The Associated Press is reporting that President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager “secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago.”
That billionaire is an oligarch named Oleg Deripaska, who made his fortune in aluminum and is said to be one of Putin’s close confidantes.
The link comes despite assurances from the Trump administration that former campaign manager Paul Manafort “never worked in the Kremlin’s interests,” according to The Independent. The report comes after FBI Director James Comey revealed the agency is investigating people in the Trump campaign to see whether there was any coordination with Russian efforts to undermine the 2016 presidential election.
Manafort denies the report, saying he never worked for Russian political interests when he did business with Deripaska, reports AP. Trump’s administration denies knowing about Manafort’s work for Deripaska:
Who is Oleg Deripaska?
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Deripaska Survived Russia’s ‘Gangster Wars’ to Seize Control of the Aluminum Industry
According to Forbes Magazine, Deripaska is a “former metals trader” who “survived the gangster wars in the aluminum industry.”
PBS calls him the “aluminum king.”
In 2000, at only age 31, he “assumed control of Russian Aluminum, the country’s dominant producer,” reported Forbes.
That’s not all that Deripaska has his hands in. According to Forbes, “He owns stakes in UC Rusal, a leading aluminum producer; EuroSibEnergo, one of the largest hydroelectric power producers in the world; GAZ Group, a leading automotive company; Ingosstrakh, an insurance company, and AgroHolding Kuban, large agricultural company in Russia.” He also operates Russian airports, reported Forbes.
2. Deripaska Was Once Worth $28 Billion & Is Related Through Marriage to Boris Yeltsin
A PBS story in 2003 reported that Deripaska, then 35, was Russia’s “youngest billionaire” (he was born in 1968.) His net worth has dropped from a reported $28 billion to $5.1 billion in 2017, according to Forbes.
A 2011 profile in the Globe and Mail describes the Deripaska family chalet outside Moscow as having “a small ski hill next to the chalet” that “is floodlit, exposing a few of the security guards who are an eternal presence in his life.”
The story reported that Deripaska was fond of Japanese design, Maple syrup, and classic Russian novels and says he was once worth $28 billion. The profile reports that Deripaska married Polina Yumashev in 2001 and has two children with her. PBS reported she is the daughter of former Russian president Boris Yeltsin’s chief of staff, and Yeltin’s granddaughter by marriage, making Deripaska Yeltsin’s grandson.
3. Deripaska Is Described as Being Very Close to Putin
The AP story reported that “U.S. diplomatic cables from 2006 described Deripaska as ‘among the 2-3 oligarchs Putin turns to on a regular basis’ and ‘a more-or-less permanent fixture on Putin’s trips abroad.'”
According to an intelligence company summation of Deripaska published by WikiLeaks, he “has survived until recent years because of his connections. He is married into the Yeltsin family, literally and is one of those listed under the clan called ‘The Family.'” The summation adds, “He says he’s been setting all the blocks up to be indispensible to Putin and the Kremlin and that they are just now noticing it.” That was 2007.
Deripaska suffered financial problems, and, reported the Globe and Mail profile, “Mr. Deripaska managed to save Rusal – the aluminum company that was the main source of his wealth…some think he would be dead and buried without a little help from his Kremlin friends, who evidently had no desire to see his investments seized by non-Russians.”
There are reports of tensions with Putin, though, too. In 2009, Putin compared oligarchs like Deripaska to cockroaches and “forced Mr. Deripaska to sign a document safeguarding the future of a local factory,” Globe and Mail reported.
The Telegraph reported that Putin “forced him to accompany him on a tour of Pikalevo, a factory town that has witnessed the most serious social unrest Russia has seen since the start of the global economic crisis” in 2009.
4. Manafort Received Millions From Deripaska but he Denies the Report He Did Political Work That Traces Back to Putin
The AP reports that Manafort signed a contract in 2006 with Deripaska that was worth $10 million a year. According to CNN, Manafort confirmed he worked for Deripaska but “rejected an Associated Press report alleging that work was aimed at furthering the political interests of Putin’s government.”
Manafort’s spokesman told CNN he worked for Deripaska “on business and personal matters in countries where he had investments. My work for Mr. Deripaska did not involve representing Russian political interests.”
In contrast, the exclusive AP report contended that Manafort “proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse.”
Time Magazine reported that Deripaska was one of Manafort’s “pro Putin clients,” adding, that “American authorities denied a visa” to Deripaska “because of ties to organized crime. (Former Senator Majority Leader Bob Dole, who hired Manafort to run his 1996 bid, helped secure Deripaska’s visa for a $560,000 fee in 2005.)”
5. Deripaska Was Once in the Soviet Army & Studied Nuclear Physics
According to the Globe and Mail, Deripaska was born in southern Russia in “Cossack country’s tea-growing region” and “was drafted into the Soviet army” before he became “an accomplished physics and math student and went on to study nuclear physics at Moscow State University.”
PBS reported that Deripaska was a 23-year-old college student when the Soviet Union collapsed, and he got his start buying a stake “in a Siberian smelter plant.”
Deripaska’s upbringing was a tough one. According to The Financial Times, “his mother left him there to live with his grandparents at an early age (his father had died when he was very young). He had to learn quickly to be tough. When his grandparents died, the state seized their home in a programme to break up Cossack settlements.”