Back to the Future: The Magnex Files
Starting with the saga of YBM Magnex and its web of white collar, and Russian, organized crime.
Wading back into paper files in this computer age is not something I'll be doing for a long time. If ever. Online, there's not one common repository for all that I wrote about YBM Magnex. It's a big, sprawling story. Numerous essays were published in 1997/98 on a website that I took down (offline) before this millenia. There were also quite a number of articles written for a Canadian trade publication called Canada Stockwatch. Finally, there was a multi-part feature that appeared in The Vancouver Sun newspaper.
Sincere requests have prompted me to look for writings I've not seen in almost a decade! It's cool to find, that, while, not all, quite a lot, of my reportage on YBM Magnex, and assorted tales of white collar crime and rascality, remains cached in cyberspace thanks to the Wayback Machine and archives of various financial forums, newsgroups, and major media publications. To collect this mass of data would require intensive digging and sorting (and/or having an account in some instances). There's no rush, eh!
In the case of YBM one finds years of coverage in newspapers and other media that followed my reportage of '97/'98. The scandal - involving Semion Mogilevich and his network - spawned lawsuits, criminal charges, government regulatory hearings+ - all of which earned extensive, often international, press coverage.
RACKETEERING; SECURITIES FRAUD; WIRE FRAUD; MAIL FRAUD; MONEY LAUNDERING
IF YOU HAVE ANY INFORMATION CONCERNING THIS CASE, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR
SHOULD BE CONSIDERED ARMED AND DANGEROUS AND AN ESCAPE RISK
ROBERT S. MUELLER, III DIRECTOR FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON, D.C. 20535 TELEPHONE: (202) 324-3000
From 1986 until 1995, I wrote, primarily, for print publications around the world - newspapers and magazines including those Canadian journals mentioned in my first post on starting this blog - and others including The Observer (London), The New York Times, The Washington Post, Forbes and Barron's. Though largely in print, I also worked in broadcast media - researching documentaries for the BBC, Channel 4 in the UK, ABC in Australia, ABC-TV and CNN in the U.S., and, home in Canada, for the CBC's Fifth Estate and CTV's W5 investigative tv programs.
From 1995 to 1998, I created one of the first, and most detailed, investigative journals on the internet. "Back in the day", this was more like posting a book online. My YBM Magnex web-text alone is 50,000 words. Sheesh. (I don't know a total, but it looks like I wrote several hundred thousand words on other entities! All in laborious HTML-tagged text. lol)
Discovering blogging, I'm reminded of the thrill of those days. Only it's better now. Writing online is faster and more fun! It's easier to make things graphically appealing. Web searches are superior. So much data is now online. And, people are connected. What I find especially welcome is that there is now a genuine global community on the web.
In light of this exciting new environment - given time, (yeah, right - more like, given next-to-no-sleep), I may attempt to reconstruct "my back pages". If it'd make for a potentially entertaining cultural study of corruption. Maybe, eh?
First, however, I'd want to find a blog or other format that doesn't run all the words into one long page - or, make the archives less prominent than the present content. Something not-so-linear in contextual applications. A blog or other format with multi-dimensional form. Maybe I just need more time to play with links on blogger. Is Wordpress the answer?
Should anyone, in practice, not theory, want to read several books-worth of writings on the arcana of con-artistry, well, good for you! Unless, though, it can appear on multiple pages, and be enlivened with great images, even sounds ~ it's seems too static. Also, it may be that I need two, separate, blogs. Combining historic "true white collar crime" essays with current analyses of the music world may be too jarring. It's an uneasy juxtaposition - to my mind. Of course, blogs seem to be about anything people choose them to be! Something to sleep on...
Even should it seem like a good idea to be acted upon, it'll be months, likely more, before I'll have any opportunity to do the job right. For now, if you've a taste for stories like YBM Magnex, here's a page that contains a nice mix of items - a few by myself, and a few by other investigative writers. It's the reporter's equivalent of a mixed-tape or CD song-sampler: Russian Mafia
Here, below is the intro that appeared online in 1998 to:
The Magnex Files
- Eternal Russia. The soul of this country is so deep, the beauty it can create so powerful, perhaps unique in the world. But there is always that other dark, brooding, violent and greedy side that is never far from the surface.
Jennifer Gould -- Vodka, Tears, and Lenin's Angel
The strange case of YBM Magnex International, Inc. is the most extraordinary I've ever investigated. A study of YBM is extraordinary in that it so clearly reveals the essential nature of Canada's stock markets.
The articles on this web-page will, hopefully, shine some public light into corners of the most bizarre affair, and the case most graphically illustrative of the nurturing corporate culture, encountered in close to 20 years work, much of it exploring the dark underworld of Canada's junior financial markets.
The saga of YBM Magnex began to receive expansive coverage through such regional U.S. newspapers as The Bucks County Courier Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Philadelphia Daily News in mid-May 1998. The first American print journal to give extensive national coverage to related subject matter was The Village Voice with its publication of Robert Friedman’s May 26 1998 cover story, “The Most Dangerous Mobster in the World”. However, word of the criminal activities of Russia's Semion Mogilevich (and the alleged use of Arigon/YBM as a money laundering conduit by the Russian mafia) was widely accessible long before May 1998 on the internet and in European print journals. As early as 1995/96 newspapers and magazines in Czechoslovakia, Hungary and countries formerly of the Soviet Union, carried details of such activities. By at least 1997 (and likely earlier) various news articles and police intelligence reports were accessible on-line to anyone with an internet connection.
On this, my own, web-site I began publishing analyses of the YBM Magnex scam in March 1998 (following the first stock market exposes of YBM which appeared in Canada Stockwatch). In April 1998 I alerted virtually all major Canadian media outlets to YBM’s Russian mafia links (including Mogilevich and another “godfather”, Sergei Mikhailov). The story gained international attention when dozens of U.S. federal agents raided YBM’s Newtown, Pennsylvania headquarters on May 13 1998. Within days of the raid, the YBM story (and the history of Mogilevich et al in the U.K.) appeared on television news, and in newspapers and magazines around the world - from London’s The Observer and The Financial Times to Hungary’s HVG and The Financial Post and The Globe and Mail in Canada.
In May of 1999, David Baines, a reporter with The Vancouver Sun newspaper, and I received a National Newspaper Award (Canada’s top print journalism award) for our breaking coverage of the YBM-Russian mafia story.
In handing out the award, the NNA noted:
“The Vancouver Sun’s David Baines, working with freelance securities investigator and writer Adrian du Plessis, unraveled the intriguing tale of YBM Magnex International Inc., the Canadian company that operated as a money laundering vehicle for the Russian mafia. The Sun began its early work on the company’s murky business dealings and links to organized crime even as investors were driving its share prices to record levels on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Judges called it a thoroughly comprehensive effort that combined extraordinary initiative, research, analysis and writing.”