There’s bling, and then there’s blingski — which is a different, more elevated beast altogether. If you enjoy revelling in the outrageous vulgarity, tastelessness and ruthlessness of people who are rich beyond all imagining, then this is the book for you.
It is a magnificently emetic account of the lifestyles of the Russki oligarchs who, since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, have made their homes in London to take advantage of our generous tax laws, imperviousness to extradition proceedings and profusion of sushi restaurants. It is not quite, as the subtitle suggests, the “inside” story of the oligarchs — but it is about as close as the authors dare to get.
The four oligarchs in particular featured here — Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, aluminium magnate Oleg Deripaska, now jailed oil baron Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and the somewhat odd fugitive Boris Berezovsky, all beguilingly baby-faced (except for Boris) and taciturn (except for Boris) — are perhaps not people to be messed with.
There are now a staggering 300,000 Russians in London, giving it the nickname Moscow-on-Thames among the expat community, and 100 or so of these people are very rich indeed. They came here after the rapid privatisation and asset-stripping of Russian industry in the mid-1990s, at first because of the congenial tax arrangements but also because they considered London fashionable.
But when the Russian president Vladimir Putin began to get tough with the oligarchs after the turn of the century, they began to see London as a safe haven, too. They stayed here — and spent money; how they spent money.