Part 2: Ruslan Tsarni’s Witness Statement

Part One ➝  Frank Giustra’s Uranium Deal, Kazakhstan Corruption, and the Boston Bombers’ Uncle

RUSLAN TSARNI

Looking back towards the end of 2009, you may remember that Mukhtar Ablyazov had fled to London, Mukhtar Dzhakishev was arrested, charged, and imprisoned for his role in illegally selling off uranium interests to investors like Frank Giustra (I believe he is still in prison today), and Rosatom/ARMZ was about year away from acquiring 51% of Uranium One.  By mid-August, BTA bank also filed the first of eleven civil suits against Ablyazov in London’s High Court in August after retaining specialists like PriceWaterhouse to advise them in its asset recovery.  

Ablyazov was accused of embezzling $300 million from the bank at the onset of the court proceedings.  However, in a January, 2010 Embassy cable sent to the CIA, US Ambassador Richard Hoagland wrote that Ablyazov then stood accused of embezzling over $1 billion and that he had countered these allegations by leaking “documentary evidence” that showed President Nazarbayev’s son-in-law, Timur Kulibayev, had taken over $100 million in bribe money from China for oil deals.  In fact, it does not appear Ablyazov was accused of siphoning a combined total of $6 billion (yes, billion) from BTA bank until 2012.  Early that same year he was also found guilty of “failing to disclose more than $50 million worth of assets, including properties in London and Moscow and 600 shell companies” and was subsequently sentenced to 22 months in jail. He fled to France.  

So where does Ruslan Tsarni come into all of this?  In 2010, as the case raged on in London without Ablyazov, a witness statement for the defense from none other than Ruslan Tsarni was entered into the Court record.  What’s so unusual about this?  Maybe nothing.  But to give you an idea of how big the trial was it involved “more than 100 court hearings in front of five judges, taking the time of more than 50 leading lawyers, including 22 partners and 32 barristers, of whom eight are QCs.” As Erik Larson wrote in a 2013 Bloomberg article, the fact that Tsarni was even involved with “one of the highest-profile commercial lawsuits in the U.K. and Kazakhstan in recent years” shows that the Tsarnaev family was “at one time well connected in the region.”  Ruslan Tsarni was also well connected in the United States.

2010:  RUSLAN TSARNI’S STATEMENT

Erik Larson’s article reported that Ruslan Tsarni filed a witness statement during Mukhtar Ablyazov’s trial in London’s High Court sometime in December, 2010.  Tsarni accused Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev of overseeing “the theft of state assets worth billions of dollars,” and that he himself had worked with a “closely knit network of associates” led by Timur Kulibayev from 2000-2008.  He also claimed that this consortium “regularly engaged in fraudulent business practices.”  Tsarni wasn’t the first one to accuse Nazarbayev and Timur Kulibayev of fraud, bribery, and money laundering.  Ablyazov submitted multiple documents throughout his trial that allegedly showed Kulibayev’s corruption.  At one point even Switzerland investigated his activities—an investigation that was instigated by a group of anonymous businessmen that may have included Tsarni.

According to Larson, Tsarni’s statement went on to say,

“Nazarbayev gave his ‘blessing’ and protection to the group that rigged auctions of state assets, seized banks to sell for a fraction of their value to pre-determined buyers, and engaged in tax fraud and money laundering…some members of the group are now in senior management positions at BTA Bank.”

And,

“The group has been looting the bank of anything that they can get their hands on following the forced takeover…Very soon after Mr. Ablyazov’s forced departure from Kazakhstan in early 2009, there were those within the regime who were intent on taking the opportunity of seizing whatever assets he held within the country that were connected to BTA.”

According to the the UK Sunday Times, Tsarni also alleged that Timur Kulibayev purchased Prince Andrew’s Sunninghill property for millions of dollars over the asking price.  The Times reported,

“Kulibayev bought Sunninghill and properties in Mayfair with $96 million derived from a complex series of deals intended to disguise money laundering…Tsarni alleged that the money came from the takeover of a western company, which had been used as a front to obtain oil contracts from the Kazakh state.”

Ruslan Tsarni went on to say that after working for this group of Kazakh business men that he himself called fraudsters and tax dodgers, he moved to the United States in 2008.

So where exactly was he working between 2000 – 2008?

GOLDEN EAGLE PARTNERS

In May, 1999, Ruslan Tsarni became head of legal affairs at Golden Eagle Partners Sarl, a Swiss-registered company founded by the former Head of Chevron Kazakhstan and CEO of Hurricane Hydrocarbons Ltd, Bruce Kososki, and former PriceWaterhouse Kazakhstan Managing Partner, Fred Tresca.  Tsarni also served as “managing director of its wholly owned subsidiary Tobe LLC” but good luck finding anything on that company.  He remained at Golden Eagle until February, 2000.

The company first appeared in the news in 1998 for its role in a Haliburton/Ramco lawsuit filed by Houston-based company Anglo-Dutch Energy LLC.  Here’s what happened:  Anglo-Dutch set up a joint venture to develop the Tenge field in Kazakhstan after which Ramco and Halliburton in 1997, “entered a letter of intent” with Anglo-Dutch to purchase interest in the field.  A year later Ramco and Halliburton withdrew their letter of intent while Anglo-Dutch continued their efforts to purchase interests in the field.  After allegedly receiving confidential information about Anglo-Dutch from Ramco and Halliburton, Golden Eagle Partners and Central Asia Industrial Holdings (CAIH) “swooped in and took the land” for $2 million cash in March, 2000.  Anglo-Dutch sued.  None other than Canaccord Capital advised Ramco during the debacle.  Canaccord Capital (later renamed Canaccord Financial and then Canaccord Genuity) is the same company that was involved in the Clinton/Giustra uranium deal and donated to Clinton’s foundation (see part one). 

In May, 2000, about three months after Tsarni left the company, Central Asia Industrial Holdings (CAIH) purchased controlling shares in Golden Eagle.  At some point, Golden Eagle’s founder Bruce Kososki started working for CAIH (no idea if it was before or after CAIH snatched up the company stock in 2000) and his current bio online at Denali Capital Partners states that while he was working there he “founded and developed” three companies: Helio, Sun Drilling (Big Sky Energy would later hire this company for a drilling project) and Nelson Resources. 

NELSON RESOURCES

Okay, if Bruce Kososki wants credit for “founding” Nelson Resources who am I to disagree with him?  The only problem is that the company existed long before he or Ruslan Tsarni came along .  It’s a long and sordid tale about a mining company that was taken over (and taken out) by the criminal activities of powerful Kazakh businessmen. 

Nelson Resources was incorporated in Bermuda on March 31, 1993, as Nelson Trade & Finance Limited.  In 1995, the name was changed to Nelson Gold Corporation.  Nelson Gold’s business focused primarily on gold mining, especially in former Soviet Union mines, through its subsidiary Commonwealth & British Minerals Limited (CBM).  In January, 1997, however, they opened a representative office in Almaty, Kazakhstan to diversify the company’s “exploration and development interests geographically.” 

In February and March, 1998, Canaccord began snatching up a shiz ton of the company’s stock for their client, Elliot Associates, L.P., (stop and read all about Elliot Associates’ CEO Paul Stinger  HERE) after which Elliot and its subsidiaries, Westgate International and Liverpool Limited Partnership, acquired a combined total of 32.8% interest in the company.  At the time, Howard Miller was deputy chairman of the board—a guy who once worked for Canaccord from 1993-1995.  A year later, Frank Giustra’s close associate, Paul Reynolds, would become president and chief operating officer of Canaccord’s European operations.

In March, 2000, Central Asia Industrial Holdings (CAIH), the same company that purchased a controlling share in Golden Eagle Partners two months earlier, and Korinth & Investment Corp., made a move to purchase controlling interest in Nelson Gold.  Steve Levine reported in a Wall Street Journal article that “A local investor group led by a powerful son-in-law of President Nursultan Nazarbayev [Timur Kulibayev] is buying control of Bermuda-based Nelson Gold Ltd for $15.2 million dollars.”  You see, Korinth & Investment Corp., later renamed Energy Investments International, is (or at least was at the time) controlled by Timur Kulibayev while the limited liability company CAIH is controlled by Nurzhan Subkhanberdin, an extremely close ally of both President Nazarbayev and his daughter, Darigha Nazarbayeva. If you are not familiar with Darigha Nazarbayeva let’s just say she has had an interesting relationship with a man by the name of Alexander Mirtchev.  Still not familiar?  Try googling “Krull Corporation” or “Alexander Mirtchev.”  Then throw in Darigha Nazarbayeva’s name.  If you really want to swan dive into the rabbit’s hole google “the Clintons  and Alexander Mirtchev,” “GlobalOptions, Inc,” or “Neil Livingston.

Back to Nurzan Subkhanberdin.  Besides close ties to the most powerful people in Kazakhstan, through his ownership of CAIH (technically through Central Asian Investment Company) he is also the main shareholder of Kazkommertsbank , the largest, banking conglomerate in Kazakhstan.  The bottom line is that he is YUGE in Kazkahstan. 

The deal with Nelson Gold resulted in both Subkanberdin’s company, CAIH, and Korinth Trade & Investment each holding a 35% stake in Nelson Gold.  The name was subsequently changed to Nelson Resources and the financial advisor in the 2000 transaction was none other than Canaccord Capital.  In fact, in the following year Nelson Gold, now Nelson Resources, retained Canaccord for a “best-efforts” private placement up to four million dollars.  And as the Giustra/UrAsia/uranium deal was gearing up in 2005 (with Canaccord’s help), they became Nelson’s nominated advisor of AIM.  It seems Canaccord was involved with Nelson Resources the moment Elliot Associates purchased shares up until when…well…when the company ceased to exist.

Echoing Ruslan Tsarni’s witness statement that Timur Kulibayev had been involved in the takeover of a western company which was used to obtain oil contracts, Nelson Resources obtained quite a few lucrative contracts over the course of the next four years.  They entered a 50% joint venture in two Aktobe fields with KazMunaiGas, a subsidiary of Kazakhstan’s state oil and gas company, KazMunayGas (previously Kazakhoil), and gained a 25% stake in Zhambai LLP, a subsidiary of the same state agency.  The kicker?  From 2002 – 2005, Timur Kulibayev was first vice-president of KazMunayGas.  Yeah.  So there’s that.  In 2003, Nelson Resources gained a 50% interest in the North Buzachi field in a joint-venture with CNPC and in 2004, they managed to acquire a 76% interest in the Karakudukmuani field through a KazMunayGas auction and the purchase of Chaparral Resources, Inc. from CAIH.  They also entered into a 50% joint venture with Shell involving the Arman field, just north of the North Buzachi field. 

Besides acquiring a healthy amount of oil contracts, the company also entered into marketing agreements with companies that had ties to Timur Kulibayev such as Euro-Asian Oil and UniOil.  They also obtained a boat load of loans, some from shady sources. They received a $20 million and $27 million loan from Kazkommertsbank and Halyk Savings Bank of Kazakhstan (a Timur Kulibayev company), respectively.  And remember when Elliot Associates bought into Nelson Gold?  Two months later Nelson took a $3.6 million loan from them.  And then in 2003, the company took $30 million of a total $60 million dollar term loan from BNP Paribas (Suisse) S.A. on behalf of their joint venture in the Aktobe field.  Not familiar with BNP Paribas?  Does Saddam Hussein jog any memories?  How about the “food for oil” scandal (which, incidentally, involved Marc Rich) or the $8.9 billion fine they paid in 2015?  No?  Maybe Sudan rings some bells?  Ok, how about the fact that the company is controlled by Power Financial Corporation whose CEO is Andre Desmarais who is the son in law of former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretin who happened to sit on the board of Power Financial at one point and happened to make the news because of…wait for it…Michael Chamas. 

chamas and prime minister.png

Anyone who has done some digging into the Boston bombing case knows exactly who I’m talking about.  For those that do not I suggest you start HERE.  Journalist Jorge Barrera has an exhaustive collection of detailed articles about Chamas that should keep you busy for weeks.

Okay, the Chamas thing may be a stretch.  But still.  Borrowing money from this company seems pretty shady.  And there’s more.  At the end of 2003, Nelson borrowed another $90 million from Credit Suisse First Boston (London branch) who has had a robust history filled with criminal behavior like tax evasion, fraud, and the financing of terror attacks.

As for Ruslan Tsarni, according to SEC filings there appears to be a gap in his employment between the time he left Golden Eagle Partners in February, 2000, and when he joined Nelson Resources as corporate counsel in February, 2001 (unemployed? shadow government shenanigans?).  During his time at Nelson he worked for a number of the company’s subsidiaries including Nelson Petroleum Bazachi B.V. located in Amsterdam.  In a corporate filing dated March 28, 2004, you can see Tsarni’s signature on a contract between Nelson Resources and Vitol S.A.  Other than that there is very little information about what Tsarni did for the company.

tsarni signature.png

BLUE SKY ENERGY

On March 15, 2005, a year after closing a deal with Vitol S.A for Nelson Resources,  Ruslan Tsarni became corporate secretary and vice president of business development at Big Sky Energy Corp., a subsidiary of China Energy Ventures Corp.  Big Sky was incorporated in Nevada in December, 1999, but their headquarters was in located in Canada .  According to form 10-KSB document filed by Big Sky in March, 2005 (emphasis is mine):

“Our success depends to a significant extent on the continued efforts of our executive officers, principally Messrs. Heysel, Sehsuvaroglu and [Ruslan] Tsarni, who are responsible for the continuing development of our oil and gas assets. The loss of any one of these individuals could have a material adverse effect on our ability to continue to locate, negotiate and acquire oil and gas assets and financing to develop these assets…We have entered into employment and non-competition agreements with all of these individuals.

Sounds like Tsarni was a pretty big guy on campus.  Well, not so much.  Or so it seems.  Less than four months later, Tsarni resigned from his post at Big Sky Energy at which point the company appointed Bruce H. Gaston to assume a consolidated role including Tsarni’s duties as corporate secretary.  And there’s more.  So very much more.

Sometime in September or October, 2005, Big Sky Energy filed a restraining order, yes, a restraining order, against Ruslan Tsarni, his sister, Maret Tsarnaeva, and Farkhad Shakirov, a lawyer for Big Sky Energy’s subsidiary, Vector Energy West (VEW).  Here’s what allegedly happened:  On April 10, 2004, Big Sky Energy obtained a loan for $505,000 from Lorgate Management.  They used the funds to purchase VEW, a limited liability company, from Batys Petroleum LLP and Glushich Victor Petrovich.  The deal gave Big Sky 100% ownership of VEW’s two gas and oil licenses in Kazakhstan: Atyrau and Liman-2.

Almost a year and a half later, on September 28, 2005, Big Sky Energy’s in-house lawyer, Farkhad Shakirov illegally transferred the Atyrau license to Ligostrade Services, LLP.  Big Sky filed a complaint in Almaty City Court claiming Shakirov had no legal authority to transfer the license.  They also filed for a restraining order in the District Court of Clark County in Nevada in the United States against Shakirov and, of all people, Ruslan Tsarni and his sister Maret Tsarnaeva. As a side note, apparently Tsarni’s sister became involved in Big Sky Energy when “Ms. Tsarnaeva…was brought into the Big Sky Calgary offices by Mr. Tsarni with the stated intention of training her to become the in-house counsel on corporate and securities matters.” I’m assuming you don’t need to pass the Bar in Canada to be an in-house attorney because I don’t think Ruslan Tsarni nor his sister ever held a law license in that country.  Like ever.

The restraining order in Nevada was subsequently granted but the Astana City Court in Kazakhstan, on appeal, ruled against Big Sky Energy resulting in Ligostrade’s possession of the Atyrau Block license.  In a 2005 SEC filing, Big Sky Energy reported:

“Subsequently, the Atyrau license was lost due to a fraudulent conveyance by a previous officer of VEW.”

As for appealing the Almaty decision, another SEC filing stated,

“While a further level of appeal to the Supervision Collegium of the Astana City Court was available to the Corporation, the Board of Directors, upon receipt of counsel from both legal and in-country advisors, took the considered decision that it was counter to the best interests of the Corporation to continue with this matter.”

The kicker?  Shakirov allegedly turned around and sued Big Sky Energy for his job back.

So what we have here is Tsarni essentially helping Shakirov illegally cock block Big Sky Energy from their own Atyrau license months after he resigned from the company and while he was still working for Nelson Resources.  You see, most online news sources, SEC filings, or blog posts imply that Ruslan Tsarni began working at Big Sky Energy after he left Nelson resources.  But he didn’t.  In fact, Ruslan Tsarni never left Nelson Resources before joining Big Sky and was working for five of its subsidiaries during his entire stay at Big Sky.  So much for the non-competition agreement.  Unless, of course, there was no competition (cue sound effects).  Below are the names of the subsidiaries and the dates when Tsarni was employed at Nelson:

  • Nelson Petroleum (KKM) from December 14, 2004 – December 2, 2005
  • NR Exploration Limited from December 14, 2004 – December 2, 2005
  • Nelson Petroleum (Arman) Limited from July 13, 2005 – December 2, 2005
  • Nelson Petroleum (Alko) Limited from July 26, 2005 – December 2, 2005
  • Nelson Petroleum Bezachi N.V. (2004 only known date)

Now if this doesn’t sound like a big salsa bowl of shadiness I don’t what does.  And no, Tsarni was never prosecuted.

And why did Ruslan Tsarni leave at least four of Nelson Resources’ subsidiaries on the exact same date:  December 2, 2005?

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Part 3:  Lukoil, Investment Firms, and Motive

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