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"Every billionaire is a policy failure": it's a controversial aphorism, but there's an undeniable truth to it.

There's no justifiable rationale for a person to be worth billions: is Jeff Bezos's social value really 14,285,714 times that of his median factory worker?

But moreover, billions of dollars are a force multiplier that magnifies the power of the individual without accountability or check.

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Everybody makes mistakes and there are crooks everywhere in the social fabric, but billionaire crooks are far more harmful than street muggers.

Woody Guthrie wrote, "Some will rob you with a six-gun, and some with a fountain pen," but as great as that line is, it fails to capture just how much harm the fountain-pen bandits can do - the chaos, death and misery their schemes create.

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Think of Ihor Kolomoisky, the Ukrainian oligarch whose government has accused of stealing $5.5B from a bank he ran. I first encountered Kolomoisky in the Fincen Leaks, a collection of official warnings that the US Treasure Department chose to ignore.

pluralistic.net/2020/09/21/too

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Kolomoisky laundered $240m through Deutsche Bank, who started helping him launder that money *less than one month* after issuing a triumphant press-release announcing that it had cleaned house after its last oligarch money-laundering scandal.

But Deutsche Bank's contribution was a relative trifle.

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As Michael Sallah and colleagues document in Dirty Dollars, a stunning feature in Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Kolomoisky shuffled billions through the US, destroying factories and laying waste to whole towns.

newsinteractive.post-gazette.c

Kolomoisky and his confederate Gennadiy Bogolyubov used compromised bank employees in Ukraine to steal billions by issuing phony loans to shell companies in Cyprus (an EU state and notorious financial secrecy haven) and various Caribbean "treasure islands."

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That money came onshore with the help of US enablers like Florida "businessman" Mordechai "Motti" Korf (represented by Trump's personal lawyer Marc Kasowitz). Once in the US, it was used to snap up real-estate and factories across the midwest.

These assets included "13 steel factories, five office towers, a hotel, two office parks, and a shuttered Motorola plant with two heliports." These structures included historically significant US buildings, as well as strategic production facilities.

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For example, at one point, Kolomoisky controlled the majority of the US's silico manganese production, a key element in steel production. The fact that he didn't abuse this to deliberately destroy the US's ability to produce steel is somewhat incidental.

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Because Kolomoisky destroyed plenty of US productive capacity for other reasons - namely, because he bought giant companies like Warren Steel to use them as money-laundering pass-throughs, running them without regard to their workers or their products.

This resulted in a series of ghastly plant disasters in which workers were killed, maimed, injured and traumatized. After the disasters came waves of closures, which saw plants shuttered and communities shattered by layoffs.

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But the force-multiplier effect of Kolomoisky's stolen billions continued to wreak havoc: the shutdown of these plants resulted in environmental devastation, such as dumping waste water directly into Ohio's Mahoning River.

Ohio was particularly brutalized by Kolomoisky's money-laundering: after the 2016 shut-down of Warren Steel, the Ohio AG revealed that the company had illegally dumped vast amounts of "baghouse dust," which causes kidney and liver damage.

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The FBI is investigating Kolomoisky's onshore crimes, and Ukrainian authorities are targeting him at home (which could be explosive, as he is closely tied to the lavishly corrupt Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, a former TV comedy actor).

These investigations, as well as the work of the Post-Gazette team, as well as the Fincen Leaks, all throw the meaning of "every billionaire is a policy failure" into stark relief.

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The men who rob you with a fountain pen destroy lives, towns, the environment, national resilency, even whole nations.

Image:

Справедливість. Анна Безулик (modified)
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CC BY:
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