I stumbled across Max Freidzon and his lawsuit in the Southern District of New York several months ago while researching Putin’s St Petersburg days.
So I was confused when Stanislav Belkovsky tweeted a link to a Svaboda interview with Freidzon yesterday.
“Businessman Maxim Freidzon talks about corruption schemes involving Putin and the union of KGB and thugs.”
Firstly, by Belkovsky calling Freidzon “Maxim” (he is named as “Max” in the court documents). And secondly, by the timing, as Freidzon had filed the suit in July of 2014. However, it turned out that Freidzon’s suit has recently been denied due to questions about jurisdiction.
To be honest, there was not a lot in the interview that was new for me. Most of the information Freidzon revealed is online for anybody to find. But that fact does not make it irrelevant.
To briefly summarize the lawsuit, Max Freidzon is accusing his former associates of stealing his shares in a company called Sovex, and then selling them on to Lukoil without his consent. He also accuses Lukoil of not practicing due diligence when making the purchase.
Many people jumped on the portion of the interview where Freidzon accused Putin and Gazprom chief Alexei Miller of taking bribes.
Again, this is not really a revelation for people who have closely followed Putin’s years as Petersburg Mayor Sobchak’s deputy.
What was possibly more striking was the fact that both Putin’s Spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, and the President’s Chief of Staff Sergei Ivanov came out with statements denying accusations of corruption.
As Alexei Navalny pointed out:
By this morning, the interview had been taken down by Svaboda and is no longer available to read online. However, an English language summary of the lawsuit is still available online*.
It is possible that Svaboda decided to practice self-censorship due to a threatened lawsuit. Or it is possible that Freidzon was threatened after releasing the interview, and asked Svaboda to take it down.
Whatever the case, the information is now there for people to read and talk about. And the protests from the Kremlin only make it that more interesting.
*For a background on Freidzon and his lawsuit in English: