Under the banner ‘Between public good and bad governance’ the European Parliament hosted a conference discussing the contemporary role of NGOs, writes Gary Cartwright. Delegates, from the worlds of politics, civil society, academia, and the press heard the argument that the lines between NGOs and lobbyists, and, indeed, purveyors of fake news, have become increasingly blurred.
The highly controversial human rights NGO Open Dialogue Foundation (ODF) was highlighted for its increasingly controversial engagement in radical politics – a senior member of the organisation drew attention following his call for the Polish people to engage in civil disobedience, to withhold taxes, and to bring down the government.
There have also been questions raised over the funding of the organisation, and its involvement in supplying military equipment to the war-zone in eastern Ukraine.
Most worrying of all, delegates heard, are the links with fugitive Kazakh oligarch and convicted murdered and fraudster, Mukhtar Ablyazov and the coterie of equally dubious individuals surrounding him, many with similar convictions or outstanding charges.
Ablyazov himself, who is believed to have embezzled anything as as much as $6 – 7.6 billion, has already served jail sentences in Kazakhstan and France, has an outstanding 22-month sentence in the UK, and is wanted in Russia and Ukraine. He is also implicated in money-laundering in the USA the Donald Trump property enterprises.
ODF, delegates heard, is believed to have been set up and funded by Ablyazov, who uses the NGO to present himself, and his partners in crime, as persecuted political oppositionists. In this way they are able to lobby high-level EU politicians in their interests: a number of MEPs, charmed in this way, enabled Ablyazov to have an Interpol “red-notice” in his name overturned.
Indeed, ODF campaign against Interpol, a vital asset in the fight against cross-border crime, and therefore a thorn in the sides of Ablyazov and others such as his son-in-law, Ilyas Khrapunov, consistently.
The conference also heard how in April 2019 this so-called “human rights NGO” was revealed in Britain’s Sunday Times for direct involvement in laundering what it reports to be stolen Ablyazov’s money through companies in Scotland.
NGOs are a vital component of civil society, and act as a check on governments, particularly in less democratic states, where their activists often place themselves in considerable danger in order to highlight abuse and corruption of power.
It would appear that in the case of this particular NGO the gamekeeper has turned poacher!
The Author, Gary Cartwright, is the Publisher of EU Today.