimir Putin.

Russian detectives said yesterday that eyewitnesses had seen a black Lada car follow Klebnikov as he walked along the pavement. When it was about 30ft away the killer opened the window and fired several shots from a gun, believed to be a Makarov pistol.

Fatally wounded, the journalist asked somebody in the street to call a colleague. "I came to Klebnikov's side as he lay outside the building," said Alexander Gordeyev, editor of the Russian edition of Newsweek, which has offices inside the same building. "He was still conscious and able to speak, but he couldn't say anything about what could have been the cause of the attack."

Klebnikov, who was reportedly unable to identify his killer, died from wounds to his chest as he was being rushed to hospital in an ambulance. He was married with three children. Police said yesterday that they had found the car apparently used by the killer and were examining it.
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David Irving comments:

FOR Boris Berezovsky to have settled the action on such unfavourable terms suggests that he was anxious to avoid a public hearing at all costs, and that his bluff had failed.
   David Hooper -- likeable author of a well known book on the history of libel actions, Wicked, Wicked Libels -- is not exactly a rottweiler lawyer.
   He represented me in a minor action which I started against Alan Rusbridger and The Guardian newspaper many years ago (as part of their general smear campaign against me, they had accused me of knowingly consorting with bomb-throwing Italian terrorists); when The Guardian dug their heels in, Hooper strongly urged me not to press the matter to a writ.
   Disregarding for once a legal adviser's opinion, I went ahead, forced the newspaper to publish a public apology and to retract the allegation, and to pay all my costs.
   Having said which, I am mildly puzzled that Hooper feels comfortable in revealing the adverse terms of the settlement with Berezovsky. If Mr Hooper's lifeless body is found with four gunshot wounds on a sidewalk in Chancery Lane, we shall know whom to suspect of "whacking" him.
   Such a legal settlement is normally the subject of what is known as a "Tomlin Order", which routinely contains a confidentiality clause binding on both parties -- like the Order which prevents me, for example, from revealing the not unfavourable terms on which The Sunday Times once settled a claim after grotesquely libelling me in 1996.

Klebnikov moved to Moscow six months ago to launch the Russian version of Forbes. "Today Russia is on the threshold of a new era," he wrote in the first edition.

In a country where most journalism is either subservient to the Kremlin or in the pay of wealthy businessmen, he promised that his publication would resist outside influence.

When the rich list appeared several businessmen were reportedly angered at what they saw as an invasion of their privacy. According to one Russian radio report, Klebnikov received threats.

BerezovksyFriends claimed that in the past Klebnikov also received threats following his investigations into Berezovsky's (left) financial affairs. [Usual and no doubt sincere legal disclaimer follows:] There was no suggestion that the exiled tycoon had been involved in the threats or in Friday's attack.

Klebnikov gave no indication that he was in fear for his life when I had dinner with him and his wife Marjorie four days before he was killed. Sipping white wine in one of Moscow's most fashionable restaurants, he was optimistic about Russia's future and said he wanted to publish positive stories about the rebirth of the country from which his grandparents had fled during the revolution.

"There are still many things wrong with Russia but all around me I also see great changes," he said.

"I have much confidence in Russia's ability to become a great country again."

Seeking to reassure his wife -- who was in Moscow on a short visit from New York, where she continued to live with their children -- he said that Russian businessmen were increasingly resorting to lawyers rather than contract killers.

Friends were appalled by the killing. "Paul's death is a terrible tragedy," said Boris Jordan, a prominent Russian-American investor who was a close friend of the journalist. "There was nothing he has written since moving to Russia which could have got him killed.

"I don't know if this could be connected to something he was investigating for a future issue but I am sure of one thing: the US government will do everything in its power to prevent his killers from getting away with it."

David Hooper, a British lawyer who represented Klebnikov in his battle with Berezovsky, described him as a "fearless reporter with wonderful contacts". He added: "He was one of the first people to reveal to the West the real extent of the looting which was taking place in Russia."

In his 1996 profile of Berezovsky in Forbes, titled The Godfather of the Kremlin, Klebnikov claimed the tycoon had siphoned off hundreds of millions of dollars abroad and had links with the Chechen mafia. Klebnikov described Berezovsky's rise in detail in a book, Godfather of the Kremlin: The Decline of Russia in the Age of Gangster Capitalism.

Berezovsky, who made his fortune in the mid-1990s, strenuously rejected the accusations and filed a libel suit against Forbes in Britain. It was settled last year after the magazine acknowledged that it had been wrong to claim that he had been involved in the murder of a television tycoon in 1995.

"The court awarded him (Berezovsky) no damages and no costs and he effectively discontinued his action," said Hooper [see comment in box on right]

Berezovsky claimed last year that he feared Russian intelligence agents were plotting to assassinate him in London. Moscow sources rejected the claims as implausible.

© Copyright of Times Newspapers Limited 2004.
 ... on the, ahem, oligarchs
Moscow whistleblower Pavel Klebnikov, Editor who unmasked super-rich of Russia is shot dead in Moscow Whistleblower Pavel Klebnikov whacked in Moscow: Oligarchs suspected | Berezovsky sneers that victim 'was like a bull in a china shop'
Forbes magazine: Forbes Russia editor murdered in Moscow
Khodorkovsky: From billionaire to cage in court
Our dossier on the life and troubled times of the Russian "oligarchs"
Our dossier on the origins of anti-Semitism
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