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CONNECT THE WORLD
Cyprus Reaches Bailout Deal with EU; Secretary of State John Kerry Makes Surprise Afghanistan Visit; Tiger Woods Reclaims World Number One Ranking
Aired March 25, 2013 - 17:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MAX FOSTER, HOST: Bankruptcy averted, but top depositors will pay a very heavy price. Tonight, we break down the winners and the losers of Cyprus's bailout deal.
ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN London, this is Connect the World.
FOSTER: Also ahead, the mysterious death of a Russian oligarch raises eyebrows in England and abroad. A closer look at the life and death of Boris Berezevsky.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's awful.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible)
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FOSTER: Should you pay what you weigh? More on a suggested airline pricing model that's become a rather weighty issue.
Cyrpus's place in the EuroZone is safe for now, but the country has been forced to pay a very hefty price. Across Europe and in the U.S. bank shares closed lower on Monday. The bailout deal includes a tax on some bank deposits, an unprecedented step. And some fear that model could be used for other countries in need of aid. Many Cypriots are preparing themselves for tough days ahead.
More on that in a moment, but first the main points of the deal. The plan involves a radical downsizing of the island's banking sector. The second largest bank, Popular Bank, will be broken up right way. And depositors with more than $130,000 there and at the Bank of Cyprus will take a hit.
The economy is expected to shrink sharply as offshore banking, Cyprus's main industry, is effectively shut down. Many are worried about what the future will hold. Ivan Watson is in Nicosia -- Ivan.
IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Max, the mood here is grim. Even though the Cypriots did get a last minute bailout and it looks like their economy will not tumble over the cliff into bankruptcy as was the fear and they will stay in the EuroZone. But the president Nicos Anastasiades, he addressed the nation a couple of hours ago fresh from very tense and difficult negotiations with creditors in Brussels. And his speech was full of words like calm and patience and courage. And he also said that tomorrow would be a new day for Cyprus, but he acknowledged that it would probably lead to a difficult period for this country as well, calling for solidarity and also indicating that his government would work with the prosecutor's office to perhaps bring charges against people, against the people responsible for bringing the banking industry in particular here to such a crisis point.
The irony of this all, the sad irony, is that today, Monday, was supposed to be a public holiday, a celebration of independence day. And instead, it was a rather sad holiday celebration.
WATSON: It was independence day in Cyprus today, not for Cyprus itself, but for the Republic's big spiritual brother Greece. On the morning after failing Cypriot banks received a last minute bailout from Europe, Monday's holiday was not a happy one.
This is supposed to be a celebration of Hellenic pride. Instead, many Cypriots are traumatized by what some have described as one of the worst weeks of their lives.
There is anger at the tough terms of the billion dollar bailout. Cyprus, they are selling you, these young men chant. Cypriots have watched and worried as the economic crisis forced banks to stay closed for more than a week. The island republic's economy has hovered on the brink of utter collapse.
STELLA DROUSSIOTIS, CYPRUS RESIDENT: I was six years old when there was a war here in Cyprus in 1974. And things remind me of how things were back then. The insecurity of people...
WATSON: Mario and Stella Droussiotis fear they just lost a big chunk of their savings in a single night.
MARIO DROUSSIOTIS, CYPRUS RESIDENT: Last night, the fight was to keep our country alive, not to go bankrupt. And I think we succeeded on that. And I hope that in the future we will be better, but everybody lost a lot of money overnight. If this happened in The States, I don't -- cannot imagine what will happen.
WATSON: The bailout deal effectively ends Cyprus's days as an attractive tax haven for foreigners. It basically calls for the closure of Laiki, one of the country's biggest and oldest banks, and calls for higher taxes and an investigation into allegations of money laundering. Everybody, including the Cypriot top diplomat, knows times are about to get a lot harder.
IOANNIC KASOULIDES, CYPRIOT FOREIGN MINISTER: I cannot say that we rejoice about the agreement, but if this is the only possible way then I want to assure you that the Cypriots are very resilient. And we'll restart our economy. We will rebuild again.
WATSON: Do you feel humiliated by the European Union right now?
KASOULIDES: We feel -- well, we feel that we have not been treated with dignity as we ought to have been treated.
WATSON: At an independence day church service, worshipers tried to keep a stiff upper lip. They finished prayers with a full-throated performance of the national anthem, a show of patriotism during a time of deep fear and worry.
WATSON: Now, Max -- Max, you know, it's been 10 days since banks have been open in this country. And the top officials that we talked to today said they hoped that tomorrow, Tuesday, all the banks would open back up again. But then there was a message in the last couple of hours that the two biggest and most vulnerable banks -- Bank Laiki and the Bank of Cyprus -- they will not open until Thursday.
So it would be a bit of a soft opening for people to perhaps start to get access to their own funds again. Just imagine what that has done to businesses in this country and certainly to the large number of foreign investors who have parked billions of dollars here thinking that this was a safe tax haven, a safe place to do business. They are most certainly very worried and wondering when they can ever see their money again, and how much of it may get chopped away from them by possible tax levies. We still haven't gotten the details of how big that potential tax levy or haircut on deposits of more than 100,000 euros might be -- Max.
FOSTER: Ivan, thank you very much.
It's just the uncertainty, isn't it?
So what does happen now? Well, some Cyprus banks are expected to reopen on Tuesday. Just hours ago, the country's president said capital controls will prevent a run on the banks, but the measures will be temporary. The banks have been shut since the original bailout proposal was first announced on March 16. But politicians don't have to vote to remove money from people's accounts. Lawmakers gave up that power in a series of new measures last week. Once a decision is made on how much the levy will be from large deposit holders, that fee will be imposed and it could be up as much as 20 percent.
Some expect the deal will cut the banking industry in half, cost thousands of jobs and starve the economy of credit, deepening a painful recession.
Markets fell after it was suggested the Cyprus model involving a tax on bank deposits could be a model for future bailouts. For many across the EuroZone, that begs the question how safe is your money?
Ian Bremmer is the president of the Eurasia Group and joins me now live from Chicago. Thanks for joining us, Ian.
First of all, we've been hearing about the personal pain of many people living in Cyprus. There's no denying there will be a deep and prolonged recession there. How will lifestyles change?
IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT, EURASIA GROUP: Well, they'll change pretty dramatically, there's no question. But the reason they're going to change is because the lifestyles that they had been enjoying came from being an offshore tax haven. You know, this is a country that had deposits in their banks that were four times the size of their GDP. 36 percent of depositors weren't Cypriots. They were the largest external source of foreign direct investment into Russia came through Cyprus. No one that looks at that economy can think it's remotely sustainable. So certainly there was lots of money, lots of jobs that were being made. Those jobs will be gone. Cyprus will not be an offshore haven anymore. And a lot of Cypriots who benefited from the trickle down of that wealth will get hurt.
But, I mean, no one should have believed for the last five, 10, 20 years that this bubble -- when it was a bubble -- was sustainable, certainly once the European crisis began in earnest. They were on borrowed time and that time has now come to an end. It's very clear the Cypriot economy is going to take a tumble as a consequence of this.
FOSTER: The Cypriot economy in terms of the global economy is very small. But there is this great question mark over this -- the principle that's being set about cutting into people's bank deposits. On one level in Cyprus is a quick solution and it will be effective. It's very upsetting to a lot of people. But what happens if it's done in other countries in Europe, significant economies? And just the confidence that has in investing in bank accounts in the EuroZone?
BREMMER: I think Cyprus will be forgotten about pretty quickly. The European leaders made very clear that every country is different, every leader is unique. The Fins and the Germans in particular were looking for a deal here in Cyprus that was going to hit these offshore depositors very hard both in terms of individuals, also companies and lenders in that regard. And that's exactly what's happened.
Cyprus is a tiny economy. We will stop talking about it by the end of this week. And as for a potential precedent of this bailout for other countries as well, you'll see the markets will move on to the next issue very, very quickly.
Cyprus is a nonissue. The only reason that we talked about Cyprus for the couple of weeks that we did is because the Germans saw an opportunity to expand the crisis to bring some market pain to bear upon the Cypriot government that would allow for a better and more holistic solution of this crisis. We continue to see this from country to country to country in Europe because there's continued effor to enforce stronger economic and political governance across the EuroZone, that means that you effectively expand crises to make them greater opportunities. That's precisely what happened to Cyprus here. It was effectively a manufactured crisis.
FOSTER: But surely if you've got money and you've got -- you're a rich person, you've got money in some Greek bank accounts, you're not going to take the risk with a country that does seem similar to Cyprus. Surely you're going to put your money into Lichtenstein or Switzerland just to play it safe?
BREMMER: Well, if you're asking me whether or not folks should be comfortable being in tax havens where aside from that there's nothing going on in their economy they probably should think twice there. Certainly the Greeks are already cracking down on forcing folks to pay actual taxes. Revenues are picking up in Greece as a consequence. The people are taking a hit.
But there is no economy in the EuroZone that had -- that is the equivalent of Cyprus with the banking sector and the external and the Russian money in particular just overwhelming the size of the GDP. Cyprus is not an example of other crises we're going to continue to experience in the EuroZone. And as a consequence it won't set a precedent.
FOSTER: Still to come tonight, the British Prime Minister is vowing to crack down on immigration into the UK. We'll see how the issue is being addressed there and around the world.
Back in the headlines, Amanda Knox is set to find out whether she faces a retrial over the death of British student Meredith Kercher.
And the comeback continues. Tiger Woods is back on top of the golf world.
All that and much more when Connect the World continues.
FOSTER: You're watching CNN. This is Connect the World with me, Max Foster, welcome back to you.
Now the United Nations says it's moving about half of its 100 member staff out of Damascus, but it's only temporary. And the decision came after mortar shells fell around a hotel housing UN staff in the Syrian capital. No one was hurt, but there was damage to the building and grounds as well as to a UN vehicle. Most of the staff members are being moved to locations in Beirut and Cairo.
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MARTIN NESIRKY, UN SPOKESMAN: These measures are being undertaken solely for security reasons. The United Nations remains active and committed to helping the Syrian sides in their search for a political solution.
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FOSTER: A diplomat says America is committed to an enduring partnership with Afghanistan. John Kerry made an unannounced visit to Kabul today meeting with Hamid Karzai. The Afghan president, it created a storm of controversy this month by appearing to accuse the U.S. of collaborating with the Taliban and denouncing its war effort as aimless and unwise. Kerry said he was reassured by their meeting and declared bilateral relations strong.
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JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We mean it when we say that as Afghans stand up and take control of their country's future they will not stand alone, America will stand with them. And Mr. President, I can say to you that the United States supports a strong and a united Afghanistan that secures its rightful place in the community of nations over the course of these next years.
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FOSTER: Kerry's visit comes the same day as U.S. forces handed over control of the controversial prison at Bagram air base. President Karzai calls it a good day for Afghanistan.
U.S. President Barack Obama is trying to ignite congressional movement on immigration reform. The president says he expects the senate to take significant action on the issue next month. At a White House ceremony this Monday, he urged Congress to remember that immigration is a good thing for America.
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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Immigration makes us stronger. It keeps us vibrant. It keeps us hungry. It keeps us prosperous. It is part of what makes this such a dynamic country. And if we want to keep attracting the best and the brightest that the world has to offer, then we need to do a better job of welcoming them.
We've known for years that our immigration system is broken. The time to come for a comprehensive, sensible, immigration reform.
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FOSTER: President Obama's comments come as Britain's prime minister says he wants to tighten up immigration laws. David Cameron sent out a series of measures in a major speech today saying he wants to cut down on the number of people coming to Britain. Erin McLaughlin has more on that.
ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: On Monday, British Prime Minister David Cameron laid out his vision for immigration in the UK. He proposed cutting back on benefits available to some EU immigrants and cracking down on illegal immigration.
DAVID CAMERON, PRIME MINISTER OF BRITAIN: You put into Britain, you don't just take out. And if you put in, we will stand with you. That's how it is in this country, that's how it should be, and that is how it will be for anyone who wants to come here.
MCLAUGHLIN: The plan includes stronger tests for income and social housing benefits and tougher penalties for rogue businesses who employ illegal workers. Many in the UK are worried about an influx from Bulgaria and Romania in January 2014. Experts say Cameron's proposals could be at odds with EU rules. And it's not just in Europe that immigration is a hot political topic.
Let's take a look at immigration issues at play around the world.
Well, in the wake of U.S. President Barack Obama's sweeping presidential victory, owing in part to the growing Hispanic vote, the Republican Party appears to be rethinking its rhetoric.
SEN. RAND PAUL, (R) KENTUCKY: Republicans need to become parents of the new future with Latino voters or we will need to resign ourselves to being a permanent minority status.
MCLAUGHLIN: And a bipartisan group of eight senators is said to be on the verge of an immigration reform bill that outlines a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Over in Asia, a court ruling that critics say separates the haves from the have nots.
MARK DALY, LAWYER: It's regrettable that the opportunity has been lost on this occasion to strike a blow for equality and nondiscrimination.
MCLAUGHLIN: The high court rejected the final appeal of two Filipino workers to gain permanent residency in Hong Kong. Professional expatriates are allowed to apply for permanent residency after seven consecutive years. Domestic helpers are excluded from that law. Lawyers for the two workers say they will continue to fight for the rights of domestic helpers.
Erin McLaughlin, CNN, London.
FOSTER: An uneasy calm in central Myanmar after clashes between Buddhists and Muslims prompted a state of emergency. The violence began in a central city last week. At least 32 people killed in clashes believed to have been set off by a dispute between a Muslim gold shop owner and two Buddhist sellers. Over the weekend, fires in nearby towns caused property damage, but no deaths.
In Italy, a notorious murder case is back in the headlines. Prosecutors spent the better part of Monday trying to convince the Supreme Court why Amanda Knox should be retried for the killing of British student Meredith Kercher. Knox has been back in the United States since Octobert 2011, that's when an Italian court reversed her murder conviction four years after she was jailed.
Senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman is in Rome. And Ben, on what basis would this case restart?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, let me give you the latest judge from the supreme court emerged from the courthouse behind me just about an hour ago to announce that the announcement regarding the verdict with a decision whether to retry Amanda Knox and her former boyfriend will be made tomorrow morning at 10:00 am Rome time, that's 9:00 am Greenwich Mean Time.
They spent the entire day deliberating over this case. So we're hoping to get a decision then.
Regarding the basis for the retrial, Max, the prosecution says that not all the evidence was given due consideration. They are particularly interested in DNA evidence, which apparently was not collected in a professional manner. They'd like to see the complete retrial in this case. They hold, as well as the family of Meredith Kercher, the Britisn national murdered in 2007 that both these people, Amanda Knox and her former boyfriend are, in fact, guilty -- Max.
FOSTER: And in terms of bringing Amanda Knox back to Italy for a trial, presumably she won't be doing so voluntarily. But are there any laws that could demand that she comes back?
WEDEMAN: Well, the United States and Italy do have an extradition treaty. However, Italy would have to make a formal request to the United States' government for her to be brought back to this country to stand trial.
Now we understand that during the murder trial where she was held and she was found guilty, the American government was not altogether happy with the way the trial was conducted, therefore, they may not be...
FOSTER: OK, we've lost Ben there, but we got the gist of what he was saying.
Well, live from London, this is Connect the World. Up next, they may be top of the Formula One leaderboard, but are there fractures in team Red Bull? We'll get the latest.
FOSTER: Well, it took him an extra day, but Tiger Woods is back at the top of the golfing world. Don Riddell joins us from CNN Center with much more. A historic moment in the golfing world.
DON RIDDELL, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely right. I mean, a huge moment for Tiger Woods. And he really has now put behind him that dramatic slump, Max, which saw him drop outside of the world's top 50. He's back on top of the world rankings. And you mentioned that delay, the major storm at Bay Hill Invitation -- the Bay Hill course in Orlando which meant they had to finish this event on Monday.
But as you can see, Tiger really was in a groove. That was a difficult shot there on the 16th from the bunker over the trees, but he put it right into the middle of the green.
Tiger could do no wrong, unlike one of his closest challengers Rickie Fowler, this is the American on the 16th where he put it in the water not once, but twice, ending up with an eight on that hole. That was the end of his challenge.
And in the end, Woods has three putts on the 18th to clinch the tournament. He almost did it in one putt. He was very, very close with this. It meant he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational by two strokes, his third win in four tournaments this season. It could be a very, very big win for Tiger. He's playing absolutely brilliantly right now.
And it was his eighth win at this particular event, which is an incredible achievement.
FOSTER: And Don, in Formula One world, there's this fascinating story. Red Bull finishing first and second in the Malaysian Grand Prix, but there's rumors of unhappiness in the team. What's that about?
RIDDELL: Well, they're not rumors, Max. It's absolutely obvious to anybody who was watching the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday. I mean, what happened here was that the team had an agreement before the race, which was at some point we might ask the drivers to hold position. And when they did ask Webber was first, Vettel was second. But Vettel is the three-time world champion and he obviously decided that he didn't want to abide by those orders. So he raced Webber, ended up passing him and taking the checkered flag.
Now you would think this would still be a good result for the team. You know, they still got first and second place. But Webber was absolutely furious because he was expecting that these team orders would be followed. He'd already turned his engine down to conserve his car and preserve his tires. And he ended up losing the race.
And you can see from these pictures, that's Mark Webber on the left, he was absolutely furious at the end of this. He is now said to be considering his future.
This is not the first time something like this has happened within the team. And while every team has its star and its support driver, you do still need to have a harmonious team.
We earlier spoke with the Motor Sport magazine's writer Ed Foster to get his take on what could be a real problem for Red Bull.
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ED FOSTER, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, MOTOR SPORT MAGAZINE: I think sort of everyone in the paddock (ph) has known that there are two sides to the Sebastian Vettel, to every Formula One driver. You know, they may come across as quite sunny and happy people when actually behind closed doors when things aren't going right for them, it's not like that at all and it's -- we all know that Sebastian is hugely competitive. No Formula One driver isn't. But he can be very, very difficult when things don't go his way as any sportsman will be.
So it's not too much of a shock that we've seen this other side to him, but I think it's probably a bit of a shock to some of the fans who didn't know him so well.
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RIDDELL: Max, Red Bull is a team that has dominated Formula One for the last three years, but they have to find a way of making these two guys get on with each other. The season has only just started. If they don't trust each other, if they hate each other, it's going to be very difficult for the team to function throughout the rest of the season.
FOSTER: OK, Don, thank you very much indeed for that.
Well, the latest world headlines just ahead. Plus the mysterious death of a fierce Kremlin critic. An autopsy report could soon end speculation about the former billionaire Boris Berezovsky.
Plus, a proposal that could affect overweight flyers may mean some high anxiety before the plane takes off. I'll explain a little later in the show.
And we'll look at how climate change is affecting one of the world's seven natural wonders.
FOSTER: This is CONNECT THE WORLD. The top stories this hour:
Many banks in Cyprus will reopen on Tuesday but the two largest will stay closed until Thursday. The European Union has approved a $13 billion bailout deal. In exchange, among other things, deposits under $130,000 will be protected, but an unspecified levy will be imposed on larger accounts.
The U.N. says it's temporarily moving about half of its 100-member Damascus team out of the Syrian capital. The decision came after mortar shells fell around the Damascus hotel housing U.N. staff. No one was hurt. The U.N. insists the move is in no way reflective on its commitment to Syria.
The European Union has suspended most of its sanctions on Zimbabwe after what it calls a credible vote on a new constitution this month, but 10 people remain on the E.U.'s blacklist, including President Robert Mugabe.
We could soon learn how Boris Berezovsky died. British authorities are conducting an autopsy two days after his body was found at his mansion near London. The Russian oligarch has survived previous assassination attempts, but investigators say there's no indication of third-party involvement in his death.
Now with no apparent sign of foul play at this stage, British authorities say they won't speculate on the cause of Berezovsky's death, but plenty of others will. Conspiracy theories are swirling, fueled in part by the fact that the Russian tycoon was a fierce critic of the Kremlin. Phil Black has more.
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A 76-year-old man collapsing and dying in his bathroom wouldn't normally become an international story, and police wouldn't usually lock down his home in search for radioactive contamination. But this dead man was Boris Berezovsky. Once one of Russia's richest men, he has spent the last 12 years living in exile as one of the loudest critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The police say they brought in radiation specialists after a paramedic's personal contamination device went off. But they also had other reasons to be cautions. In 2006, Alexander Litvinenko, a friend of Berezovsky's, a former Russian spy, and another vocal Putin critic, died slowly and horribly in London. Scotland Yard determined he'd been murdered in a plot that could've come from the most creative spy fiction. The radioactive element, Polonium-210, was slipped into his tea during a meeting with another KGB spy.
Litvinenko dictated a deathbed statement to the person he thought was ultimately responsible.
ALEX GOLDFARB, LITVINENKO'S FRIEND: You have shown yourself to be as barbaric and ruthless as your most hostile critics have claimed.
BLACK (voice-over): In Russia, people have learned there is considerable risk in publicly opposing the government, and money is no protection. Mikhail Khordorkovsky was Russia's wealthiest man. After he began personally funding pro-democracy groups, he was accused of tax fraud and embezzlement. He was convicted and he's been in prison for almost 10 years. His oil empire was broken up and swallowed by the state.
2012 brought a new crackdown on descent. Throughout the year, tens of thousands of protestors regularly marched through Moscow in an unprecedented challenge to Putin's rule. Many of that movement's leaders are now being targeted by various criminal investigations.
And there were the women of Pussy Riot. They sang a punk prayer calling for Putin to go in Moscow's main cathedral. The performance lasted 30 seconds. Two of them are serving two year sentences in remote prison camps.
(on-camera): The government here insists its courts are fair and just, and the Russian government has always strongly denied having any involvement in the radiation poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko. But there is a lesson, trend, or perhaps coincidence linking all of these examples and many others, too: Bad things can happen to those who openly oppose Russia's leadership.
Phil Black, CNN, Moscow.
FOSTER: And a reminder that we're still awaiting the autopsy results on Berezovsky and British authorities have said there's no evidence of foul play by the Kremlin or anyone else.
Berezovsky's last years marked a stunning reversal of fortunes. He went from being a powerful multi-billionaire to a man struggling to pay his debts. Atika Shubert tells us what happened after Berezovsky went into exile.
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In 2000, he left Moscow on a private jet seeking asylum in Britain. At the height of his wealth, Boris Berezovsky had an estimated net worth of $3 billion.
(on-camera): Thirteen years later, he died nearly broke, and here's what he spent it on: Property. Not just any old house -- several sprawling country mansions with bulletproof glass for him and his children. He spent about $40 million on this one. It's in Wentworth Park in Surrey, and this is the home he died in.
He also spent money on political campaigns, mostly attacks against his former friend turned foe, Vladimir Putin. And for years, he bankrolled the push for an inquest into the death of his friend and fellow exile, ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, murdered by radiation poisoning.
And that's when it all started to fly (ph).
His wife filed for divorce in 2010. The exact amount is not known, but it is estimated he had to pay out hundreds of millions of dollars in the split.
(voice-over): Las year he was hit with a spectacular defeat in court when he sued fellow Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich for $5.6 billion over a business deal that turned sour. He lost and now reportedly owes more than $100 million in legal fees.
Then his girlfriend, Elena Gorbunova, put a freeze on the sale of his assets, demanding her share of their Wentworth Park country home.
By his last week, he was reduced to selling his art collection, including this, an Andy Warhol original portrait of Vladimir Lenin, which sold for nearly $75,000. His friends say he was brokering a deal to return to Russia.
In the end, it seems he died alone. For all the power and money he once had, it was his bodyguard who found him on his bathroom floor.
Atika Shubert, CNN, London.
FOSTER: Live from London, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD.
Up next, should you pay your air fare according to how much you weigh? Don't miss what travel expert Simon Calder has to say about that idea.
FOSTER: If you weigh more, should you pay more to fly? It's a suggestion from a professor in Norway, who says heavier people should pay more for their plane tickets, and lighter passengers should shell out less. Professor Bharat Bhatta says weight and space should factor into ticket prices to cover the costs of fuel that airlines use.
We'll have more on him in a moment, but right now I want to illustrate the point for you using a hypothetical example from the world of sport. On the left, Olympic athlete Jessica Ennis who weighs a svelte 47 kilos. On the right, heavyweight boxer, Wladimir Klitschko, who's clearly twice her weight. Based on the price of a flight from New York to London tomorrow, Jessica Ennis would pay the standard fare, bearing in mind her weight, but say how much he would pay considering his additional heft, a whopping $2,000. That's about 86 percent more than Jessica.
Bhatta admits it's a difficult topic.
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BHARAT BHATTA, SOGN OG FJORDANE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE: It is controversial, yes. I agree. And I have also -- many found this aspect (ph) in my article, that this is a controversial aspect, and this is a controversial issue. That's why we need to more -- (INAUDIBLE) difference about the issue, or that this is -- this type of fair (ph) policy is implemented technically (ph), economically, (INAUDIBLE).
FOSTER: So is this a good idea that can help airlines and passengers cut costs? Or is it a kind of veiled bigotry that gives carriers another way to make a profit?
We went into the streets of London to ask people what they think, and here's a sample of what we heard.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that's awful. I don't think that's fair for someone to pay for the flight ticket extra because they're overweight. It's wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See, I used to be quite overweight and I probably wouldn't have been happy to pay extra then.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The problem is that if you travel, and it's somebody who's really obese, it impinges on your space or my space, and that probably is unfair.
FOSTER: So is this a pay as you weigh idea -- or just a fat tax by any other name? And has it got a slim chance of succeeding? Well, let's bring in Simon Calder, senior travel editor for "The Independent" newspaper. Joins us live from Southern Denmark. Always traveling, Simon.
It's not the first time you've had to discuss this, is it? Over the years, this story keeps coming up, so what changes have happened over the years that you can specifically point to before this?
SIMON CALDER, SENIOR TRAVEL EDITOR, THE INDEPENDENT: Well, Southwest Airlines, the most successful and biggest U.S. low-cost carrier has for many years had a policy of saying, "If you are two obese to fit into a seat and secure the normal seatbelt, then you have to buy an extra seat, because it's not fair on fellow passengers."
Now, in fact, in most of the cases, they actually refund the money because they say if the flight's not completely full, then we will give you the money back. But they actually quite a hard line.
Air France has been coming in with a similar policy. But ever other attempt to tax people on grounds of size has failed, and I think that's probably because it is simply unacceptable, in customer care turns (ph), to make everybody stand on the scales along with their baggage. So instead, they make money in other ways such as charging an awful lot for your baggage. I flew out here indeed from Stansted on Ryanair and ended up paying as much for a 20 kilogram suitcase as I did for myself, weighing 80 kilograms.
When you buy transportation, you're buying a bit of a - if you're trying to get from A to B.
FOSTER: Do you think, I mean, there are passengers that have complained about sitting next to someone that's spilling over into their seat, and that's a legitimate complaint. But do you think the airlines are taking that complaint as the reason for this, or is it a moneymaking scheme?
CALDER: I think the professor that you spoke to has some valid points, but actually when you look at the total weight of an aircraft, the weight of individual passengers makes only a microscopic difference to the amount of fuel consumed. Certainly there is an issue with customer comfort and with the world getting increasingly obese, I'm afraid to say, it will become much more of a challenge for the airline. At the moment, every plane, as those of us who fly regularly on low-cost airlines will know, it's one size fits all. That is increasingly becoming not the case.
And I guess what the airlines are going to seek to do, those of them which have at least business class seating, is move people who weigh a bit too much into the front cabin and get them to pay quite a lot more money. But it is an uncomfortable business. However, the solution is not to make you and me stand on the scales at check-in.
FOSTER: Okay. On budget airlines Ryan Air's (ph) thoughts about a so-called fat tax. Do you know about the Dublin-based budget airline once asked passengers on its website if it should chard extra for very large fliers. A third of the people who responded said "yes." Back in October 2011 Ryan Air thought about removing some of its lavatories to make room for more seats. It didn't happen, and Ryan Air has dropped plans to drop passengers a pound to spend a penny. Further back in 2010, the discount carrier liked the idea of standing-room only seats at the back of its planes. Passengers would be strapped into vertical seats. Safety concerns turned that idea into a conversation piece. A very clever airline, weaseling every bit of money out of it they can, out of these - they are arguably very low ticket prices. But what's next in terms of these ideas?
CALDER: Well, actually, what will happen is get a make (ph) life (ph) more uncomfortable for you and me and everyone's who's gotten used to the idea that yes it costs the same to check in a bag as it does to check in yourself, so let's all take cabin baggage. What will most definitely happen next, and I'm not sure Ryan Air or Easyjet will be the big European airline that does it to bring in charges for cabin baggage. So, if you're taking a fairly chunky piece of hand baggage onboard, anything bigger really than a laptop case, you will probably end up paying for it, even though you're doing all the baggage handling yourself. That will be next.
I daresay that a year from now we'll be getting used to that, just as we got used to all the other indignities of low-cost travel. But I tell you what, I still wouldn't go back to the bad old days when it would've cost me three or four times as much to talk you from Denmark.
FOSTER: Okay. Simon, thank you very much indeed. Enjoy your trip. This story has provoked a mixed response on our Facebook page, I can say. Izuma Akazee (ph) thinks it's a good idea, "Afterall the weight of the loaded aircraft determines its fuel consumption." Emannuel Duamphor (ph) reads "Yes, they should pay more. The law of supply can be applied here - the higher the weight loads, the higher the price paid to be conveyed to its destination." Germand Aslam (ph) strongly disagrees thought, "that would be a shameful act." Gerry believes "that's discrimination in the highest order. Very soon you guys would advocate for higher charges against taller passengers in contrast to the shorter passengers. Everyone cannot have the same body size or framework."
Have your say by heading to our Facebook page. Facebook.com/CNNconnect. Up next on CONNECT THE WORLD, saving one of the planet's seven natural wonders. The Great Barrier Reef through the eyes of special correspondent Philipe Cousteau. Part of our week-long "Going Green" series.
FOSTER: Well, if its ever had enough of the everlasting winter we're offering you a break with an armchair trip to one of the world's seven natural wonders. It's part of our "Going Green" series. We're following CNN special correspondent Philipe Cousteau as he investigates the impact of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef. Here's the start of his exploration.
PHILIPE COUSTEAU, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: We're taking off over Australia's port of Gladstone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coming up here on your left hand side, you'll see the coral terminal (ph).
COUSTEAU: It's hard to believe, but in just a half hour, the brackish water surrounding one of the world's largest coal terminals will turn turquoise. As we close in on the Great Barrier Reef.
I'm headed to a dive site made famous by my grandfather several decades ago. But today, it's a reef that's quickly diappearing.
OVE HOEGH-GULDBERG, LEAD SCIENTIST, CAITLIN SEAVIEW SURVEY: We've had a paper published from science down at the Australian Institute (ph) of Marine Science that shows that half of the coral on the Great Barrier Reef has disappeared over the last 27 years. That's a momentous change. And if we continue on that pathway, the Great Barrier Reef will largely not have coral on it.
COUSTEAU: I've been invited to spend a week with the researchers of the Caitlin Seaview Survey.
RICHARD VEVERS, PROJECT COORDINATOR, CAITLIN SEAVIEW SURVEY: There's amazing scientific work being done, but it's being read by up to about 100 people, rather than the world. And we need to bridge this gap between scientific awareness and public understanding.
COUSTEAU: They're determined to complete the first comprehensive study of the Great Barrier Reef before it's too late. And that means, starting early.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we go earlier than high tide, we're going to have clearing (ph) current.
COUSTEAU: At my first morning briefing with the team, Project Director Richard Vevers is clear about what the focus should be.
VEVERS: I would like us to put all the, our efforts into getting one tree (ph) and just seeing how much everything works (ph).
COUSTEAU: One Tree Island, 20 kilometers away from our base at the Heron Island Research Station, it was named by early sailors for a notable piece of vegetation easily seen above the horizon. Today, it's known for life under the water.
And One Tree is like the Holy Grail around here? In terms of opportunity to dive and see what's happening?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a pink zone.
VEVERS: It's a pink zone so it's really hard for us to --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can't there unless you have permit.
COUSTEAU: Is that the highest level of protection, here in the Great Barrier Reef, the pink zone?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. So there's not fishing. The only thing you can do it boating, diving, snorkeling, just have a look out.
COUSTEAU: And even with that you need a permit?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You need a permit.
VEVERS: So, only researchers can go in there.
COUSTEAU: So this reef would then, conceivably be the most pristine, healthy, beautiful, reef here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely stunning.
COUSTEAU: So One Tree. That's the goal.
COUSTEAU: I'll be praying to the weather gods for One Tree then.
FOSTER: Well, Philipe Cousteau is with you live now from CNN Los Angeles. Philipe thanks so much for joining us.
The oceans are important. We all know that. But just express how important it is to us and the way we live.
COUSTEAU: Well, of course, the oceans in general provide more that half our oxygen, they provide a source of protein to up to about a billion people that live today in the world. And coastal habitats like coral reefs are very important in terms of acting as buffers against storms, tsunamis, things like that. So oceans are the life support system of this planet. You think about what color planet Earth is from space, it's blue. We live on a water planet. And it's disturbing, the research that's coming out of the Great Barrier Reef, probably the most iconic marine ocean ecosystem in the world that half the coral has disappeared in the last few decades.
FOSTER: Well, we look at that and you can see why that's damaging, and harmful, and upsetting actually. But in terms of a solution, whenever you're dealing with oceans, you're dealing with multiple countries and we're dealing with policymakers and fishermen and women who want to survive. What sort of solution can you offer, because you do need one that involves all those different groups.
COUSTEAU: Well, you know what we're doing with the Caitlin Seaview Survey as part of this program, this episode of "Going Green," was looking at how we can leverage technology. One of the big problems is that there's a huge gap between public knowledge and scientific knowledge. And how to we leverage new technologies, new equipment, so that we can bring these types of ecosystems and nature alive for the common individual and help them connect to those place that sometimes are far off and remote, in a way that they can then act upon, and certainly put pressure on elected leaders as we're seeing now with the United States and the European Union that have just recently passed some sensible fisheries management laws that have been long overdue. Partially in response to the public will.
So it's critical to connect people to these to the issues, and these places and let them understand that the choices they make from their consumer behavior to of course who they vote for in the polls, has a big influence on the sustainability of our oceans.
FOSTER: How rapidly are oceans degrading, if I can call it that. How bad is the situation getting?
COUSTEAU: Well, it's pretty bad, unfortunately. You know, most of the world's fisheries are fished at or over capacity. Many of them face collapse in the next few decades if we don't change our ways, and of course that has a huge influence on protein and on access to nutrition for people, coastal people around the world. It has a huge influence on our economy. The oceans are changing quickly. The Arctic poles are melting faster than any scientific projections have told us they would. Coral reefs are disappearing. We've lost 25 percent of the world's coral reef's around the world, another 25 percent in rapid decline.
So the numbers aren't great. But on the other hand, we do see a lot of positive movement on the part of governments and of people waking up that this is a crisis that we need to address.
FOSTER: In terms of the really hard end of this, bluefin tuna for example, an endangered species. The more endangered those species get the more demand increases for them in certain countries, right? They actually become more valuable the rarer they get. How are you managing to deal with that cultural problem?
COUSTEAU: Well, you actually bring up a great point. The issue of supply and demand. So bluefin tuna, the fewer of them there are, people are spending tens of thousands of dollars to buy one tuna now on the market. So yes, the scarcer they are, the more valuable they are. It is a big problem that we face, particularly with fisheries management. But part of the issue now that the scientific data that has been collected of the last few years is available, they've been able to argue, not just to the minister of the environment in different countries, but minister of the economy in some countries and say listen if you manage your fisheries sustainably, you can feed X many more of people and this will make X many more hundred million dollars into your coffers and so really it's an issue of becoming more sophisticated in terms of the conservation argument - bringing it out of the realm of it's a good idea because we need protect he environment, to tying it to real hard facts and numbers and figures about what doing the right thing, how that can benefit people, how it can feed more people, how it can lead to more stability and more money.
FOSTER: Philipe Cousteau. Thank you very much indeed. We look forward to your reporting. All this week we'll be bringing you more of Philipe's unique perspective on how climate change is impacting the world' s coral reefs. And all of us as well. You can also catch a special CNN program "GOING GREEN: OCEANS" that's Friday 3:30 PM in London, 7:30 PM in Abu Dhabi right here on CNN.
Call it a close encounter of the Jaws kind. Thrill-seekers getting a real scare checking out a great white shark, or sharks off the coast of South Africa.
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FOSTER: I can imagine. The tourists thought they were save inside the cage, as you would do, as the sharks checked out the bait dangling outside the bars. But one shark tried to go right for the divers. His entire head got inside the cage, narrowly missing two divers. As frightening as it looks, nobody got hurt. But I expect they won't be getting in a cage again any time soon. I'm Max Foster. That was CONNECT THE WORLD. Thanks for watching.