Today I close out the Merry Month of May with a jolly tale of Russia’s most lovable rogue: Alexei Navalny. Navalny is Russia’s own version of “Sneaky Pete”, always on the lookout for a new mark. Always hip with the latest technology, Navalny was maybe the first Russian ever to figure out how to use Paypal and Yandex to scam his acolytes over the internet. Posing as an “Anti-Corruption” warrior against the Establishment, Navalny seamlessly separated young idealists from their wallets.
For his latest scam, I have the youtube video, linked just below, and please excuse me for one second while I throw up. Normally I have too much class to criticize other people for their personal appearance — I am no Adonis myself — but the sight of Navalny with his hunched shoulders, his protruding gut, and those hairy man-boobs … I am sorry, but this man is physically repulsive! Well, to be fair, Navalny used to be a handsome guy when he was younger. Otherwise the American State Department never would have picked him to be the new Russian President, as they did back in the day. It is a well-known fact that the fashion-conscious Americans only pick trim and handsome men, like the ever-smiling Juan Guaidó, to be the Presidents of other countries.
What Is Bitcoin?
Before I get to the Navalny vid, just a quick note on the topic: What is Bitcoin? Funny you should ask. I don’t fully understand this new technology myself, but bitcoin is said to be a form of electronic cash that can be exchanged for real cash. Like Euros or dollars, etc. Bitcoin is based on the digital/mathematical technology called Blockchain algorithms. It is actually just one of several possible applications of Blockchain. Recently I was reading, how the world of art selling and trading, has started to use Blockchain technology as well. For example, art purchasers can use Blockchain to buy (speculate in) shares of some newly planned work, for example some new masterpiece on canvas spray-painted by a elephant. The Blockchain algorithms ensure that the provenance and ownership of each work, or each share of the work, can never be disputed.
Regardless, the important point here, is that the nimble-minded Navalny has figured out how to use Blockchain/Bitcoin for a very useful purpose of his own: Not to purchase art in this case, but to enjoy great holidays with his family and spend down his excess cash.
As the video begins, the unseen narrator lambasts Navalny for spending “millions” on the luxurious lifestyle to which he has become accustomed. We are shown images of Navalny’s exotic family vacations in Egypt, Thailand, and the like. Makers of the video blot out the faces of his two children, for obvious reasons: They are innocents, they should not be judged by the corruption of their parents. Although, in truth, both children are old enough now to know the difference between those who work for an honest living, versus those who scam other people to earn their living. Or those who live on the dole of oligarchs and foreign governments.
The narrator goes on and on, listing all the money spent and all the luxury hotels and dinners, the shopping, the boutiques, etc. Frankly, this doesn’t interest me. I myself take nice vacations whenever I can, and I don’t begrudge anyone else a luxury lifestyle. Provided they earned their dough through honest labor. Which is actually the issue here.
At :44 seconds in, we see a screenshot from Navalny’s blog, in which he invites his loyal readers to “Support our Work”. And you can click on 4 possible methods of payment: From Left to Right: Credit Card, Bank Account, Bitcoin, and Paypal.
Frankly, I recommend to just click on Bank Account, be sure to include all your bank’s routing numbers and so on; that way Navalny can just dip into your account whenever he needs some cash.
Transfer via Bitcoin — is legal, anonymous and safe, both for the sender as the receiver. One can obtain bitcoins on the market, for example, at LocalBitcoins, and transfer to us. Followed by the address of Navalny’s Blockchain or Cryptocurrency account (?)
At :50 seconds in, the unseen narrator shows us a list of all the transactions to this account, with DateTime stamps, for example 2018-05-26 06:17:24, etc.
By an amazing coincidence, each of these transactions corresponds, in time, with one of Navalny’s trips abroad. For example, on April 21, 2018 somebody donated 3 Bitcoins, which correlates with his family’s trip to Egypt. On May 10, 2018 somebody donated 2 Bitcoins, which correlates with their Italian vacation. And so on.
But what is really going on here?
Navalny experts believe that their hero is so flush with money that he can’t spend it in Russia, due to suspicions of tax fraud. The only way that he can rid himself of this excess wealth is to lavishly consume it abroad. The Bitcoin account is possibly not even for receiving the donations of suckers, but, realistically, just a way to mask his actual illegal earnings, launder his actual cash, and was set up for this specific purpose of foreign travel and vacation spend-down. Remember that the Blockchain technology guarantees absolute anonymity of transactions. For all we know, Navalny could be transferring his own money to himself!
The rest of the vid just goes into more details of Navalny’s trips: New York, Spain, Berlin, Athens, Paris, Cairo, etc. And all the money spent, all the conspicuous consumption. Again, that’s not the point, everybody loves the occasional lobster dinner.
The point is that Navalny’s official (taxable) earnings as a real estate attorney, cannot support such a lifestyle. And nobody yet, certainly not Russia’s tax officials, have ever figured out the depths of Navalny’s unofficial, untaxed income. It certainly doesn’t come from little old ladies out there in the Russian wilderness, donating their hard-earned coins to the “Anti-Corruption” hero. Well, maybe a few suckers, but certainly not enough to account for all the loot. Hence, the theory goes, the internet donations, while a real thing, are actually just a front for a much bigger money-laundering scheme. But then a problem arises: For certain unfortunate people in this world, there is such a thing as having too much money. Hence there must be a way to spend it down. And also a way to plausibly account for that spending. Hence, Bitcoin.