On October 19, the FBI searched two houses linked to the Russian magnate Oleg Deripaska in New York and Washington, D.C. The raids were part of an investigation by the U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District of New York, multiple news reports said.
In the U.S., Deripaska has been best known as a person of interest in the investigation into Russia's attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, and for his ties with Paul Manafort, who served as campaign chairman for Donald Trump, the winner of that election.
The FBI and the Southern District attorney's office provided no details about the purpose of the raid. Deripaska suggested in a Telegram post, however, that the searches were related to Russian campaign interference.
Among other things, Deripaska accused the FBI of "appropriating two bottles of vodka" and blasted the U.S. for "conveniently feeding the electorate with all sorts of crap."
"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."
That is false.
In fact, U.S. investigations unearthed a multilevel Russian influence operation that aimed to foster mistrust in the government system and civil instability. Evidence showed that Russia backed Trump in 2016 and again agitated to keep him in office in the 2020 election.
The special counsel investigation into Russian interference in 2016, led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller, determined that Manafort had instructed a longtime employee, Konstantin Kilimnik, to deliver polling data that Manafort hoped would end up with Deripaska.
The FBI suspected Kilimnik, who formerly ran Manafort's office in Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, of ties to Russian intelligence, according to Mueller's final investigative report.
In the mid-2000s, Deripaska reportedly had a $10 million annual contract with Manafort for lobbying in Washington. But the two eventually came at odds, with Deripaska suing Manafort for $28 million in damages, allegedly for mishandling millions in investment funds.
By 2016, according to the Mueller investigation, "Manafort claimed that by sharing campaign information with him, Deripaska might see value in their relationship and resolve a 'disagreement' — a reference to one or more outstanding lawsuits."
While documenting the apparent intent, the Mueller report concedes that investigators could not find a link between sharing of polling data and Russian interference in the election. Nor did it establish any other coordination between Manafort and Russian election meddling.
Nonetheless, an expansive 2020 report into Russian interference conducted by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee found that "Manafort's presence on the (Trump) Campaign and proximity to Trump created opportunities for Russian intelligence services to exert influence over and acquire confidential information on, the Trump campaign."
The committee's report goes on:
"The Committee found that Deripaska conducts influence operations, frequently in countries where he has a significant economic interest. The Russian government coordinates with and directs Deripaska on many of his influence operations.
"From approximately 2004 to 2009, Manafort implemented these influence operations on behalf of Deripaska, including a broad, multimillion dollar political influence campaign directed at numerous countries of interest to Deripaska and the Russian government.
"Prior to joining the Trump Campaign in March 2016 and continuing throughout his time on the Campaign, Manafort directly and indirectly communicated with Kilimnik, Deripaska, and the pro-Russian oligarchs in Ukraine. On numerous occasions, Manafort sought to secretly share internal Campaign information with Kilimnik.
"After the election, Manafort continued to coordinate with Russian persons, particularly Kilimnik and other individuals close to Deripaska, in an effort to undertake activities on their behalf. Manafort worked with Kilimnik starting in 2016 on narratives that sought to undermine evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election."
Deripaska, a multibillionaire industrialist, has denied ever receiving campaign information. Over the years, he has also denied a torrent of other accusations involving his business activities.
In February 2020, the Financial Times reported on a U.S. Treasury Department document that accused Deripaska of past money laundering on behalf of Russian President Vladimir Putin. At the time, Deripaska called the Treasury allegations "unsupported" and "balderdash."
In April 2018, the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned Deripaska and his companies, among others, for aiding "malign activities," namely, Russia's occupation of Crimea, inciting war in Eastern Ukraine, violence against civilians in Syria and global cyberattacks.
The Treasury stated in a press release:
"Deripaska has said that he does not separate himself from the Russian state. He has also acknowledged possessing a Russian diplomatic passport and claims to have represented the Russian government in other countries.
"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."
Deripaska fought the sanctions by suing the Treasury Department, claiming it ruined his reputation and cost his businesses billions in losses. The sanctions were lifted a year later in a deal with the Trump administration.
In 2007, the U.S. revoked Deripaska's multientry visa granted in 2005. The State Department declined to state the reasons for the entry ban, but The Wall Street Journal, citing law enforcement sources, said the revocation involved suspicions about possible ties to Russian organized crime.
In one business dispute that ended up in court, Deripaska claimed to have been forced into a protection racket as he built his anchor business in aluminum in the late 1990s.
Before leaving office, Trump issued a pardon to Manafort, who had been sentenced to prison for bank fraud, filing false tax returns and failing to report offshore accounts. Prosecutors claimed Manafort had laundered $30 million in profits from his lobbying work in Ukraine.