Crimean money laundering zone for Russian bandits?
Crimean environmentalists warn that Moscow’s plans for a Crimean ‘Las Vegas’ could spell ecological disaster for the peninsula.
Plans for a free economic zone and gambling zone were made public back in March when Russia illegally annexed the Crimea. The law on creating a gambling zone, probably in Yalta, was passed by the State Duma on July 4 and soon signed into law by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Moscow claims that the creation of such a zone will bring in new investment and create new jobs. Anatoly Karpov, first deputy head of the State Duma committee on economic policy named a figure of 730 million USD which the move would supposedly bring in for the Crimean budget.
Used for money laundering
Margarita Litvinenko, head of the Council of Civic Organizations of Sevastopol, points out that the relevant infrastructure will need to be created. Since there are not so many appropriate places left in the Crimea she fears that it could be located partially or totally in the Yalta nature reserve,
Another option would be to place the casinos and night clubs on the land of government pensionats which Sergei Aksyonov’s puppet government appropriated after effectively taking control when Russian forces seized government buildings in Simferopol on Feb 27.
Nikolai Podolyak, member of the Council of Environmental NGOs of Sevastopol, says that “this government is nationalizing everything that belonged to Ukraine, including government sanatoriums for people with special needs in Yevpatoriya. This territory will be used for the gambling zone, nobody will build anything new”.
Podolyak believes that rather than investment, dirty money will flow to the peninsula. “The first question is who will go there to play? The second question is where will these people get the money to launder in these gambling zones? We can assume that this will be Russian criminal elements in view of the fact that the peninsula’s territory is now poorly controlled”.
Natalya Horodetska, lawyer for the NGO Environment – Law – Person, points out that Ukrainian legislation gives residents of Yalta the possibility of actively impacting on any decision to set aside land for a gambling zone. It also categorically bans the construction of casinos, other gambling or entertainment establishments in reserves and protected coastal strips. Unlike Russia, Ukraine has also ratified the Berne Conference on Protecting Wild Flora and Fauna. Article 4 of that document obliges signatories to take the flora and fauna and any danger to them into account when considering construction work.
No economic miracle, just environmental disaster
Four gambling zones have already been created in the Russian Federation, and not one has experienced any economic boom as a result.
Crimean environmentalists say that instead of building a gambling zone, Russia should invest money in, for example, developing the plumbing and sewage system in Balaclava where at present sewage is pouring out into the sea and then being swept up onto beaches. The water pipes in Yalta are also rusted and need replacing and there is no biological cleansing process for water, only mechanical. They warn that the authorities are increasingly often using water from small rivers within reserve zones which will lead to these drying up.
From the report here