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By John Helmer, Moscow

Oleg Deripaska has filed a lawsuit in federal US court in Washington, DC, requesting US help to save him “from… the devastating power of U.S. economic sanctions… in a manner that is inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution.”

Deripaska has also accused the US Government of aiding and abetting the Russian Communist Party by accepting false accusations against him. In court papers lodged last Friday in federal district court in Washington, DC,  Deripaska’s lawyer, Erich Ferrari, claimed that the Communist Party “which holds the second highest number of seats in the Russian Parliament and whose leader has publicly attacked Deripaska and organized rallies against him because of his divestment and relinquishment of control in the companies that were recently delisted by OFAC.  Specifically, Gennady Zyuganov, has called for a criminal investigation of Deripaska for allegedly giving the companies ‘to the Anglo Saxons to control’ and for acting against the strategic policy and national security of Russia.”  

In fact, Zyuganov attacked Deripaska for something quite different, and the Americans as well. “I believe”, Zyuganov told the Russian parliament during his New Year’s speech on January 9, that Deripaska had first stolen Rusal from the state, and was now trading it to the US Government in exchange for relief from sanctions and increase in his own profits.  “The largest swindle is the aluminium business of Deripaska,” Zyuganov declared.   “At first the plants were stolen from the citizens, and now these plants have been given in submission to the Anglo-Saxons. It is necessary to investigate this crime because it is directed against the strategic policy of our country and its security.  The ambition of the Russian oligarchs for their profit looks more and more intransigent.”

Read the full story of Zyuganov’s speech – the first criticism of Deripaska by the Communists in twenty years – here.

Deripaska left out the line that, according to the Communist Party, he’s one of the Russian oligarchs. Instead, he told the US court he wasn’t an oligarch and accused the US Treasury of failing to “provide[d]  any reason as to why net worth was the sole determinative factor for being identified as an oligarch in that report nor why closeness to the Russian regime was not included as a criterion for identifying an individual as an oligarch.”

In court, Deripaska is now claiming that the US Government has no evidence of his attempt to murder a “businessman” and other crimes set out by the US Treasury and the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in their sanction announcement of last April 6.  Read the original Treasury press release here

According to the new statement by Deripaska, “the final category of statements underlying Deripaska’s bases for designations [sanctions] are not allegations by OFAC at all, but rather consist of OFAC suggesting that there are allegations— presumably made by others—that Deripaska had bribed a government official, ordered the murder of an unidentified businessman, and had links to a Russian organized crime group.  Again, OFAC makes unsubstantiated allegations without connecting these allegations—which OFAC expressly references but does not itself allege—to any senior Russian Government official nor to the Russian energy sector.  OFAC also failed to provide any fact-finding or reasoning to corroborate or substantiate these statements.  Further, OFAC does not state when or where this conduct occurred, or whether there were any findings as to the merits of those allegations.”

Deripaska’s defence to the charge of attempted murder is that it originated from “business rivals and competitors who have long promulgated false rumors and innuendo in attempt to gain advantages in lawsuits against Deripaska.  Most of the allegations have been rumored about for more than two decades but remain as unfounded today as they were when first raised.”

The murder target isn’t unidentified. But Deripaska and the State Department, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) all know who it was. The date of the attack was December 29, 2009; the target was me.  

Investigations by the US, British and Australian Governments at the time also extended to investigations by the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Moscow city police, and were then documented in police records, as well as hearings in the Moscow city court and appeals court.  A Moscow judge ordered local prosecutors to re-open the case after they attempted to close it. State Department officials including Hillary Clinton, then Secretary of State; William Burns, Deputy Secretary of State; Dan Russell, a deputy assistant secretary of state in charge of Russia;  and Kyle Scott, the director of State’s Office of Russian Affairs, were all involved in closing the case file. Declassified Australian Government documents revealing a British intelligence intercept have all been published.

Left to right: William Burns, now head of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Dan Russell, now Chief Executive  of the US-Russia Business Council; Kyle Scott, currently US Ambassador to Serbia.

For the details of the story, read the book, just out.   

Ferrari, Deripaska’s attorney,  describes his law firm as a specialist in US sanctions law.   He adds that  the Deripaska case “is the first time we have filed a challenge to an OFAC designation under the Ukraine-related/Russia-related sanctions program, although we have advised on other matters involving such challenges. Based on a quick search of records of active matters over the last five years we’ve had about 70 separate delisting matters. Many of those matters, however, related to multiple parties petitioning under one matter, so I’d have to say the number is over a hundred at this point. Approximately 75% of those matters resulted in removals from the SDN [Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons] List.”

Bruce Marks, managing attorney of the Philadelphia and Moscow-based law firm Marks & Sokolov, has had more experience litigating against Deripaska in the US than any other US lawyer.  He pioneered the application of the US racketeering statute to pursue compensation for theft of aluminium smelter assets; for details, read this

Deripaska succeeded in dismissing the Marks litigation on behalf of the owner of the Novokuznetsk smelter, Mikhail Zhivilo, arguing the case should be tried in Russia.  When he was asked what chance of success Deripaska’s lawsuit against  OFAC will have,  Marks replied: “Below zero,  and I am being generous. Deripaska  is obviously an oligarch with ties to the Kremlin.  No mistaken identity here. These are national security and political decisions. I expect the Treasury lawyers will move for summary dismissal.”

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