SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
On its website, GlobalOptions, a Washington-based corporate security and investigations firm, describes itself as a “private CIA, Defense Department, Justice Department, and FBI, all rolled into one,” and says it offers
attorneys, crisis communications specialists, investigators, former senior policymakers and even commandos who can be mobilized on a moment’s notice to protect you, your employees, corporate reputation, bottom line, and share holder value.
The company does not reveal who it works for but pledges “absolute loyalty to our clients, because we believe that clients are the most important people in the world.”
According to recently filed court documents, GlobalOptions clients include Zeromax, a Swiss-based holding company widely reported to be the property of Gulnara Karimova, the powerful daughter of Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov. (A well-placed source told me that she exercises control over the company through a chain of individuals, including two whom she directly employed.) Gulnara, like the rest of the Karimov clan, has grown fabulously wealthy through corruption. She’s also the subject of an Interpol arrest warrant because she fled the United States with her children after losing a child-custody battle with her ex-husband, an American citizen.
GlobalOptions was founded in 1998 by Neil Livingstone, a former Pentagon and State Department advisor who frequently appears on TV to opine about terrorism. Livingstone was once one of the voices issuing repeated public calls for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, and following the American invasion, GlobalOptions began to offer consulting services to companies doing business in Iraq. Now he calls for destabilizing the Iranian regime. In addition to Livingstone, a host of big name insiders hold top positions at the firm, including former CIA director James Woolsey and former FBI and CIA director William Webster.
GlobalOptions recently went public and a 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission says that its “foreign clients operate primarily in Russia and the Caribbean.” The Wall Street Journal has reported that GlobalOptions has worked for a Cyprus-based firm called Highrock Holdings, which is controlled by a shady Ukrainian businessman named Dimytro Firtash. “In 2003-2005, Mr. Firtash brokered several billion-dollar deals between Gazprom and the government of Ukraine,” the Journal said. “They netted big profits for Highrock–and criticism from the U.S. ambassador to the Ukraine at the time for the deals’ lack of transparency . . . [I]n a recent lawsuit filed by GlobalOptions against Highrock claiming unpaid bills, the security firm alleged that Mr. Firtash hired GlobalOptions for an unspecified ‘special operation’ on behalf of a Ukrainian government official.”
GlobalOptions is now in the middle of another lawsuit with Livingstone, who left the firm after it went public to start a new company called Executive Action. Because Executive Action provides roughly identical services, GlobalOptions is accusing Livingstone of seeking to steal away its clients. Livingstone explained his position in a letter to clients explaining his departure, which I obtained from court records: “I did not like the bureaucratic and other constraints of a public company, nor was I comfortable with some of the disclosures that have to be made, especially concerning our discreet clients and cases.”
Among the documents from that lawsuit is an e-mail to Livingstone from Tom Ondeck, who runs a crisis management unit for GlobalOptions. A recent New York Times story detailed the role played by Ondeck–a disbarred attorney, according to the Times–in bringing a luxury golf resort to Akwa Ibom, a remote, desperately poor state in Nigeria. The letter identified four clients that Ondeck and Livingstone served jointly, and which GlobalOptions planned to keep: Akwa Ibom, Hayground Cove Asset Management, the Motley Rice law firm, and Zeromax. (I called Ondeck at GlobalOptions to ask him about the Zeromax account, but he declined to return my phone call.)
Gulnara, a would-be singer, is considered a possible successor to her father. A story in the Guardian identified $60 million in assets belonging to Gulnara, which included nightclubs, investment holdings, and a recording studio. That is believed to be a very small portion of her overall wealth, which reportedly includes stakes in energy and telecommunications ventures as well. “Uzbek media,” said the newspaper, “which are tightly state-controlled, have praised Ms. Karimova for charity works, dubbing her the Princess of Uzbeks.” It looks like GlobalOptions is Princess Gulnara’s escort to the Washington Ball.
Dictator’s Powerful Daughter on GlobalOptions Client List
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
Acreage of a Christian nudist colony under development in Florida:
Florida’s wildlife officials decided to remove the manatee, which has a mild taste that readily adapts to recipes for beef, from the state’s endangered-species list.
A 64-year-old mother and her 44-year-old son were arrested for running a gang that stole more than $100,000 worth of toothbrushes from Publix, Walmart, Walgreens, and CVS stores in Florida.
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
“He could be one of a million beach-bound, black-socked Florida retirees, not the man who, by some odd happenstance of life, possesses the brain of Albert Einstein — literally cut it out of the dead scientist's head.”