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Washington Babylon

Ken Silverstein photo
Ken SilversteinWashington DC & the World
Washington Babylon
Journalism about arms trafficking, strip clubs, corruption, the oil industry and black markets

How does a Bulgarian-born fixer named Alexander Mirtchev buy Washington for the oil-rich dictator of Kazakhstan? How does a bottom-feeder like this become a crony of the Clinton family and a major donor to the Clinton Foundation? How does he get to be pals with Henry Kissinger and the socialite and political fundraiser Georgette Mosbacher and veterans of the Bush I and Bush II administrations? How does he become friendly with similarly powerful figures in the UK? And why has he declined to reply to my repeated requests for comment about allegations of moneylaundering and other crimes?

And how is it that the U.S. Department of Justice knows about Mirtchev’s murky financial dealings but covers up for him and also refuses to answer any questions about him? And oh yeah, why did he try to get me to shut up by offering me what appears to be a crude bribe — an offer to stay as long as I liked at a luxury penthouse in Miami, one of a number of his properties that were bought with money of dubious origin.

I’ll answer all of these questions, and many more, in this multi-month investigation that has already involved dozens of interviews, extensive searches through property records, lobbyists filings and other public records, and collecting explosive financial information about Mirtchev’s holdings (which in addition to real estate and offshore cash, appear to include works of art by Picasso and Pierre Bonnard).

Perhaps the U.S. government will continue to cover up for Mirtchev — who, perhaps not coincidentally in regard to his apparent impunity has top level connections in Kazakhstan, which has granted US oil companies huge energy concessions. But this story will pressure the U.S. government to take action against the Kazakh dictatorship's most valuable asset in Washington.

There will be a second related story that will focus on Mirtchev’s role — as a donor and board member — at some of Washington’s most prominent think tanks. Among the most interesting aspects of this story is that the New York Times had a key part of it but the newspaper was apparently pressured to kill it by one of the think tanks, and possibly by Mirtchev’s lawyers as well.

After those stories run -- within two months -- I’ll finish up a story I reported from Iraq, where I've already been twice this year.  I dug up undisclosed information about the rise of ISIS and how corruption has destroyed Iraq. You might think you know this story, but I have exclusive information and I’ll name the names of Iraqis — and American military officers — who got rich and show how corruption turned ISIS into a major international threat.

I’m so confident in the success of my Byline project that I’m posting my first story here for free. It's being co-published with VICE and is about Bruce Jackson, a neoconservative architect of the disastrous Iraq invasion of 2003. He cashed in on the war and now lives on a $4 million chateau in France. Oh yeah, he makes shitty wine too.

#Arms trafficking, #Strip clubs/titty bars, #Corruption, #Black & gray markets, #International oil, #Moneylaundering

Risks and Challenges

I've been reporting for more than 25 years and have written more than 1,000 stories and had only about two killed. There are always risks but in terms of this project they are minimal or non-existent.

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