By John Helmer, Moscow
Oleg Deripaska, the chief executive of the state aluminium monopoly Rusal, believes in an ethical code in which there’s little room for recreation, let alone holidays. He says: “I simply enjoy working. Work just happens to be something I have always enjoyed doing ever since I was a child. With the sort of opportunities I now have I can influence the work of a lot of companies. That is a lot of responsibility. As long as I can do what I am good at, managing businesses, I am going to continue doing it.”
His work ethic goes back a long way. “I was eleven when I received my first pay check working at a reduction plant. I was an electrician’s apprentice, in other words, I was a real worker and even had my own locker.”
There is no flight log for the business jet Rusal finances for Deripaska’s travels in the company disclosures, and no expenditure records for its operation in the financial reports. However, a source at the airport in Geneva recently reports that on March 20 Deripaska’s aircraft was on its final approach to landing when it suddenly pulled up and flew to Lyon instead. On March 25 the aircraft flew to the Indian Ocean island resort of Maldives, where it remained until the afternoon of March 28, when it took off, carrying Deripaska to Krasnoyarsk.
According to the US Geological Survey, there is no mineral or metallic resource in the Maldives which would be remotely useful in the production of aluminium. There is also a high risk, USGS say, that if you bury treasure there, it might be washed away by a tsunami.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) report on the Maldives mentions that with an unemployment rates of 28% boys, girls, men and women are a cheap resource, but that catching fish is more profitable. Converting coral, sand and coconuts are industrial options, but there is little investment for manufacture of their byproducts.
So what Rusal business has taken Deripaska (his plane and on at least one occasion his boat) to this location three times in the past five weeks?
There is no reference to water-skiing, even swimming, in Deripaska’s list of charitable and cultural concerns. Lake Baikal is one Russian locale where Deripaska could take to the water for recreation, as he operates a well-known paper and pulp plant on the shoreside. The Selenginsk mill is a model of environmental friendliness, according to the website of Deripaska’s holding, Basic Element. This doesn’t mean that Deripaska does much swimming or boating on the lake nearby.
A Rusal source in Moscow acknowledges “the recent movements look a bit strange.
Indeed, the Maldives look more like his place of pleasure, but the situation in Moscow is so tense now, it’s better if he is in Moscow. It was recently announced, for example, that there would be no bonuses for 2012.” Another Rusal source reports today from Krasnoyarsk, where senior and middle managers have assembled for their annual company conference, that Deripaska’s refusal to pay bonuses for last year—the first time in the company’s history – is causing an “extremely tense” situation.
Instead of cash then, is the boss flying his hardest workers, Soviet style, to holidays where they can rest, relax, soak up a little sun before they go back to the potlines?
Take, for example, Victor Boyarkin, the former military intelligence (GRU) lieutenant-colonel who has directed Rusal’s special operations in those foreign countries on which Rusal’s smelters depend for their raw materials. Guinea is the best known of Boyarkin’s operations; there are records of what he said and did to bring Guinean government officials around to Deripaska’s way of thinking.
However, Boyarkin is no longer at Rusal headquarters in Moscow. Insiders report that he no longer works for Rusal. The insiders claim he was not fired nor made redundant. It is believed he has returned to Russian intelligence operations. Unlikely in the Maldives.
NOTE: The use of shareholder funds to pay for the operation of corporate jets to carry senior executives to holiday destinations is an abuse of the regulations of the US Internal Revenue Service unless the executives pay the bill themselves. Not paying and concealing the abuse are violations of US Securities and Exchange Commission rules. Here are the flight disclosures of Rusal’s US competitor, Alcoa, between January 1, 2007, and December 31, 2012. The aircraft, tail number N697A, is a Gulfstream G-V, (right) registered in Alcoa’s ownership since 2009. Suspicious destinations — those without bauxite, alumina or aluminium – include Hyannis, Nantucket, and Honolulu in the US; Torrejon, Spain, Providenciales in the Turks & Caicos Islands, Grosseto and Venice, Italy; and Manaus, Brazil. The cost to Alcoa shareholders of flying a similar distance to the one Deripaska covers to the Maldives and back is $71,000, but the Alcoa jet is smaller and cheaper to run.