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DSK's New Life, Between Russian Banks And Serbian Hardliners

Strauss-Kahn in a file photo
Strauss-Kahn in a file photo
Alexandre Lévy

BELGRADE – Clean shaven, impeccably dressed in a dark suit and tie, Dominique Strauss-Kahn is back in business. On Sept. 17, France's former Finance Minister and disgraced head of the International Monetary Fund officially accepted a post as economic adviser to the Serbian government.

DSK's hosts in Belgrade had a hard time hiding how proud they were of recruiting such a hotshot economist — starting with the country's First Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic: "We are not ashamed to say that he knows much more about economy than all of us. And that in his address book he has more contacts from the world of finance than all of us together."

The 64-year-old will be assisting Serbia"s new finance minister, Lazar Krstic. The 29-year-old Yale prodigy is in charge of relaunching the country's economy and keeping unemployment in check, while at the same time reassuring international financial institutions.

All in all, Strauss-Kahn's private life is of no interest to the Serbians. A couple of days before the Frenchman was nominated as economic adviser, Vucic dismissed questions about DSK's involvement in alleged sexual scandals — which led to his resignation as IMF chief — stressing that the only thing the country was interested in was his competence in economic issues. Still, France had already warned Serbian authorities that Strauss-Kahn's nefarious reputation could potentially be harmful to Serbia's image.

A few months ago, France's Socialist Party (PS) — of which DSK has been a longtime prominent, yet now rather embarrassing member — had even sent out several emissaries to try and dissuade their "Serbian friends" from hiring him.

"The Serbians listened politely, then acted on their own. They wanted DSK — and they got him," a PS official said on condition of anonymity.

Since 2012, Serbia has been governed by a coalition of socialists — allies of late president Slobodan Milosevic — and the center-right, conservative Serbian Progressive Party (SNS). These two parties, although now declaring a push to integrate European values, have sometimes have a hard time convincing their Western partners of their democratic credentials.

Russian lobby

But this time, said Western partners are worried about more than just Serbia's image and reputation. "Rather than go through Bercy France's Ministry of Finance, Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been selected due to the intervention of various Russian energy lobbies present in the Balkans," said an unnamed source familiar with the Serbian-French relations. "This prompted our concerns about the economic interests that could be driving this choice."

Since July, Strauss-Kahn has been a board member of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which belongs to the Vnesheconombank (VEB) — Russia's powerful state development bank, formerly the Bank for foreign trade of the USSR. He is also a member of the Supervisory Board of the Russian Development Bank regions (BRDR), best known for being a subsidiary of the oil giant Rosneft.

Within the Serbian government, the choice has also prompted doubts. Members of the financial arm of the Ministry of the Interior — controlled by Socialist Prime Minister Ivica Dacic, a rival of Aleksandar Vucic — have voiced their concerns about the connections at work behind this appointment.

But the key figure behind Strauss-Kahn's new Serbian posting was in Belgrade on the day the economist accepted the job, quietly mingling with a crowd of overexcited reporters and officials who knew neither his face nor his name: Vladmir Mollov, a Bulgarian-born banker living in Paris, where he heads the very discreet Arjil investment bank.

Until now, few had ever heard of the elegant gray-haired man, or of his work as a mediator — except perhaps in Bulgaria, where he crossed paths with a few local oligarchs, including energy tycoon Hristo Kovatchki, from whom he tried to buy shares in the Sofia Municipal Bank back in 2010. The deal eventually didn't happen because of Kovatchki's involvment in an investigation for alleged tax evasion.

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"No F**king Future!" FSB Verifies Leaked Audio Of Putin Pals Bashing War

What does Russia's ruling class really think of Putin? A leaked audio recording of Russian producer Iosif Prigozhin and Russian billionaire ex-senator Farhad Akhmedov criticizing Putin has been verified by Russian intel service FSB, offering a peak into the anger toward the Kremlin's war.

Photo of Music producer Iosif Prigozhin

Music producer Iosif Prigozhin attending a party after a concert by opera stars ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, at the GUM Department Store.

Roman Anin

A leaked recording in which influential Russians close to President Vladimir Putin trash the leader and his handling of the war in Ukraine has been confirmed as authentic. This rare window into the opaque world of Russian oligarchs confirms the suspicion that the country's wealthy and powerful have grave concerns about the Kremlin

In the expletive-laden conversation, successful Russian music producer Iosif Prigozhin and billionaire and former Senator Farhad Akhmedov, strong public supporters of the war, can be heard describing Russian leaders as "f**king criminals" who have "f**ked up everything."

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The recording which first appeared on social media on March 7, but it wasn't until Sunday when a high-level source in the Russian intelligence services had confirmed to independent Russian media Vazhnyye Istorii (Important Stories) that that the recording was real.

"The recording of the conversation between Prigozhin and Akhmedov is authentic. The FSB leadership held a meeting the other day and ordered their subordinates to take action,” commented a FSB source.

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