Posts Tagged ‘Oleg Deripaska’

Russian court extends detention of Belarussian model

January 20, 2019

A Belarusian model who claimed she had proof of Russian collusion with the Trump election campaign, had her detention in Moscow extended by three days by a Russian court on Saturday.

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Anastasia Vashukevich, also known as Nastya Rybka, has been held for questioning since Thursday after she was deported from Thailand as part of a group convicted of participating in a “sex training course.”

Anastasia Vashukevich, a Belarusian model and escort who caused a stir last year after she was arrested in Thailand and said she had evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, is pictured at the immigration detention center before being deported in Bangkok, Thailand, January 17, 2019. (REUTERS)

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“The court has decided to extend her detention by 72 hours,” judge Natalya Borissenkova was cited as stating by the Ria Novosti news agency.

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She denied the accusation of prostitution, telling the court that “I am not guilty of what I am accused,” Interfax reported.

Model Anastasia Vashukevich, also known as Nastya Rybka, who was deported from Thailand to Russia after her arrest and pleading guilty to charges including conspiracy and soliciting, is escorted before a court hearing in Moscow, Russia January 19, 2019. (REUTERS)

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In a case that veered between salacious and bizarre, Vashukevich has said she had traveled to Thailand after becoming embroiled in a political scandal with Russian aluminum tycoon Oleg Deripaska — a one-time associate of US President Trump’s disgraced former campaign director Paul Manafort.

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She then set tongues wagging by promising to reveal “missing puzzle pieces” regarding claims the Kremlin aided Trump’s 2016 presidential election victory.

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But the material never surfaced and critics dismissed the claims as a publicity stunt.

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Both Washington and Moscow publicly shrugged off Vashukevich’s story, which the US State Department described as “bizarre.”

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She had been in custody in Thailand since a police raid in the sleazy seaside resort of Pattaya early last year.

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She was arrested at Moscow airport on Thursday after being deported from Thailand where she had spent a year in prison for participating in a “sex training course.”

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During the hearing in Moscow, she said she did not want to “in any way compromise Oleg Deripaska.”

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“I have had enough,” she added, according to Interfax.

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Her lawyer Dmitry Zatsarinsky, told reporters that his young client “has committed no crime” and had “nothing to do with” Deripaska and “still less with Donald Trump.”

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On Friday he denounced her arrest, which happened while she was in transit from Thailand on her way to Belarus.

AFP

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Schumer’s Russia Sanctions Gambit

January 15, 2019

There’s no evidence to doubt the Treasury’s negotiation with Rusal.

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer
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The goal of U.S. sanctions is to change behavior. But tell that to Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, who is trying to score political points by killing an agreement between the Treasury Department and owners of Rusal, Russia’s aluminum giant. Mr. Schumer is talking tough on Moscow, without even trying to explain what a better final outcome would be.

In April the Treasury announced sanctions on Oleg Deripaska, one of Vladimir Putin’s oligarch cronies. Since Mr. Deripaska controls EN+ Group, which controls Rusal, both companies were implicated. But the U.S. penalty seems to have worked. In a Dec. 19 letter, Treasury told Congress it would lift sanctions on the companies—though not on Mr. Deripaska—under an agreement with the Russian parties

Oleg Deripaska — Credit Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images

The law gives Congress 30 days to overturn this action by passing a resolution of disapproval. Since it’s procedurally privileged, Mr. Schumer can force a vote—and he has suggested he intends to, possibly Tuesday. He wants to put Republicans on the spot so he can portray them as soft on Russia.

“The Treasury Department’s proposal is flawed,” the Minority Leader said, “and fails to sufficiently limit Oleg Deripaska’s control and influence of these companies.”

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Did he read the same Treasury letter that we did? Under its terms Mr. Deripaska’s stake in EN+ will drop from about 70% to 45%, where it will be frozen. He will get no cash from the restructuring. Shares will be taken by VTB Bank , the Swiss mining company Glencore , and a charitable foundation.

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Bruce Ohr

To further dilute control, Mr. Deripaska will vote only 35% of his shares. The rest will be voted by a trust, which will be required to side with the majority of non-Deripaska shares. Shares held by VTB Bank will be voted by a third party. So will shares whose owners have “professional or family ties” to Mr. Deripaska.

Russian oligarch Oleg V. Deripaska.  Credit Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

EN+ will get a new board. Two-thirds of its directors will be independent of Mr. Deripaska, and half will be American or British. Rusal’s chairman will step down, and the majority of its board will be independent. The companies have agreed to auditing and reporting requirements, such as providing the Treasury with quarterly reports and board minutes.

Keep in mind, EN+ and Rusal are not accused of anything other than entanglement with Mr. Deripaska. Consider, too, the implications if Mr. Schumer succeeds in blocking the Treasury deal. Other entities under U.S. sanction will take the lesson that negotiating is fruitless and changing ownership or business practice is no guarantee of relief.

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The eventual outcome with Rusal may end up worse. Russia could nationalize the aluminum producer or broker a deal for the Chinese to buy it. That would disentangle the company from Mr. Deripaska, but not in a way that advances America’s interests.

Mr. Schumer adds that the sanctions should stay because Robert Mueller hasn’t concluded his special counsel investigation. The insinuation is that President Trump could be intervening here as a favor to the Russians. There’s zero evidence for that—and the Trump Administration has been far tougher on Russia than the Obama Administration was even after the Kremlin’s 2016 election interference.

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Aluminum ingots stacked for shipment

When a party under sanctions shapes up, the penalty ought to be lifted. There’s no reason Rusal should be an exception.

Appeared in the January 15, 2019, print edition.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/schumers-russia-sanctions-gambit-11547511826

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One of the players in the effort to cultivate Mr. Deripaska was Bruce G. Ohr, the Justice Department official who has recently become a target of attacks by Mr. Trump over his ties to the former British spy Christopher Steele. Credit Erin Schaff for The New York Times

Needed in the Russia investigation: More skepticism of Manafort and the media (Lynch Mob Doesn’t Need a Rope, At Least Not Yet)

January 11, 2019

Don’t fall for the media “bombshells,” and never count Manafort as a friend.

The Russia-collusion story manages to be at once frenetic and humdrum. Apparent bombshell revelations arise but without advancing the public’s knowledge beyond a couple of truths we all knew back in 2016: First, when it comes to President Trump, the media can’t control itself. Second, Paul Manafort is no friend.

In perhaps the 1,000th “ bombshell” report on the Russia investigation, the New York Times reported earlier this week that Manafort, as Trump’s campaign chairman, had sent internal polling data to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who is “close to the Kremlin.”

Washington Examiner
Editorial

This revelation perturbed us. Seeing how close Manafort and Michael Flynn were to both Russia and Trump, we have kept an open mind about the investigation into collusion. We don’t know all the facts, and so we try to process all new information on its merits.

Oleg Deripaska — Credit Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images

Yet while many media outlets — see Esquire, Talking Points Memo, and others — took the Times report as conclusive proof of collusion, we held our fire. Why? Because while we have tried to keep cool about this investigation, the largest media outlets have not. We recall ABC reporting that Flynn met with the Kremlin during the campaign. That was a “bombshell” of the first order. Except that it turned out to be false.

And so it was with the latest Times report. Manafort was sending the polling data to Ukranians, it turns out, not to Russians as the Times claimed.

Former National Security Advisor General Michael Flynn leaves after the delay in his sentencing hearing at US District Court in Washington, DC, December 18, 2018. - President Donald Trump's former national security chief Michael Flynn received a postponement of his sentencing after an angry judge threatened to give him a stiff sentence. Russia collusion investigation head Robert Mueller had proposed Flynn receive no jail time for lying to investigators about his Moscow ties. But Judge Emmet Sullivan said Flynn had behaved in a "traitorous" manner and gave the former three-star general the option of receiving a potentially tough prison sentence now -- or wait until Mueller's investigation was closer to being completed to better demonstrate his cooperation with investigators. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images Photo: SAUL LOEB / AFP or licensors

Mike Flynn outside the courthouse

This incident confirmed both of our general operating assumptions on the Russia investigation: Don’t fall for the media “bombshells,” and never count Manafort as a friend.

Manafort went to work for the Trump campaign in the spring of 2016. Trump wasn’t paying Manafort, which should have been a clear warning sign. Manafort was free to Trump for the same reason Facebook is free to you: You are not the customer; you’re the product. Manafort was working for Ukrainian oligarchs and other shady foreign clients, and part of the value he was delivering was proximity to the Republican presidential nominee and the information, such as internal polling, that proximity allowed him.

We have repeatedly warned Trump about this. “Manafort is not your friend,” we wrote in an editorial addressed to the president. “Manafort is a shady foreign agent who tried to exploit you. And if he had never been involved in the Trump campaign, there may not be a Russia investigation at all.”

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There’s some worry that Trump has considered pardoning Manafort. At the very least, we’ve seen Trump praise Manafort. This praise is unwarranted.

Trump should turn his back on this double-dealer who has caused him so much trouble. And we all should show more skepticism of the media “bombshells” that have caused commentators and other reporters so much trouble.

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/editorials/needed-in-the-russia-investigation-more-skepticism-of-manafort-and-the-media

Russian Oligarch: How Oleg Deripaska Is Trying to Escape U.S. Sanctions

November 5, 2018
Oleg Deripaska — Credit Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images

This spring, a British lord with deep ties to the governing Conservative Party and a reputation as a do-gooder environmentalist arrived in Washington on an unlikely mission: to save the business empire of Oleg Deripaska, one of Russia’s most infamous oligarchs.

Russian oligarch Oleg V. Deripaska.  Credit Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

Mr. Deripaska was in deep trouble. In April, the Trump administration had announced sanctions on oligarchs close to President Vladimir V. Putin, and on their companies, as punishment for Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and for other hostile acts. A billionaire who controls the world’s second-largest aluminum company, Mr. Deripaska faced possible ruin.

Portrayed as little more than a thug by his critics and suspected by United States officials of having ties to Russian organized crime, Mr. Deripaska, 50, has spent two decades trying to buy respect in the West. London welcomed him; Washington still mostly has not. Successive administrations have limited his ability to travel to the United States.

Even Mr. Putin was unable to resolve the situation when he interceded personally with Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama on Mr. Deripaska’s behalf.

By  Andrew Higgins and Kenneth P. Vogel
The New York Times

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But with so much on the line this time, Mr. Deripaska’s allies are now fighting back aggressively, mobilizing a vast influence machine on both sides of the Atlantic in an all-out effort to undo the sanctions against his companies before they take full effect.

The campaign to help Mr. Deripaska is playing out against an especially sensitive political backdrop. Any step by the administration that is seen as favorable to a powerful Russian is sure to draw scrutiny at a time when the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is continuing his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Moreover, Mr. Deripaska has been a subsidiary character in that inquiry, not as a target but because he at one point employed Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, as an adviser. Mr. Manafort was convicted on one set of fraud charges and pleaded guilty to other charges in cases brought by Mr. Mueller, and is now cooperating with the prosecution.

But the current lobbying effort on behalf of Mr. Deripaska’s companies still appears to have made substantial headway. In recent months, Mr. Deripaska’s firms have notched initial victories by winning multiple postponements from the Treasury Department of the sanctions on the oligarch’s holding company, EN+, and the giant aluminum company it controls, Rusal.

Now, with the administration closing in on its latest self-imposed deadline to make a final decision by Dec. 12, there are signs that Mr. Deripaska’s companies could escape the sanctions entirely.

Oleg Deripaska in London in 2011. He is one of Russia’s most prominent, and by some accounts notorious, oligarchs. Credit Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg, via Getty Images

Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, has signaled that he is open to a plan under which Mr. Deripaska would reduce his stake in his companies in return for the sanctions being lifted.

But sidestepping the business sanctions is not Mr. Deripaska’s only goal. His team is preparing an audacious and previously unreported campaign to remove the personal sanctions on him, too. Removing the personal sanctions would eliminate substantial barriers to his doing business in the United States and around the world, and could be a requirement for him to get his hands on the money — potentially billions of dollars — resulting from any sale of part of his stake in the companies.

“Oleg Deripaska understands better than most Russian oligarchs how money buys influence in Washington,” said Michael R. Carpenter, a former National Security Council official during the Obama administration who is now senior director of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement. “It seems like he’s now using that knowledge to try to save his skin.”

The elaborate influence operation highlights one of the fastest-growing elements of the lobbying business: helping deep-pocketed foreign interests massage the sanctions, tariffs and other tools deployed by Mr. Trump against foreign governments, individuals and industries.

Read the rest:

NYT:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/04/world/europe/oleg-deripaska-russia-oligarch-sanctions.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

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Russia Blocks Critic’s Site, Warns Google About Billionaire Yacht Videos

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-15/russia-blocks-putin-critic-s-site-warns-google-on-tycoon-report

US delays imposition of sanctions on Deripaska’s Rusal

September 22, 2018

Russian oligarch has a further three weeks to negotiate a reprieve from Treasury
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Temporary reprieve: Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska © Bloomberg

Henry Foy in Moscow
The US Treasury has extended a deadline for the full imposition of crippling sanctions against the aluminium empire of Oleg Deripaska, giving the Russian oligarch another three weeks to find a way to win a full reprieve.

Washington in April announced it would impose sanctions on Mr Deripaska and his business empire, to prevent him and his companies from using the dollar and doing business with US citizens.

Those measures threatened the future of Rusal, the world’s second largest aluminium producer. Late on Friday, the Treasury said it would delay to November 12 a deadline forcing investors to sell holdings of debt and equity in Rusal and its parent company EN+, from the previous date of October 23.

“EN+ and Rusal have approached the US government about substantial corporate governance changes that could potentially result in significant changes in control,” a Treasury spokesperson said. “To allow sufficient time for review, we are extending these licenses until November 12.”

The US sanctions, which targeted 24 Russian oligarchs and politicians, were designed to punish Moscow for alleged interference in the 2016 US presidential election. Rusal found itself cut off from global commodity markets and the western banking system, creating chaos in international manufacturing supply chains.

Earlier this month the Treasury said that it would permit long-term customers of Rusal to sign new contracts with the company as long as they were consistent with past actions.

A plan being devised by Greg Barker, a member of the UK’s upper house of parliament and a former energy minister, seeks to have the sanctions lifted by transferring a significant stake in EN+ to a Russian bank that would later sell the unsanctioned shares to the market.

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https://www.ft.com/content/71ca3200-be1b-11e8-8274-55b72926558f

 

Agents Tried to Flip Russian Oligarchs. The Fallout Spread to Trump.

September 2, 2018

In the estimation of American officials, Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with close ties to the Kremlin, has faced credible accusations of extortion, bribery and even murder.

They also thought he might make a good source.

Between 2014 and 2016, the F.B.I. and the Justice Department unsuccessfully tried to turn Mr. Deripaska into an informant. They signaled that they might provide help with his trouble in getting visas for the United States or even explore other steps to address his legal problems. In exchange, they were hoping for information on Russian organized crime and, later, on possible Russian aid to President Trump’s 2016 campaign, according to current and former officials and associates of Mr. Deripaska.

Justice Department officials tried to turn the oligarch Oleg V. Deripaska into an informant as they sought information on Russian organized crime and, later, on possible Russian aid to President Trump’s 2016 campaign. Credit Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

In one dramatic encounter, F.B.I. agents appeared unannounced and uninvited at a home Mr. Deripaska maintains in New York and pressed him on whether Paul Manafort, a former business partner of his who went on to become chairman of Mr. Trump’s campaign, had served as a link between the campaign and the Kremlin.

The attempt to flip Mr. Deripaska was part of a broader, clandestine American effort to gauge the possibility of gaining cooperation from roughly a half-dozen of Russia’s richest men, nearly all of whom, like Mr. Deripaska, depend on President Vladimir V. Putin to maintain their wealth, the officials said.

By Kenneth P. Vogel and Matthew Rosenberg
The New York Times

Two of the players in the effort were Bruce G. Ohr, the Justice Department official who has recently become a target of attacks by Mr. Trump, and Christopher Steele, the former British spy who compiled a dossier of purported links between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The systematic effort to win the cooperation of the oligarchs, which has not previously been revealed, does not appear to have scored any successes. And in Mr. Deripaska’s case, he told the American investigators that he disagreed with their theories about Russian organized crime and Kremlin collusion in the campaign, a person familiar with the exchanges said. The person added that Mr. Deripaska even notified the Kremlin about the American efforts to cultivate him.

But the fallout from the efforts is now rippling through American politics and has helped fuel Mr. Trump’s campaign to discredit the investigation into whether he coordinated with Russia in its interference in the election.

The contacts between Mr. Ohr and Mr. Steele were detailed in emails and notes from Mr. Ohr that the Justice Department turned over to Republicans in Congress earlier this year. A number of journalists, including some at conservative news outlets, have reported on elementsof those contacts but not on the broader outreach program to the oligarchs or key aspects of the interactions between Mr. Ohr, Mr. Steele and Mr. Deripaska.

The revelation that Mr. Ohr engaged with Mr. Steele has provided the president’s allies with fresh fodder to attack the investigation led by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, casting it as part of a vast, long-running conspiracy by a “deep state” bent on undermining Mr. Trump. In their telling, Mr. Ohr and his wife — who worked as a contractor at the same research firm that produced the dossier — are villainous central players in a cabal out to destroy the president.

Mr. Trump himself has seized on the reports, threatening to pull Mr. Ohr’s security clearance and claiming that his family “received big money for helping to create the phony, dirty and discredited Dossier.”

While Mr. Steele did discuss the research that resulted in the dossier with Mr. Ohr during the final months of the campaign, current and former officials said that Mr. Deripaska was the subject of many of the contacts between the two men between 2014 and 2016.

A timeline that Mr. Ohr hand-wrote of all his contacts with Mr. Steele was among the leaked documents cited by the president and his allies as evidence of an anti-Trump plot.

The contacts between Mr. Steele and Mr. Ohr started before Mr. Trump became a presidential candidate and continued through much of the campaign.

Mr. Deripaska’s contacts with the F.B.I. took place in September 2015 and the same month a year later. The latter meeting came two months after the F.B.I. began investigating Russian interference in the election and a month after Mr. Manafort left the Trump campaign amid reports about his work for Russia-aligned political parties in Ukraine.

The outreach to Mr. Deripaska, who is so close to the Russian president that he has been called “Putin’s oligarch,” was not as much of a long shot as it might have appeared.

He had worked with the United States government in the past, including on a thwarted effort to rescue an F.B.I. agent captured in Iran, on which he reportedly spent as much as $25 million of his own money. And he had incentive to cooperate again in the run-up to the 2016 election, as he tried to win permission to travel more easily to the United States, where he has long sought more freedom to do business and greater acceptance as a global power broker.

Mr. Steele sought to aid the effort to engage Mr. Deripaska, and he noted in an email to Mr. Ohr in February 2016 that the Russian had received a visa to travel to the United States. In the email, Mr. Steele said his company had compiled and circulated “sensitive” research suggesting that Mr. Deripaska and other oligarchs were under pressure from the Kremlin to toe the Russian government line, leading Mr. Steele to conclude that Mr. Deripaska was not the “tool” of Mr. Putin alleged by the United States government.

The timeline sketched out by Mr. Ohr shows contacts stretching back to when Mr. Ohr first met Mr. Steele in 2007. It also shows what officials said was the first date on which the two discussed cultivating Mr. Deripaska: a meeting in Washington on Nov. 21, 2014, roughly seven months before Mr. Trump announced that he was running for president.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an initiative that remains classified. Most expressed deep discomfort, saying they feared that in revealing the attempts to cultivate Mr. Deripaska and other oligarchs they were undermining American national security and strengthening the grip that Mr. Putin holds over those who surround him.

But they also said they did not want Mr. Trump and his allies to use the program’s secrecy as a screen with which they could cherry-pick facts and present them, sheared of context, to undermine the special counsel’s investigation. That, too, they said they feared, would damage American security.

The program was led by the F.B.I. Mr. Ohr, who had long worked on combating Russian organized crime, was one of the Justice Department officials involved.

Mr. Steele served as an intermediary between the Americans and the Russian oligarchs they were seeking to cultivate. He had first met Mr. Ohr years earlier while still serving at MI6, Britain’s foreign spy agency, where he oversaw Russia operations. After retiring, he opened a business intelligence firm, and had tracked Russian organized crime and business interests for private clients, including one of Mr. Deripaska’s lawyers.

To facilitate meetings, the F.B.I. pushed the State Department to allow Mr. Deripaska to travel to New York on a Russian diplomatic passport as part of a Russian government delegation to the United Nations General Assembly. The State Department had previously rejected some of Mr. Deripaska’s efforts to secure visas to enter the United States — even as part of prior diplomatic delegations — but it approved diplomatic visa requests in 2015 and 2016.

One of the players in the effort to cultivate Mr. Deripaska was Bruce G. Ohr, the Justice Department official who has recently become a target of attacks by Mr. Trump over his ties to the former British spy Christopher Steele. Credit Erin Schaff for The New York Times

Mr. Steele helped set up a meeting between the Russian and American officials during the 2015 trip. Mr. Ohr attended the meeting, during which the Americans pressed Mr. Deripaska on the connections between Russian organized crime and Mr. Putin’s government, as well as other issues, according to a person familiar with the events. The person said that Mr. Deripaska told the Americans that their theories were off base and did not reflect how things worked in Russia.

Mr. Deripaska would not agree to a second meeting. But one took place the next year, in September 2016, when F.B.I. agents showed up unannounced at his door in New York. By then, they were already investigating possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, and they pressed Mr. Deripaska about whether his former business partner, Mr. Manafort, had served as a link to the Kremlin during his time as Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman.

It was not only the F.B.I. that was concerned about Russian interference in the final months of the campaign. American spy agencies were sounding an alarm after months of intelligence reports about contacts between Trump associates and Russians, and Moscow’s hacking of Democratic Party emails. (American intelligence agencies would later conclude that the interference was real and that Russia had acted to boost Mr. Trump’s candidacy.)

There was also a growing debate at the highest levels of the Obama administration about how to respond without being seen as trying ttip the presidential election toward Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Deripaska, though, told the F.B.I. agents that while he had no love for Mr. Manafort, with whom he was in a bitter business dispute, he found their theories about his role on the campaign “preposterous.” He also disputed that there were any connections between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to the person familiar with the exchange.

The Justice Department’s efforts to cultivate Mr. Deripaska appear to have fizzled soon after, amid worsening relations between the United States and Russia.

This past April, the Treasury Department imposed potentially crippling sanctions against Mr. Deripaska and his mammoth aluminum company, saying he had profited from the “malign activities” of Russia around the world. In announcing the sanctions, the Trump administration cited accusations that Mr. Deripaska had been accused of extortion, racketeering, bribery, links to organized crime and even ordering the murder of a businessman.

Mr. Deripaska has denied the allegations, and his allies contend that the sanctions are punishment for refusing to play ball with the Americans.

Yet just as it was becoming clear that Mr. Deripaska would provide little help to the Americans, Mr. Steele was talking to Mr. Ohr about an entirely new issue: the dossier.

In summer 2016, Mr. Steele first told Mr. Ohr about the research that would eventually come to make up the dossier. Over a breakfast in Washington, Mr. Steele said he believed that Russian intelligence had Mr. Trump “over a barrel,” according to a person familiar with the discussion. But the person said that it was more of a friendly heads-up, and that Mr. Steele had separately been in touch with an F.B.I. agent in a bid to get his work to investigators.

The research by that point was being funded by the Democratic National Committee and Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, and Mr. Steele believed that what he had found was damning enough that he needed to get it to American law enforcement.

F.B.I. agents would later meet with Mr. Steele to discuss his work. But former senior officials from the bureau and the Justice Department have said that the investigation into ties between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia was well underway by the time they got the dossier.

Nonetheless, Mr. Trump and his allies have seized on the fact that Mr. Ohr and Mr. Steele were in touch about elements of the dossier to attack the investigation into Russian election interference as a “rigged witch hunt.”

Mr. Trump and his allies have cast Mr. Steele’s research — and the serious consideration it was given by Mr. Ohr and the F.B.I. — as part of a plot by rogue officials and Mrs. Clinton’s allies to undermine Mr. Trump’s campaign and his presidency.

The role of Mr. Deripaska has gotten less attention, but it similarly offers fodder for the theory being advanced by the president’s defenders.

Among the documents produced to Congress by the Justice Department is an undated — and previously unreported — note handwritten by Mr. Ohr indicating that Mr. Deripaska and one of his London-based lawyers, Paul Hauser, were “almost ready to talk” to American government officials regarding the money that “Manafort stole.”

Even after the concerted effort to cultivate Mr. Deripaska appeared to have broken down, and as he was emerging as a subject of increasing interest in inquiries into ties between Mr. Trump’s circle and Russia, both sides continued sporadic outreach.

Last year, Mr. Ohr asked someone who communicated with Mr. Deripaska to urge the oligarch to “give up Manafort,” according to a person familiar with the exchange. And Mr. Deripaska sought to engage with Congress.

The oligarch took out newspaper advertisements in the United States last year volunteering to testify in any congressional hearings examining his work with Mr. Manafort. The ads were in response to an Associated Press report that Mr. Manafort had secretly worked for Mr. Deripaska on a plan to “greatly benefit the Putin government” in the mid-2000s.

Mr. Deripaska deplored that assertion as “malicious” and a “lie,” and subsequently sued The A.P. for libel, though he later dropped his appeal of a judge’s ruling dismissing the lawsuit without receiving a settlement or payment.

Soon after the advertisements ran, representatives for the House and Senate Intelligence Committees called a Washington-based lawyer for Mr. Deripaska, Adam Waldman, inquiring about taking his client up on the offer to testify, Mr. Waldman said in an interview.

What happened after that has been in dispute. Mr. Waldman, who stopped working for Mr. Deripaska after the sanctions were levied, said he told the committee staff that his client would be willing to testify without any grant of immunity, but would not testify about any Russian collusion with the Trump campaign because “he doesn’t know anything about that theory and actually doesn’t believe it occurred.”

“I told them that he would be willing to talk about Manafort,” Mr. Waldman added.

Mr. Waldman said he did not hear back from the committee’s staff members, but he contends that they played a role in pushing the claim that the talks over Mr. Deripaska’s potential testimony had fallen apart because he demanded immunity.

“We specifically told them that we did not want immunity,” Mr. Waldman said. “Clearly, they did not want him to testify. What other conclusion could you possibly draw?”

Follow Kenneth P. Vogel and Matthew Rosenberg on Twitter: @kenvogel and @AllMattNYT

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: U.S. Agents Tried To Turn Oligarch Into an Informer.

NYT:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/01/us/politics/deripaska-ohr-steele-fbi.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

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Russian Oligarch And Putin Pal Admits To Collusion, Secret Meetings, with Obama Administration

September 2, 2018

Russian Oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a close associate of Vladimir Putin, has gone on record with The Hill‘s John Solomon – admitting to colluding with Americans leading up to the 2016 US election, except it might not be what you’re thinking.

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Deripaska, rumored to be Donald Trump’s “back channel” to Putin via the Russian’s former association with Paul Manafort, says he “colluded” with the US Governmentbetween 2009 and 2016.

In 2009, when Robert Mueller was running the FBI, the agency asked Deripaska to spend $25 million of his own money to bankroll an FBI-supervised operation to rescue a retired FBI agent – Robert Levinson, who was kidnapped in 2007 while working on a 2007 CIA contract in Iran. This in and of itself is more than a bit strange.

Deripaska agreed, however the Obama State Department, headed by Hillary Clinton, scuttled a last-minute deal with Iran before Levinson could be released. He hasn’t been heard from since.

FBI agents courted Deripaska in 2009 in a series of secret hotel meetings in Paris; Vienna; Budapest, Hungary, and Washington. Agents persuaded the aluminum industry magnate to underwrite the mission. The Russian billionaire insisted the operation neither involve nor harm his homeland. -The Hill

In other words – Trump’s alleged “back channel” to Putin was in fact an FBI asset who spent $25 million helping Obama’s “scandal free” administration find a kidnapped agent, Deripaska’s admitted.

 

Steele, Ohr and the 2016 US Election

As the New York Times frames it, distancing Deripaska from the FBI (no mention of the $25 million rescue effort, for example), the Russian aluminum magnate was just one of several Putin-linked Oligarchs the FBI tried to flip.

The attempt to flip Mr. Deripaska was part of a broader, clandestine American effort to gauge the possibility of gaining cooperation from roughly a half-dozen of Russia’s richest men, nearly all of whom, like Mr. Deripaska, depend on President Vladimir V. Putin to maintain their wealth, the officials said. –NYT

Central to the recruiting effort were two central players in the Trump-Russia investigation; twice-demoted DOJ #4 officialBruce Ohr and Christopher Steele – the author of the largely unverified “Steele Dossier.”

Steele, a longtime associate of Ohr’s, worked for Deripaska beginning in 2012 researching a business rival – work which would evolve to the point where the former British spy was interfacing with the Obama administration on his behalf – resulting in Deripaska regaining entry into the United States, where he visited numerous times between 2009 and 2017.

The State Department tried to keep him from getting a U.S. visa between 2006 and 2009 because they believed he had unspecified connections to criminal elements in Russia as he consolidated power in the aluminum industry. Deripaska has denied those allegations…

Whatever the case, it is irrefutable that after he began helping the FBI, Deripaska regained entry to the United States. And he visited numerous times between 2009 and 2017, visa entry records show. –The Hill

Deripaska is now banned from the United States as one of several Russians sanctioned in April in response to alleged 2016 election meddling.

In a September 2016 meeting, Deripaska told FBI agents that it was “preposterous” that Paul Manafort was colluding with Russia to help Trump win the 2016 election. This, despite the fact that Deripaska and Manafort’s business relationship “ended in lawsuits, per The Hill – and the Russian would have every reason to throw Manafort under the bus if he wanted some revenge on his old associate.

So the FBI and DOJ secretly collaborated with Trump’s alleged backchannel over a seven-year period, starting with Levinson, then on Deripaska’s Visa, and finally regarding whether Paul Manafort was an intermediary to Putin. Deripaska vehemently denies the assertion, and even took out newspaper advertisements in the US last year volunteering to testify to Congress, refuting an AP report that he and Manafort secretly worked on a plan to “greatly benefit the Putin government” a decade ago.

Soon after the advertisements ran, representatives for the House and Senate Intelligence Committees called a Washington-based lawyer for Mr. Deripaska, Adam Waldman, inquiring about taking his client up on the offer to testify, Mr. Waldman said in an interview.

What happened after that has been in dispute. Mr. Waldman, who stopped working for Mr. Deripaska after the sanctions were levied, said he told the committee staff that his client would be willing to testify without any grant of immunity, but would not testify about any Russian collusion with the Trump campaign because “he doesn’t know anything about that theory and actually doesn’t believe it occurred.” –NYT

In short, Deripaska wants it known that he worked with the FBI and DOJ, and that he had nothing to do with the Steele dossier.

Today, Deripaska is banned anew from the United States, one of several Russians sanctioned in April by the Trump administration as a way to punish Putin for 2016 election meddling. But he wants to be clear about a few things, according to a statement provided by his team. First, he did collude with Americans in the form of voluntarily assisting and meeting with the FBI, the DOJ and people such as Ohr between 2009 and 2016.

He also wants Americans to know he did not cooperate or assist with Steele’s dossier, and he tried to dispel the FBI notion that Russia and the Trump campaign colluded during the 2016 election. –The Hill

Interestingly, Steele’s dossier which was partially funded by the Clinton campaign, relied on senior Kremlin officials.

It would be most helpful if the Department of Justice could please investigate and then prosecute themselves and/or members of the previous administration, so that journalists like John Solomon, Sara Carter, Luke Rosiak, Chuck Ross and others don’t have to continue to break stories that are seemingly ignored by all but a handful of Congressional investigators.

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-09-01/russian-oligarch-and-putin-pal-admits-collusion-secret-meetings

Russian oligarch, Justice Department and a clear case of collusion

August 30, 2018

In a 20-month search for evidence of collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia, none that is compelling has emerged.

Former FBI Director James Comey told Congress he found none. The U.S. intelligence community has given a similar assessment, though it did prove convincingly that Moscow meddled in the 2016 election through cyber warfare. And, so far, special counsel Robert Mueller has not offered any collusion evidence, though his work continues.

But, for the first time, I can say there is evidence of collusion between Russians and Americans — specifically, the sort that is at the heart of counterintelligence work.

Before we review that evidence, let’s define collusion. The Collins Dictionary says its original British meaning was “secret or illegal cooperation, especially between countries or organizations.” Using that definition, collusion can be secret but good, if the outcome is well-intended. Or, it can be bad, if it is meant to defraud, deceive or create illegality.

Opinion
By John Solomon

Now for the evidence, as presented to me by several sources, American and foreign:

In September 2015, senior Department of Justice (DOJ) official Bruce Ohr and some FBI agents met in New York with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska to seek the Russian billionaire’s help on organized crime investigations. The meeting was facilitated — though not attended — by British intelligence operative Christopher Steele.

Image may contain: 1 person, beard

Oleg Deripaska

In 2012, Steele’s private firm, Orbis Business Intelligence, was hired as a subcontractor by a law firm working for Deripaska, who then headed Russia’s largest aluminum company. Steele’s firm was asked to do research to help the law firm defend a lawsuit filed against Deripaska by a business rival.

By 2015, Steele’s work had left him friendly with one of Deripaska’s lawyers, according to my sources. And when Ohr, then the associate deputy attorney general and a longtime acquaintance of Steele, sought help getting to meet Deripaska, Steele obliged.

Deripaska, who frequently has appeared alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin at high-profile meetings, never really dealt with Steele, but he followed his lawyer’s recommendations and met with Ohr, my sources say.

By that time, Deripaska already had proven himself helpful to the FBI. As I’ve written previously, based on numerous U.S. sources, he cooperated with the bureau from 2009 to 2011 and spent more than $25 million of his own money on an FBI-supervised operation to try to rescue retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, who was captured in Iran while working as a CIA contractor.

U.S. officials and Levinson’s family told me that Deripaska’s efforts came close to securing Levinson’s freedom before the State Department scuttled a deal. The former agent has never been heard from again.

The 2015 meeting between Ohr, the FBI and Deripaska is captured cryptically in some of Ohr’s handwritten notes, recently turned over to Congress.

People familiar with the meeting said U.S. officials posed some investigative theories about suspected Russian organized crime and cyber espionage activity, theories that Deripaska indicated he did not believe were accurate.

The sources stressed that the 2015 meeting had nothing to do with any allegation about Russian meddling in the upcoming 2016 election but, rather, was an “outreach” about other types of suspected activity overseas that concerned U.S. officials.

A year later, Deripaska would get another visit from his FBI friends in New York. But this time the questions were about possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Specifically, the agents told Deripaska they believed Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was secretly coordinating the election with Moscow.

Steele had planted that theory with the FBI. By that time the former MI6 agent was working for the American opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which had been hired by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee to find Russian dirt on Trump. Steele’s theories, of course, are contained in the so-called Steele dossier provided to the FBI.

Ohr had his own connection to Fusion, which was paying his wife, Nellie, to work on the anti-Trump research project, according to congressional testimony.

Deripaska once had a business relationship with Manafort, but it ended in lawsuits. Despite that acrimony, Deripaska told the agents in that September 2016 meeting that he thought the theory that Manafort was colluding with Russia to help Trump win the election was preposterous.

Deripaska — like the many foreign business figures to whom U.S. intelligence has turned for help over the decades — is not without controversy or need. The State Department tried to keep him from getting a U.S. visa between 2006 and 2009 because they believed he had unspecified connections to criminal elements in Russia as he consolidated power in the aluminum industry. Deripaska has denied those allegations and claims FBI agents told him in 2009 that the State Department file blocking his entry to the country was merely a pretext.

Whatever the case, it is irrefutable that after he began helping the FBI, Deripaska regained entry to the United States. And he visited numerous times between 2009 and 2017, visa entry records show.

We now know that, on multiple occasions during those visits, the DOJ and FBI secretly collaborated with Deripaska in the hope of getting help, first regarding Levinson, then on Ohr’s matters, and finally on the Manafort case. U.S. officials told me they assumed Deripaska let Putin’s team know he was helping the U.S. government and that his motive for helping was to keep visiting America.

Today, Deripaska is banned anew from the United States, one of several Russians sanctioned in April by the Trump administration as a way to punish Putin for 2016 election meddling. But he wants to be clear about a few things, according to a statement provided by his team. First, he did collude with Americans in the form of voluntarily assisting and meeting with the FBI, the DOJ and people such as Ohr between 2009 and 2016.

He also wants Americans to know he did not cooperate or assist with Steele’s dossier, and he tried to dispel the FBI notion that Russia and the Trump campaign colluded during the 2016 election.

“The latest reckless media chatter proposes that I had some unspecified involvement in the so-called dossier. Like most of the absurd fantasies and smears that ricochet across the internet, it is utterly false. I had absolutely nothing to do with this project, and I never had any knowledge of it until it was reported in the media and I certainly wasn’t involved in any activity related to it,” Deripaska said in the statement his team provided me.

Americans can form their own conclusions about the veracity of those claims. But they now have a pretty convincing case of collusion between U.S. officials and Russians, one that isn’t necessarily all that harmful to the American interest.

And the tale of Ohr, Steele, Deripaska, the FBI and the DOJ is a cogent reminder that people looking for black-and-white answers on Russia are more likely to find lots of gray — the favorite color of the murky counterintelligence world.

John Solomon is an award-winning investigative journalist whose work over the years has exposed U.S. and FBI intelligence failures before the Sept. 11 attacks, federal scientists’ misuse of foster children and veterans in drug experiments, and numerous cases of political corruption. He is The Hill’s executive vice president for video.

Includes video:

http://thehill.com/hilltv/rising/404061-russian-oligarch-justice-department-and-a-clear-case-of-collusion

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Robert Mueller investigation and a disparity of justice

August 24, 2018

Robert Mueller is determined to sniff out any wrongdoing he can find—on one side.

When Justice Is Partial

Robert Mueller testifies on Capitol Hill, June 13, 2013.
Robert Mueller testifies on Capitol Hill, June 13, 2013. PHOTO: YURI GRIPAS/REUTERS
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U.S. Attorney Robert Khuzami took a few moments in his Tuesday statement about Michael Cohen’s plea deal to sing neutrality’s praise: “His day of reckoning serves as a reminder that we are a nation of laws, with one set of rules that applies equally to everyone.”

Noble words, and they used to mean something. But a disparity of justice is at the heart of our current crisis of faith in institutions. Americans aren’t outraged that the Federal Bureau of Investigation felt obliged to investigate allegations leveled at campaigns, or that a special counsel is looking at Russian electoral interference. They are instead furious that Lady Justice seems to have it in for only one side.

The country has watched the FBI treat one presidential campaign with kid gloves, the other with informants, warrants and eavesdropping. They’ve seen the Justice Department resist all efforts at accountability, even as it fails to hold its own accountable. And don’t get them started on the one-sided media.

And they are now witnessing unequal treatment in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. Yes, the former FBI director deserves credit for smoking out the Russian trolls who interfered in 2016. And one can argue he is obliged to pursue any evidence of criminal acts, even those unrelated to Russia. But what cannot be justified is the one-sided nature of his probe.

Consider Mr. Cohen, the former Trump lawyer who this week pleaded guilty to eight felony charges. Six related to his personal business dealings; the other two involved campaign-finance violations arising from payments to women claiming affairs with Donald Trump. The criminal prosecution of campaign-finance offenses is exceptionally rare (most charges are civil), but let’s take Mr. Khuzami’s word for it when he says Mr. Cohen’s crimes are “particularly significant” because he’s a lawyer who should know better, and also because the payments were for the purpose of “influencing an election” and undermining its “integrity.”

If there is only “one set of rules,” where is Mr. Mueller’s referral of a case against Hillary for America? Federal law requires campaigns to disclose the recipient and purpose of any payments. The Clinton campaign paid Fusion GPS to compile a dossier against Mr. Trump, a document that became the basis of the Russia narrative Mr. Mueller now investigates. But the campaign funneled the money to law firm Perkins Coie, which in turn paid Fusion. The campaign falsely described the money as payment for “legal services.” The Democratic National Committee did the same. A Perkins Coie spokesperson has claimed that neither the Clinton campaign nor the DNC was aware that Fusion GPS had been hired to conduct the research, and maybe so. But a lot of lawyers here seemed to have been ignoring a clear statute, presumably with the intent of influencing an election.

“Liberty and Justice for All”

Prosecutions under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) are also exceptionally rare, though Mr. Mueller is getting media kudos for hammering the likes of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates for failing to register as lobbyists for foreign entities. The law is the law.

But under this standard, where are the charges against the principals of Fusion GPS, who Sen. Chuck Grassley has said look to have been lobbying on behalf of powerful Russians against a U.S. sanctions law, with its payment again funneled through a law firm? This was a sideline to its dossier work, but Mr. Mueller usually has no issue with sideline charges.

Or what about an evenhanded look at dossier author Christopher Steele ? FARA also requires foreigners to register if they act on behalf of a foreign principal. Recently disclosed emails from senior Justice Department official Bruce Ohr show the British Mr. Steele pleading the case to the Justice Department on behalf of a Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska.

Of the seven U.S. citizens Mr. Mueller has charged, five have been accused of (among other things) making false statements to federal officials. But there have been no charges against the partisans who made repeated abjectly false claims to the FBI and Justice Department about actions of their political opponents. There have been no charges against those who leaked classified information, including the unprecedented release of an unmasked conversation between former national security adviser Mike Flynn and a Russian ambassador. Nothing.

Some of these charges might not stand up in court, but that’s beside the point. Plenty of lawyers would poke holes in the campaign-finance charges against Cohen, or the “lying” charges against Mr. Flynn. Special counsels wield immense power; the mere threat of a charge provokes plea deals. It’s the focus that matters.

Prosecutors can claim all they want that they are applying the law equally, but if they only apply it to half the suspects, justice is not served. Mr. Mueller seems blind to the national need for—the basic expectation of—a thorough look into all parties. That omission is fundamentally undermining any legitimacy in his findings. Lady Justice does not wear a blindfold over only one eye.

Write to kim@wsj.com.

Appeared in the August 24, 2018, print edition.

Model claiming Trump secrets pleads not guilty in Thailand case

August 20, 2018

 

Belarusian model who sparked global intrigue after claiming she had evidence of Russian efforts to help Donald Trump win office pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of running an illegal “sex training” class in Thailand.

Anastasia Vashukevich, better known by her pen name Nastya Rybka, has been detained in Thailand since February when police raided a risque seminar in the seaside resort city of Pattaya.

Vashukevich had travelled to Thailand after becoming embroiled in a political scandal with Russian aluminium tycoon Oleg Deripaska, a onetime associate of Trump’s now-disgraced former campaign director Paul Manafort.

© THAI NEWS PIX/AFP | Anastasia Vashukevich has been detained in Thailand since February when police raided a risque “sex training” seminar in the seaside resort city of Pattaya

She set off a scramble for details after she promised in an Instagram video to reveal “missing puzzle pieces” on claims the Kremlin aided the US President’s 2016 election victory.

No material has been released to substantiate her claims, and critics have accused her of a publicity stunt.

Vashukevich and her seven co-defendants arrived at the Pattaya court on Monday for a pre-trial hearing on the charges that include unlawful assembly and conspiracy.

Police initially charged the group with work permit violations but later alleged the seminar, led by self-styled Russian seduction guru Alex Kirillov and ostensibly a course training participants to be better lovers, was actually intended to arrange paid sex for participants.

Photos of course participants in detention after the February raid showed them wearing t-shirts that said “sex animator”.

Kirillov, who has served as a spokesperson for the mostly-Russian group because he speaks English, told the court that all eight defendants were pleading not guilty.

“We did not commit any crimes,” he said. “What we do is training on how to seduce men and women. We do not make any sexual activity.”

Vashukevich cried after the prosecutor showed a photo of several of her co-defendants hugging at a nightclub after a training session.

“Why was I arrested? Why am I here?” she said.

The next hearing has been set for August 27.

Pattaya, on Thailand’s southern coast, is a party town with a reputation for vice and a sizeable Russian expatriate community.

Both Washington and Moscow have publically shrugged off Vashukevich’s story, which US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert described as “bizarre”.

Additional legal troubles are also awaiting Vashukevich and Kirillov back in Russia, where Deripaska won an invasion of privacy lawsuit against the duo last month.

They were ordered to pay $8,000 each to Deripaska, who sued them after a video apparently filmed by Vashukevich surfaced which appeared to show the tycoon vacationing with Sergei Prikhodko, an influential Russian deputy prime minister at the time.

Kremlin-connected Deripaska and Manafort did business together in the mid-2000s, The New York Times reported last year, but their relationship broke down into legal wrangling.

Manafort is awaiting a verdict in his own trial on fraud and tax evasion charges in the US state of Virginia.

AFP