He is a billionaire in an unusual situation: he has no access to cash. Because this month Mikhail Fridman became another Russian oligarch who was slapped in those economic handcuffs: sanctions.
Correspondent Seth Doane asked Fridman, “Do you have billions of dollars in a bank?”
“Yes, I have quite a considerable amount of money.”
“But you can’t touch it?”
“Not at all.”
“How did you find out you were sanctioned?”
“From the television”.
To punish Russian President Vladimir Putin for invading Ukraine, the United States and its allies are forgoing military intervention, anddirected both at the state and at individuals considered close to Putin. and frozen bank accounts.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced: “London’s oligarchs will have nowhere to hide.” In his State of the Union address, President Joe Biden told the oligarchs, “We’re here for your ill-gotten gains.” And European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “All these measures will significantly damage Putin’s ability to finance this war.”
Fridman, who earned billions in banking and retail and now lives in London, is on UK and EU sanctions lists.
Doane asked, “If you put your ATM card in the ATM?”
“No, my card is blocked, you know, so I couldn’t get any money out; all my accounts are blocked.” she answered her.
“I wouldn’t expect you to tell me on camera, but I think a billionaire has to have access to money, somewhere.”
“There must be an account -“
“There should be, but there isn’t.”
“It seems hard to believe.”
“But that’s why I’m here,” Fridman said. “That is why I am here, because I would like to explain: sanction against us [is] unfair, useless For what? What did we do wrong, except doing business in Russia?”
Doane asked: “Can’t a wealthy Russian businessman close to Putin have some impact?”
“So, first of all, you need to understand that the power distance between Mr. Putin and everyone around him is huge. Even assuming that he wants to send some message, I don’t have any channel to do so.”
“Can’t you make billions without being near the Kremlin?”
“Yes, that is the very typical and inappropriate myth,” Fridman said. “Most Russian private businessmen have no personal link with Mr Putin.”
Tom Burgis, author of “Kleptopia: How Dirty Money Is Conquering the World,” told Doane: “From his earliest days in political power, Putin has been using corruption as a tool to enrich himself and expand his power. Everybody swims.” in that water. .”
He says the West has been gorging itself on Russian money, whether in property (such as Fridman’s $85 million London mansion, now a frozen asset), or sports teams (Chelsea Football Club, one of the world’s most valuable franchises). world, is owned by a sanctioned oligarch Roman Abramovich).
Doane asked Burgis, “How do you know this is dirty money that is being blocked by these sanctions?”
“Dirty money is a pretty hard thing to define,” he replied. “One could argue that anyone who has made and retained a huge fortune in a dictatorship that we know to be deeply corrupt, then that person is, to a greater or lesser extent, complicit in the power of that regime.”
To prove his money is clean, Fridman sent “CBS Sunday Morning” an audit of Ernst and Young, which he commissioned.
Fridman is a man straddling different worlds. He is Russian and Jewish, and was born and raised in what is now Ukraine (then part of the Soviet Union).
“I have always been in contact with the Ukrainian authority, including President Zelensky,” he said.
“What do you think of President Zelensky?” Done asked.
“I think he is the president of an independent country and, as I understand it, he is a very brave and strong person.”
In a letter to employees before he was sanctioned, Fridman wrote: “War can never be the answer.” He is one of the few oligarchs who speak out against the invasion of Ukraine.
“You’ve said you’re against the war,” Doane said.
“I am against the war, very, very.”
“But you can’t criticize Putin?”
“I think right now in a climate like Russia is not very tolerant of that,” Fridman said. “Mr Putin recently made a very clear speech about traitors, you know, sort of ‘enemies of the state’.”
“Do you think he was talking about you?”
“I don’t know. I definitely don’t think he’s an enemy of the state!”
“Do you think you are a traitor in Putin’s opinion?”
“I hope not,” he said. “But it seems”.
“What does that mean for you?”
“It’s a very difficult situation, in any dimension.”
“Among all the people suffering in this war, many do not have much sympathy for Russian billionaires.”
“You’re right. And I understand that attitude,” Fridman said.
He acknowledges the effectiveness of the broader sanctions that have crippled Russia’s economy, but claims it’s collateral damage: “What about the presumption of innocence, stuff like that? That’s just a decision by unknown bureaucrats who decided I’m guilty.” by definition, because I am a Russian oligarch, just to fuel the public demand to punish someone.”
Coane asked Tom Burgis, “Fridman says, where is due process in this?”
“Fridman is right,” he replied. “There are officials and politicians writing names on lists. What you really want is a criminal trial, right? If someone is guilty of corruption, you can prosecute them for it. The danger with sanctions is that they start to create this system outside of the rule of law, where people are targeted with very little due process.”
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Story produced by Mikaela Bufano. Editing: George Pozderec.