FBI Raids DC Home of Russian Oligarch Allegedly Linked to 2016 Influence-Peddling
WASHINGTON — An FBI search of the Washington, D.C. home of a Russian oligarch this week is moving the Justice Department into the political minefield that comes from mixing foreign policy with legal enforcement.
The FBI conducted what it called “law enforcement activity” at the home of billionaire businessman Oleg Deripaska, who is an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The FBI conducted a simultaneous raid of a second Deripaska home in New York.
The agency gave no details of the crimes it was investigating.
However, in 2018 the U.S. government “sanctioned” Deripaska for his Russian government ties while Putin was accused of influencing the 2016 presidential election in favor of Donald Trump.
A 2018 Treasury Department statement said, “Deripaska has been investigated for money laundering, and has been accused of threatening the lives of business rivals, illegally wiretapping a government official, and taking part in extortion and racketeering. There are also allegations that Deripaska bribed a government official, ordered the murder of a businessman and had links to a Russian organized crime group.”
The Treasury Department cited two presidential executive orders that allow the US. government to seize property located in the United States of foreigners involved in politically corrupt activities.
Deripaska is the founder of Basic Element, one of Russia’s largest industrial groups, and Volnoe Delo, the country’s largest charitable foundation. Until 2018, he headed En+ Group, a Russian energy company, and United Company Rusal, the world’s second-largest aluminium company.
Sanctions normally result in restrictions on economic, trade, diplomatic or cultural activity.
Deripaska does not deny affiliations with Putin or the Russian government but does deny the U.S. government’s allegations of corruption and influence-peddling. He filed a lawsuit this year to get the sanctions removed but lost.
Deripaska was linked to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort during the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller of Russian influence in the 2016 election.
Manafort said in a 2017 statement, “I worked with Oleg Deripaska almost a decade ago representing him on business and personal matters in countries where he had investments. My work for Mr. Deripaska did not involve representing Russian political interests.”
Manafort was sentenced to seven years in prison for bank and tax fraud and foreign lobbying-related crimes but was pardoned by Trump.
Russian government officials said they did not know why the FBI searched Deripaka’s homes but added they would defend the rights and interests of Russian citizens.
Deripaska responded to the searches by saying in a social media post, “Watching everything that is happening in America, I cannot help but marvel at the utter stupidity of part of the American establishment who persist in spinning this story about the allegedly colossal role of the Russians in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. It is convenient to feed one’s electorate (brought up on Hollywood movies about horrible Russians) with all sorts of crap for another 10 years.”
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