Staunton, January 15 – Igor Bitkov, a Russian industrialist who fell afoul of oligarchs linked to Vladimir Putin and was forced to flee to Guatemala was sentenced on January 10 to 19 years in prison there for hiding his identity and ordered to sell off all his assets to pay a claim by the VTB bank which played a key role a decade ago in seizing his company for the oligarchs.
In addition, his wife was also sentenced to 19 years in prison and his daughter 14 years behind bars. Others, including Guatemalan officials, who helped the Bitkovs protect their identity, were also sentenced to long prison terms. And under Guatemalan law, if his appeals fail, he will not be able to be paroled before completing his entire sentence.
The Guatemalan court also said it would bring a second case against Bitkov for money laundering to which he could be sentenced for an additional term as well Not surprisingly the Russian bank involved is delighted, but those concerned about justice and the reach of Russian private and often illicit power abroad shouldn’t be (kommersant.ru/doc/3516412
Spokesmen for the VTB bank said they would aggressively pursue anyone who has what they believe are their assets illegitimately regardless of what country they are located it, an indication that the numerous Russian businessmen who have been forced into emigration are likely to find themselves even more at risk after the Bitkov verdict than before.
But even more troubling than that is that this entire case trumped up by the oligarchs and their bankers against Igor Bitkov is really yet another aspect of the Putin regime’s efforts to suppress all criticism and opposition and its willingness to bend or ignore the law in the pursuit of wealth by its supporters.
For background on the Bitkovs and the persecution they have suffered, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2015/08/putin-economy-based-on-theft-cant.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2015/08/the-bitkov-case-dangerous-sign-of-times.html,