The TV Exec, The Oligarch& the Global Far Right
Jack Hanick, who created a Pro-Putin propaganda network for Putin’s favourite sanctioned oligarch, has been arrested in London – but the connections between his employer and the global far-right run deep
Former Fox News executive Jack Hanick was arrested in London on Thursday for violating US sanctions and making false statements to the FBI over his work with Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev, according to federal prosecutors.
The US Justice Department has requested that the UK extradite Jack Hanick.
The arrest came a week after Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, and two days after US President Joe Biden used his State of the Union address to announce a Department of Justice task force to pursue Russian oligarchs in response to Russia’s war.
Malofeyev – known by US intelligence as the Russian President’s “right arm for operations of political interference in Europe” – has been accused of providing support to rebels in eastern Ukraine. He was named as one of the “main sources of financing for Russians promoting separatism in Crimea” after Putin invaded in 2014.
Jack Hanick was a director on Fox News for 15 years before he started working with Malofeyev in 2013 on the oligarch’s Tsargrad TV channel. The Orthodox Christian, pro-Putin, anti-rights media venture has been accused of spreading disinformation and platformed far-right conspiracy theorists such as Alex Jones. Tsargrad TV was banned by YouTube in 2020 due to sanctions against Malofeyev.
With Hanick, Malofeyev was building a conservative media empire. According to court documents, they had been attempting a media expansion into Bulgaria and Greece.
Malofeyev has been quoted as saying: “I am the owner of the television channel, Tsargrad. We criticise those in power. But one should not criticise Vladimir Putin. That is absolutely forbidden.”
The discussion with Jones was hosted by Aleksandr Dugin – editorial director of Tsargrad TV and a neo-fascist philosopher dubbed ‘Putin’s Rasputin’. Dugin’s beliefs that Russia needs to create a Eurasian empire in opposition to the West, roll-back history and progress to feudalism, and that Ukraine does not have a right to exist, have apparently influenced Putin’s policies.
“The FBI hates it when they get lied to, and they may have decided to make an example of Hanick,” Martin Sheil, a retired Internal Revenue Service criminal investigator, told Byline Times. “Certainly, the Treasury department has had Malofeyev near the top of their list of oligarchs to sanction given his financial support to the leaders of the separatist provinces in Ukraine. Their financial scrutiny of Malofeyev may have uncovered some additional financial connections of concern that encompasses Hanick.”
Sheil noted that Fox News and Breitbart have a history of support for Putin and that Hanick “knows a lot of people and political players”. In the run-up to the invasion of Ukraine, Fox host Tucker Carlson demanded to know “why shouldn’t I root for Russia, which I am” and repeated a Trumpian conspiracy about Ukraine and the Biden family.
In the indictment published by the US Justice Department, Hanick is accused of violating the Emergency Economic Powers Act, having allegedly worked with Malofeyev who was sanctioned by the US in 2014 following the annexation of Crimea.
Hanick is the first person charged with violating sanctions in response to Russia’s 2014 invasion.
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The Director and the Oligarch
Malofeyev gained his wealth in telecommunications during the late 2000s. He has used his power to wage an information war on Europe, allegedly providing loans to far-right parties and funding anti-abortion, anti-LGBTIQ initiatives in the region.
His influence empire includes the Katehon think-tank which regularly platforms far-right authors and is “considered one of the instruments for Russian interference in the West”. The US State Department describes Katehon as “a proliferator of virulent anti-Western disinformation and propaganda”.
Tsargrad TV is the public entertainment face of Katehon. Dubbed by the Financial Times as “God’s TV, Russian style”, the channel was deliberately designed to mimic Fox News and judge political candidates’ views on issues such as religion, abortion, LGBTIQ rights and Putin.
“When Fox News entered the American market in around 1996 to 1997, they were very different from CNN and ABC,” Malofeyev has said in the past. “Fox talked about things that people would discuss among themselves in their kitchens but which other channels were too scared to say, or didn’t want to say on air. In many ways, Tsargrad is similar to what Fox News has done. We started from the idea that there are many people who adhere to traditional values and they absolutely need a voice.”
According to court documents, Hanick assured Malofeyev the TV channel would “implement his vision… You are the founder and chief architect of the project.”
That vision includes claiming the 2015 refugee crisis was the deliberate work of either George Soros or the Rothschild family – an antisemitic conspiracy theory – and that reproductive healthcare providers in the US are “American Satanists” who “openly support the killing of children”. The channel ran an advert offering a one-way ticket out of Russia to anyone who “can provide a medical certificate proving that they are sodomites or have other forms of perversion”.
The involvement of Aleksandr Dugin exposes the neo-fascist elements of Malofeyev’s vision. Dugin has written that Russia needs to build an Eurasian empire and seeks to reverse progress and science, saying “modernity is absolutely wrong – science, values, philosophy, art, society, modes, patterns, ‘truths’, understanding of Being, time and space. All is dead with Modernity. So it should end. We are going to end it”.
There is little wonder that Malofeyev sought the help of a Fox News executive in launching his channel. The Murdoch-controlled vehicle has become less news, more propaganda over the years, providing an unchallenged platform for President Donald Trump and regularly airing conspiracist, anti-rights content.
The International Religious Right
In an unpublished memoir cited in the indictment, Hanick recalled how he travelled to Russia in February 2013, ostensibly to speak at a conference. However, “the real purpose of the trip” was for Malofeyev to “introduce [Hanick] to investors” in what would become Tsargrad TV.
Emails sent later that year confirmed Hanick as the managing director of the venture, reporting directly to Malofeyev, according to the indictment.
In or around May 2014, an email from Hanick explained how it was important to Malofeyev that his channel went on air by September that year, as “there is a worldwide conference in September which he [Malofeyev] is sponsoring bringing people from all over the world to Moscow”.
The indictment confirms that “this was a reference to a conference sponsored in September 2014 by a foundation created and funded by Malofeyev”.
The conference in question was likely the planned 2014 World Congress of Families – a US initiative that annually brings together anti-abortion, anti-LGBTIQ campaigners and politicians. Previous attendees include Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, leader of the far-right Lega Party in Italy Matteo Salvini, and the UK Christian Concern’s Andrea Minichello-Williams.
It was initially slated to take place in Moscow but had to be cancelled due to sanctions against Russia following the invasion of Crimea. One of the entities sharing organisational tasks with WCF was Konstantin Malofeyev’s Saint Basil the Great Charitable Foundation.
Staff member at Malofeyev’s foundation, Alexey Komov, is the Russian representative at WCF. Its Director, the US Christian-right activist Brian Brown, joins Komov on the board of the anti-abortion, anti-LGBTIQ campaigning organisation CitizenGO. Komov’s relationship with WCF and CitizenGO demonstrates the international collaboration between the Russian, European and US anti-gender movements.
When WCF was cancelled, a replacement conference was held by oligarch Vladimir Yakunin, titled the ‘Large Families and the Future of Humanity Forum’. It maintained the same dates, location, speakers and participants. Yakunin’s foundation had also shared organisational tasks with WCF, along with St Basil the Great Charitable Foundation.
Komov promoted the event as the “‘Olympics’ of the international Pro-Life movement supporting the Natural Family”. He pushed ahead with the event under the auspices of the two foundations controlled by Malofeyev and Yakunin.
UK individuals listed as “foreign participants” were Thomas Ward from the National Association of Catholic Families and the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), and Benjamin Harris-Quinney of the Bow Group.
US foreign participants included Sharon Slater from Human Life International, Don Leder from WCF, and Brian Brown of both WCF and the National Campaign for Marriage – again demonstrating the close links between Russian and US anti-gender movements.
Daniel P Schmidt from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation was also listed: the Bradley Foundation donated to the Bradley Impact Fund, a central player in distributing money to organisations pushing conspiracy theories about voter fraud during the US 2020 election.
Hanick did not hit the deadline: Tsargrad TV was launched the following year.
Malofeyev is also linked to far-right parties in Europe. According to Mediapart, two Rassemblement National MEPs negotiated loans worth €11 million in which Konstatin Malofeyev “played a role in unblocking the Russian loan obtained by Jean-Marie Le Pen, which financed the European election campaign (of 2014)”. He is a “contact” of far-right Italian politician Matteo Salvini.
Tsargrad-media does not publish financial statements, but according to media reports, between 2014 and 2018, it operated about one billion roubles in the red.
Retired IRS criminal investigator Martin Sheil said Hanick’s arrest may indicate the FBI has its eye on a bigger prize.
“It would not be that big of a deal for the FBI and the US Attorney to dismiss the perjury charge should Hanick have something juicy to provide the Feds relative to a more significant target of opportunity,” Sheil told Byline Times. “As the Russians say, Vremya Pokazhet – time will tell”.