Back in April, I posted on Paul Manafort’s dealings with all manner of unsavory Slavic types including one in which he apparently screwed a Russian mobster out of over $7 million.

Lawyers for the Russian oligarch then started seeking information–and audits–about what happened to the investment and the management fees Deripaska’s firms had paid. In court papers, they allege they discovered that the Ukranian investment had been structured differently then they had been led to believe – with different partners. When they sought obtain copies of the agreement and sales contracts–as well as promised audit reports on their investment–Manafort and Gates did not respond to their requests. Deripaska’s lawyers then sought and obtained the appointment of court appointed liquidators to investigate what happened to his money.

To call Deripaska a mobster is to really to do him a disservice. Deripaska is an immensely wealthy man with close ties to Vladimir Putin. His business competitors have a habit of being bankrupted in lawsuits and subsequently imprisoned. Some of the people who have crossed him have turned up dead. He is not a man to be trifled with.

As I noted in the April post, cheating Deripaska out of several million dollars seemed like a very ill-thought-out evolutionary strategy and unlikely road to riches all rolled into a singular misadventure.

Perhaps not.

Mark Hemingway at the Weekly Standard reports on an interesting bit of speculation by Andrew Trabulsi. Trabulsi isn’t making stuff up, he’s the author of Warlords, Inc.: Black Markets, Broken States, and the Rise of the Warlord Entrepreneur, and is engaging in very informed speculation about what COULD be going on.

If you have a large quantity of illegal cash you need to make it legal some way in order to make it usable. In the United States you find tiny stores that have little customer traffic but if you looked at their books you’d find that there were tens of thousands of dollars in transactions going into a bank account and taxes being paid. Tabulsi speculates that the lawsuit may be what is called a “Russian Laundromat.” It accomplishes the same thing as a front business but requires a lot less work and leaves no paper trail.

russian laundromat

Why, indeed, was Manafort doing business with Deripaska and why did he abscond with the money?