Russian Billionaire Brings Gifts of the Magi to Moscow

Still with Russia (and slightly late); ITAR-TASS reports that the relics of the Gifts of Magi recently left Mount Athos in Greece for a temporary appearance at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow:

The relics are accompanied by a delegation of the brethren led by Archimandrite Parfeny (Mourelatos), who has been living in Athos for more than 50 years. At the Vnukovo-3 airport, the delegation was welcomed by representatives from the Moscow city government, the Russian Orthodox Church, and heads of the Fund of Saint Basil the Great, who have organized the Gift’s trip to Russia.

The report also has the incorrect detail that this is the “first time since the 15th century” that the relics have left Mount Athos;  in fact, they were displayed in the town of Larissa in 1986.

The exhibition in Russia of relics from Mount Athos is a growing trend. In late 2011 Vladimir Yakunin (a member of Putin’s inner circle and the head of Russia’s railways) arranged for the Virgin Mary’s belt to tour Russia; Yakunin believed the relic would promote family values, and the visit was a chance to promote links between Russia and Greece on the basis of shared Orthodox identity.

The Fund of Saint Basil the Great is headed by a billionaire businessman named Konstantin Malofeev; I blogged about him in July, after Austin Ruse of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute wrote about meeting him in Russia and discussing whether “some sort of grand global alliance between the Orthodox and Catholics can be achieved and what effect that might have on the global culture war advanced by the sexual left.”

I drew attention to a report by Alexei Navalny’s  Foundation For Fighting Corruption and the Russia Studies Centre at the Henry Jackson Society, which tells us the following concerning Malofeev’s business interests:

In 2007, VTB Bank and VTB Capital agreed to finance the sale of six Russian dairy farms by a company called Nutritek to a company called RAP. To that end, the bank granted RAP a loan of $225 million. RAP defaulted on the loan within a year in November  2009. A subsequent investigation revealed startling problems with the transaction. It is alleged by VTB Capital, though unproven, that both Nutritek and RAP were actually owned by the same person — Konstantin Malofeev— through separate subsidiaries of  his company, Marshall Capital Partners…It was also alleged that at the time of the sale, Nutritek had highly overinflated the value of the dairy plants. When all was said and done, the bank found itself in possession of a series of dairy facilities worth no more than $35 million though this figure is disputed. VTB has since been mired in years of unsuccessful litigation in the United Kingdom to try to get its money back. So not only had the bank extended nearly a quarter of billion dollars in credit on the basis of collateral worth less than one-fifth as much, it had allegedly financed a deal in which Malofeev had effectively sold his own company to himself, pocketing nearly $200 million in the process, based on VTB’s own calculations.

VTB alleges that it was misled throughout the process and that the civil liability rests solely in Malofeev’s hands. But it is apparent that there were many failures on the bank’s part, leading the Hon Justice Arnold of the High Court of Justice, Chancery Division in London to note in a November 2011 ruling that, “It is not clear from the evidence presently available what, if any, due diligence was carried out by or on behalf of either VTB Moscow or VTB to verify the assertions” made by the parties to the deal.

Malofeev’s business affairs and religious associations were discussed by the Russian edition of Forbes following the police raid, including the Saint Basil Fund.

Malofeev also heads a “League for a Safe Internet”, which promotes conservative websites and supposedly opposes online obscenity. In late 2012, Pavel Durov, who founded the social networking site Vkontakte, claimed that Malofeev had used the League to smear the site as part of a plan to take it over. RuNet Echo reported in April:

… Durov revealed [ru] in November 2012 that Konstantin Malofeev [ru] (then head of Marshall Capital Partners and a trustee at the League for a Safe Internet) had ordered media attacks on Vkontakte in August earlier that year, exploiting his position at the League to accuse Vkontakte of hosting large amounts of child pornography… Durov says that the media campaign against Vkontakte stopped on a dime the moment that he approached Malofeev for negotiations, and restarted the moment those talks broke down.

The Gifts of the Magi, meanwhile, have made their way across the border to Belarus.

The Moscow Times has a scornful opinion piece on the subject by Yulia Latynina.

Name variation: Archimandrite Parthenios (Mourelatos)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>