Another good example of how the Internet can be used to screw those that abuse their power (and of course give us all a good dose of voyeurism). Apparently there are masses of phone conversation transcripts of leading Russian businessmen up on the Web.
Not that these are not your average businessmen. In fact, Mafia bosses would probably be a better description. And these conversations (apparently) reveal such gems as to who bumped off who, how to get out of a governmental investigation and how to get your hands on some top-quality whores. There's loads more and the transcripts, accepted as genuine (apparently), will take weeks to work through.
The fact that these transcripts are up on the Web provides a very interesting insight into what's going on in Russia at the moment. The new President, Mr Chechnya himself, Vladimir Putin has always said he will come down hard on the Mafia businessmen that are ruining foreign investment hopes.
He has been pushing hard but was livid last week when a favoured businessman who said he'd go legit was gunned down in his car - just one of many murders among the tycoon elite. It is thought - and is highly probable - that Putin has thus released the transcripts in order to blow the issue open.
The recorded conversations must have come from the KGB - which Vlad used to head - and the very fact that they are still on the Net and on Russian servers come to that would indicate government approval. However, it seems extremely unlikely that the information hasn't been tampered with.
Of course, the only problem with all this is that we don't speak a word of Russian and so haven't the foggiest whether we are looking at transcripts of phone chats or the gossip column from Hello! magazine (whatever that is in Russian). [Update: we have just spoken to news editor Rob's brother's Russian/Palestinian wife. "Hello" is "Zdravstujte" in Russian and OK! magazine would be Lavno! - nothing is too much trouble for our readers]
We can't find an online Russian translator either. Oh dear, bit of a non-story. Hang on, though we do have a fair few Russian readers and so we dedicate this story to you fellas.
[Double update: Native Russian Alex Chudnovsky has informed us that the informal Russian "hello" is "privet" - giving horticulturalists a new lease of life. Oh, and we misspelt OK! - it should be Ladno! That'll be our dodgy hearing]®
[Another update. This time thanks to Paul Dowsett. Sorry for the irritating updates but Paul has sent us the URL of a pretty good Russian translator. Go to this URL, change settings to Russian to English, type in the URL and hey presto. It is http://18.104.22.168/its/url]