Some of you may be aware of a foreign johnny called Alisher Usmanov, an Uzbek Oligarch with an unsavoury reputation, who has bought a large chunk of a publicly quoted UK company (Arsenal Football Club), control of which he may shortly seek to acquire.

This individual has, apparently, a singularly murky gangsterish past which was the subject of a posting on the blog of former Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray who there gave chapter and verse about the man. One is bound to say that, if Mr. Craig is right about this chap, then he is not a fit and proper person to run a whelk stall let alone be a Director of a UK Company.

Mr. Usmanov’s response was to set the attack dogs on Mr. Murray in the form of a particularly expensive firm of solicitors whose threatening prose led to the closing down of the server upon which Mr. Murray and others (including one Boris Johnson, would be Mayor of London, who was caught as a victim of collateral damage).

All bloggers have an interest in not allowing this piece of bullying activity to succeed. If what was written about Mr. Usmanov is untrue and defamatory, he has a remedy in law and the money to pursue it. Let him sue and see if he can get an injunction and damages from the courts. As he has not done so, one can properly draw a reasonable inference from that glaring failure which is that the allegations are true and that he is simply trying to use his undoubted muscle to silence criticism.

That being so, it is incumbent on us all to reproduce Craig Murray’s piece in the public interest, since Mr. Usmanov may find it rather difficult to close down most of the world’s servers. This will also demonstrate to others tempted to follow his example that, should you do so, whatever you try to suppress will simply be broadcast ever wider as all of us interested in free speech disseminate it in this way.

So, if you are a blogger on any topic at all and you are so minded, copy the piece and post it on your own blog. In this way this man and others like him will discover swiftly the power of the world of blogging, the samizdat of the day.

So here is Craig Murray’s piece, reposted from fellow Umbrella Blogger, England Expects (here). Note that, for the reasons above, the links may not work:

Reposted from Craig Murray (Original post date was 6th September 2007)

“I thought I should make my views on Alisher Usmanov quite plain to you. You are unlikely to see much plain talking on Usmanov elsewhere in the media because he has already used his billions and his lawyers in a pre-emptive strike. They have written to all major UK newspapers, including the latter: “Mr Usmanov was imprisoned for various offences under the old Soviet regime. We wish to make it clear our client did not commit any of the offences with which he was charged. He was fully pardoned after President Mikhail Gorbachev took office. All references to these matters have now been expunged from police records . . . Mr Usmanov does not have any criminal record.” Let me make it quite clear that Alisher Usmanov is a criminal. He was in no sense a political prisoner, but a gangster and racketeer who rightly did six years in jail. The lawyers cunningly evoke “Gorbachev”, a name respected in the West, to make us think that justice prevailed. That is completely untrue.

Usmanov’s pardon was nothing to do with Gorbachev. It was achieved through the growing autonomy of another thug, President Karimov, at first President of the Uzbek Soviet Socilist Republic and from 1991 President of Uzbekistan. Karimov ordered the “Pardon” because of his alliance with Usmanov’s mentor, Uzbek mafia boss and major international heroin overlord Gafur Rakimov. Far from being on Gorbachev’s side, Karimov was one of the Politburo hardliners who had Gorbachev arrested in the attempted coup that was thwarted by Yeltsin standing on the tanks outside the White House.

Usmanov is just a criminal whose gangster connections with one of the World’s most corrupt regimes got him out of jail. He then plunged into the “privatisation” process at a time when gangster muscle was used to secure physical control of assets, and the alliance between the Russian Mafia and Russian security services was being formed. Usmanov has two key alliances. he is very close indeed to President Karimov, and especially to his daughter Gulnara. It was Usmanov who engineered the 2005 diplomatic reversal in which the United States was kicked out of its airbase in Uzbekistan and Gazprom took over the country’s natural gas assets. Usmanov, as chairman of Gazprom Investholdings paid a bribe of $88 million to Gulnara Karimova to secure this. This is set out on page 366 of Murder in Samarkand. Alisher Usmanov had risen to chair of Gazprom Investholdings because of his close personal friendship with Putin, He had accessed Putin through Putin’s long time secretary and now chef de cabinet, Piotr Jastrzebski. Usmanov and Jastrzebski were roommates at college. Gazprom Investholdings is the group that handles Gazproms interests outside Russia, Usmanov’s role is, in effect, to handle Gazprom’s bribery and sleaze on the international arena, and the use of gas supply cuts as a threat to uncooperative satellite states.

Gazprom has also been the tool which Putin has used to attack internal democracy and close down the independent media in Russia. Gazprom has bought out – with the owners having no choice – the only independent national TV station and numerous rgional TV stations, several radio stations and two formerly independent national newspapers. These have been changed into slavish adulation of Putin. Usmanov helped accomplish this through Gazprom. The major financial newspaper, Kommersant, he bought personally. He immediately replaced the editor-in-chief with a pro-Putin hack, and three months later the long-serving campaigning defence correspondent, Ivan Safronov, mysteriously fell to his death from a window. All this, both on Gazprom and the journalist’s death, is set out in great detail

Usmanov is also dogged by the widespread belief in Uzbekistan that he was guilty of a particularly atrocious rape, which was covered up and the victim and others in the know disappeared. The sad thing is that this is not particularly remarkable. Rape by the powerful is an everyday hazard in Uzbekistan, again as outlined in Murder in Samarkand page 120. If anyone has more detail on the specific case involving Usmanov please add a comment. I reported back in 2002 or 2003 in an Ambassadorial top secret telegram to the Foreign Office that Usmanov was the most likely favoured successor of President Karimov as totalitarian leader of Uzbekistan. I also outlined the Gazprom deal (before it happened) and the present by Usmanov to Putin (though in Jastrzebski’s name) of half of Mapobank, a Russian commercial bank owned by Usmanov.

I will never forget the priceless reply from our Embassy in Moscow. They said that they had never even heard of Alisher Usmanov, and that Jastrzebski was a jolly nice friend of the Ambassador who would never do anything crooked.

Sadly, I expect the football authorities will be as purblind. Football now is about nothing but money, and even Arsenal supporters – as tight-knit and homespun a football community as any – can be heard saying they don’t care where the money comes from as long as they can compete with Chelsea.

I fear that is very wrong. Letting as diseased a figure as Alisher Usmanov into your club can only do harm in the long term”.