Alisher Usmanov, the wealthy Uzbek-Russian steel and telecom magnate, is making waves again. He first came to the world’s attention for trying to censor Craig Murray’s quite appropriate criticism of his viciousness as a business oligarch in 2007. It was a classic example of abusing the UK’s very loosey-goosey libel laws. Then, in 2009, Usmanov bought a substantial share in Facebook. By 2010 he was one of the world’s richest men (and this year was ranked #35).
Last month, Usmanov decided to try to increase his stake in the soccer/football team Arsenal. While that’s probably not worth noting all on its own, it IS worth noting that Usmanov was just ranked the second wealthiest person residing in the UK, just after Indian tycoon Lakshmi Mittal and just above fellow oligarch Roman Ambramovich. The top three wealthiest men in the UK are foreigners, in other words.
While we ponder how it is that a man from one of the world’s most dysfunctional countries is also one of its wealthiest, we should keep in mind that wealthy Uzbeks like Alisher Usmanov and Lola Karimova-Tillyeva have made global asses of themselves through their relentless internet libel tourism: first with Usmanov’s injunction against Murray’s website and this year with Lola’s suing a French website for calling Uzbekistan what it very obviously is: a dictatorship.
Coming up next week, a French court is set to rule whether Islom Karimov, the vicious thug who rules one of the world’s least free countries, is really a dictator or not. Because one of his children threw a temper tantrum over dear old daddy being described accurately on the Internet.
It is a surreal world we live in. But no matter how obnoxious Lola Karimova-Tillyeva is, with her Frenchified libel tourism, she still can’t hold a candle to dear old Usmamov, either in terms of wealth or global commercial dominance. Uzbeks all the way.