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Monday, October 15, 2007 

Usmanov-watch: Playing the victim.

From one revolting end of the Murdoch empire to another, the Alisher Usmanov charm offensive was back on yesterday in one of the most sycophantic, one-sided articles to appear in a so-called newspaper of record. Congratulations have to go to
It was partly in an attempt to curb claims of a shady past that he invited me to his Moscow mansion and agreed to talk for the first time about the circumstances that led to his being imprisoned in 1980. Usmanov runs his empire from the headquarters of Metal-loinvest, his main company, in a lavish building in central Moscow fitted with Italian marble and heavy chandeliers. From there I was driven 30 miles along Rublovka, a road that cuts through a forest of firs to a “billionaires’ row” where Usmanov has a 30-acre estate beside the Moscow river. A 16ft-high metal fence encircles the property.

Usmanov, who never leaves home without a retinue of bodyguards armed with machine-guns, was working in a large, single-storey wooden villa which he has built as a private office next to his palatial house.

Casually dressed in a Lacoste polo shirt, tracksuit bottoms and leather slippers, he was sitting in an armchair, advising a friend on the telephone on how best to clinch a £1m deal. In front of him was a small table and a bell with which to summon staff.

In the next room, his personal adviser on equities was checking the latest share prices on a 30in computer screen.

Sipping tea after his phone call, Usmanov studied the screen with the analyst as they discussed whether to sell a large holding in a Russian bank. A butler delivered frequent messages or passed on one of several mobile phones on which the tycoon fielded further calls.


If you aren't throwing up already having read just that extract, then both Tim and Craig himself
thoroughly fisk and destroy this partial, despicably craven meeting of convenience. Craig incidentally, despite never being served with anything approaching a writ, is described thusly:

Usmanov rejected the charges and threatened to sue Murray “if he can first prove that he is completely sane”.

Usmanov likes playing the victim, that's for sure. A venal bully with the full weight of his fortune and power behind him picking on those who dare to call him on his dubious past, and he's the one who's been wronged.

“I was a victim and when I came out I realised I had one last chance to make a success of my life. I won’t fall so low as to fight those who want to blacken my name. Let their slurs weigh on their conscience. Mine is clean.”

No, he's more than happy to slur his accusers by questioning their sanity while his shysters at Schillings and PR associates as Finsbury PR do the real leg-work. It may be down to last week's Usmanov story in the Sunset Times, about his connections with, err, corruption and fraud, allegations which curiously go unnoted in the interview that this piece of arslikhan inspired, but that doesn't acquit the ST. This is simply lazy, callow journalism from a newspaper that once exposed the Thalidomide scandal. How far away those days seem.

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