National Security

Five things to know about Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska

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The Trump administration’s decision to hit dozens of Russian oligarchs, companies and government officials with sanctions on Friday took direct aim at those close to President Vladimir Putin. 

Among those hit by the penalties was Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire aluminum magnate who once had ties to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

According the Treasury Department, the sanctions on Deripaska, 50, were prompted by allegations of threatening the lives of business rivals, illegal wiretapping, extortion and racketeering. 


The Russian oligarch has also been a recurring figure in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election and whether President Trump’s campaign conspired with Moscow to swing the presidential race.

Here are five things to know about Deripaska:


Manafort reportedly offered him personal briefings about the 2016 election

Just weeks before Trump accepted the 2016 presidential nomination, Manafort allegedly offered in an email to an intermediary to provide Deripaska with private briefings on the campaign.

“If he needs private briefings we can accommodate,” Manafort wrote in a July 7, 2016, email obtained by The Washington Post

It’s unclear if Deripaska ever got the message. A spokesman for the aluminum magnate denied to the Post that the offer reached him, and blamed the emails on “consultants in the notorious ‘beltway bandit’ industry.”

Those messages and other documents have been handed over to special counsel Robert Mueller and congressional investigators looking into whether members of the Trump campaign conspired with Russia during the election.


He’s been tied to Russian leadership for decades

Deripaska is considered among the Russian oligarchs closest to Putin. A 2006 U.S. diplomatic cable reported by The Associated Press described him as “among the 2-3 oligarchs Putin turns to on a regular basis” and “a more-or-less permanent fixture on Putin’s trips abroad.”

But his ties to the presidency go beyond the country’s current chief executive.

His wife, Polina Yumasheva, is the daughter of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s chief of staff. Deripaska’s father-in-law also married Yeltsin’s daughter, making the aluminum magnate a grandson of Yeltsin by marriage. 


The U.S. has refused him visa entry

Deripaska has long struggled to obtain visa entry to the U.S. due to concerns by American authorities about potential ties to organized crime, according to a Wall Street Journal report

But Deripaska’s ties to the Russian government have been tight enough that the country’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has reportedly asked multiple times for the State Department’s help in securing Deripaska a visa to the U.S.

The most recent time, according to The Washington Post, was in 2016, when Lavrov asked then-Secretary of State John Kerry for help. 


He was once the ninth richest man in the world

Not only did Forbes list Deripaska as the ninth richest person in the world in 2008, he was also named the wealthiest person in Russia. 

His fortunes changed a year later, however, as the global economic crisis set in. According to the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, during the recession, Deripaska’s net worth collapsed to just a fraction of what it once was. 

But he never entered bankruptcy. Analysts believe that was due to the intervention of the Russian government, as a reward for his loyalty to Moscow and to prevent Western banks from seizing his assets, the Telegraph reported in 2009.

Still, the oligarch’s ownership of a factory in the Russian town of Pikalevo earned him a tongue-lashing from Putin in 2009. Job losses and unpaid wages at the factory sparked anger in the town, prompting Putin to publicly tear into Deripaska.


Congress in 2017 refused to give him immunity in exchange for testimony

Deripaska offered last year to cooperate with congressional investigators looking into Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, but only on the condition that he be given full immunity from prosecution. 

Lawmakers ultimately rejected that offer amid concerns that it would cause problems for federal criminal investigators, according to a New York Times report

It’s not yet clear if special counsel investigators are planning to interview Deripaska as part of their criminal probe into Russia’s election meddling. 

Tags Donald Trump John Kerry Paul Manafort Robert Mueller Russia Investigation Russian oligarch sanctions

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