9 episodes

The story of the biggest theft in history: the resources of the biggest country in the world, Russia, by its own government.

It’s the story of two men. One a rising star in business and the head of Yukos - a huge oil company: Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The other a former KGB officer who rose through the ranks to become President of Russia: Vladimir Putin.

With very different ideals, the two were destined to clash, and there could only be one winner. Vladimir Putin put Khodorkovsky in jail for ten years, stealing his company and becoming the richest man in the world.

In The Big Steal, Gavin Esler tells the story and examines Russia’s journey from democracy to kleptocracy, as the Putin regime attempts to erode democracy across the globe.

Produced by Fresh Air Production

The Big Steal Fresh Air Production

    • True Crime
    • 4.0 • 20 Ratings

The story of the biggest theft in history: the resources of the biggest country in the world, Russia, by its own government.

It’s the story of two men. One a rising star in business and the head of Yukos - a huge oil company: Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The other a former KGB officer who rose through the ranks to become President of Russia: Vladimir Putin.

With very different ideals, the two were destined to clash, and there could only be one winner. Vladimir Putin put Khodorkovsky in jail for ten years, stealing his company and becoming the richest man in the world.

In The Big Steal, Gavin Esler tells the story and examines Russia’s journey from democracy to kleptocracy, as the Putin regime attempts to erode democracy across the globe.

Produced by Fresh Air Production

    9. The Big Steal – Epilogue

    9. The Big Steal – Epilogue

    Gavin Esler talks to experts on Russia and its complicated political and economic landscape, to attempt to pull all the threads together and answer some of the questions that run through "the Big Steal".

    Gavin asks Vladimir Kara Murza how long Putin’s grip on power could last now he has effectively fixed things so he could be in power for as long as he lives. Can anything or anyone stop him? He asks Anne Applebaum if Russia will meddle in the US presidential election again this year? And what are the chances that Putin and his Kremlin cronies will ever be held to account?

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    • 37 min
    8. What comes after Putin?

    8. What comes after Putin?

    What comes next? There are clear indications that Putin was behind meddling in the US election of 2016, and convincing arguments to suggest that he tested his tactics on the UK’s Brexit referendum earlier that same year. The Putin regime aims to sow chaos around the world, making the West look just as much a basket case as Russia.

    But after 20 years, could Putin’s grasp on power be coming to an end? Or will he find a way to hang on to power?

    In this episode we ask what could follow once Putin leaves office. Will we be faced with a more violent leader, or will the people rise and take power? The next election is due in 2024, but there is a strong chance Putin could stay in government, but he cannot go on forever, and so what can be done to ensure Russia changes to benefit it’s population in the coming decades?

    This episode features Mark Galeotti, Garry Kasparov, Tim Snyder, Arend Jan Boekestijn, Anne Applebaum and Vladimir Kara Murza.

    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 37 min
    7. Russia's War Against Truth

    7. Russia's War Against Truth

    A world of misinformation, disinformation, falsehoods, propaganda - the normalisation of lies. This episode focuses on the weapons used by the Putin regime to create chaos around the world. Charges raised against Russia include meddling in elections, cyberwarfare, international aggression, carrying out murders on foreign soil, and bombarding us with fake news.

    So what can be done about it? Maybe the only real solution is to wait for the Russian nation to rise against the leadership, whilst also ensuring that government is held to account in the courts and institutions responsible for justice around the world. And hope that it’s not too late.

    Appearing in this episode are Ben Emmerson QC. Dennis Krivosheev from Amnesty International, Dutch broadcaster and former MP Arend Jan Boekestijn and Hubert Smeets from Raam op Rusland.

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    • 48 min
    6. Follow the Money

    6. Follow the Money

    To understand Russia’s journey from Communism to kleptocracy in a generation, the best approach is to follow the money.

    At the heart of the story is something called ‘Reiderstvo’. This is defined as the illicit acquisition of a business or part of a business in Russia. It’s similar to asset grabbing but whilst in 1990s Russia criminal gangs would use violence to steal what they could and bribe some officials to leave them alone, in modern day Russia it’s no longer criminal gangs stealing money and businesses, it is the Russian state using the state apparatus, including the law, to steal.

    In this episode we explore the consequences of reiderstvo. It damages the growth of the Russian economy and discourages foreign investors from putting money into the country. So whilst the president of the largest country in the world makes his billions, the population of Russia, some one hundred and forty-four million people, live in abject poverty.

    This episode attempts to discover what it is that Putin really wants: money, power or both?

    We hear from Louise Shelley, Anders Alsund, and Mark Galeotti in order to find out where the money trail may lead.

    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 21 min
    5. The American who made Putin Furious

    5. The American who made Putin Furious

    In December 2013, Mikhail Khodorkovsky is pardoned by Putin for humanitarian reasons: his mother is sick. But whilst Khodorkovsky is released, others still remain in jail, or even worse, have been killed, by the Putin regime.

    In this episode we explore some of those victims of Putin’s corruption. Yukos employees such as Vasiliy Aleksanyan who have died as a result of their incarceration, and the longest serving political prisoner, Alexei Pichugin.

    We then hear from Bill Browder, a man that angered Vladimir Putin so much that he was namechecked in the first summit meeting between Putin and President Trump.

    Bill Browder was doing business in Russia. He was targeted in a corporate identity theft, his companies were stolen and the $230 million tax he’d paid to the Russian government was refunded back to shell companies fraudulently.  His lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, investigated and figured it out. And instead of being rewarded for working out what had happened, he was arrested, thrown into jail and eventually brutally murdered by prison guards.

    Bill Browder now dedicates his life to getting the Magnitsky Act passed around the world: a law designed to freeze assets of human rights offenders and bans them from entering the country that imposes the act.

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    • 33 min
    4. The Man in the Cage

    4. The Man in the Cage

    Eight months after his arrest Mikhail Khodorkovsky is put on trial in a Moscow courtroom. It’s a show trial: Khodorkovsky is put in a cage; TV pictures are beamed all over the world, as if to set an example to other rich businessmen in Russia.

    Very quickly other rich oligarchs realise that Putin could come for them next and so they make deals with him, giving him 50% ownership of their companies, according to former businessman Bill Browder, to avoid persecution. This made Putin the richest man in the world.

    Meanwhile Khodorkovsky is sent to jail on trumped up charges of tax evasion and fraud.

    In this episode Mikhail Khodorkovsky recounts what life in a Russian jail was like and how significant the Yukos case was in terms of how Putin drew his line in the sand. He then set about taking down his perceived rivals one by one, and along the way he helped himself and his cronies to most of their money.

    We hear from opposition politician Vladimir Kara Murza and former chess grandmaster and now human rights campaigner Garry Kasparov as they recount the story of Khodorkovsky’s trial.

    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 20 min

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5
20 Ratings

20 Ratings

craxitx ,

Very repetitive

Just repeats the same snippets over and over instead of delving into detail. Gave up on it.

234);€ ,

Interesting but not enough detail on points.

Each episode would be better if you went into more detail on each point. Snippets of each topic do not explain what happened enough. Stop editing and just let the story play out!!

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