Sunday, December 28, 2014

No, NBA vetting of Prokhorov not that extensive, investigator's memoir suggests

So, how much was Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov vetted by the National Basketball Association before he was approved as majority owner of the Nets? Not much, suggested critic Mike Taibbi, who in October 2010 scornfully asked, "Who did the vetting, Stevie Wonder?"

The privatization auctions that launched Prokhorov into the oligarchy were, "at least by American standards... shamelessly, transparently, hilariously rigged," wrote Taibbi four years ago.

Now comes confirmation that such activities were not the focus of the NBA investigation, which instead apparently focused on Prokhorov's arrest and brief jailing in Courchevel, France.

The Prokhorov vetting gets a brief paragraph in the new memoir Good Hunting: An American Spymaster's Story, by investigator and former CIA agent Jack Devine of The Arkin Group (TAG), along with Vernon Loeb. Writes Devine:
The case proved extremely complex and challenging, beginning with Prokhorov's arrest in January 2007 by French police in Courchevel, an opulent ski resort in the French Alps, reportedly on suspicion of providing his guests with prostitutes... Speculation swirled in Moscow that Prokhorov had been set up Courchevel, though French police said they had been investigating Russian prostitution at the resort for some time. Despite the colorful publicity, extensive research revealed that Prokhorov had no ties to organized crime and that his financials qualified him to become an NBA owner.
Other issues ignored?

That's a rather limited discussion of issues that also included allegations about Prokhorov's role busting sanctions in Zimbabwe. A Prokhorov associate denied such allegations to the Times's Richard Sandomire, who could not verify that denial.

Remember how then-NBA commissioner David Stern was asked by 60 Minutes's Steve Kroft, "Do you think he's a man of character?"

"I think he's a man who's passed a very tight security check," Stern replied deliberately, "and nobody has come up with any reason why he shouldn't be an NBA owner."

A limited investigation

Sandomir wrote in May 2010:
Last fall, Stern said the investigation into Prokhorov would be “very extensive, stringent, some would say, invasive.” On Friday, [league spokesman Mike] Bass said that generally, “it is fair to say that we do not routinely investigate the business operations of every company in which a prospective owner has invested.”
Devine's memoir suggests--but does not fully confirm--that the NBA was focused on the issue of organized crime as well as the arrest in France, not Prokhorov's full business history.

No comments:

Post a Comment