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Oleg Deripaska-Linked Firm Was Raided for Undisclosed U.S. Inquiry

Jonathan Browning
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Oleg Deripaska-Linked Firm Was Raided for Undisclosed U.S. Inquiry

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. prosecutors aren’t done with Oleg Deripaska, the Russian billionaire who figured prominently in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s case against Donald Trump’s campaign chairman.

In what could be an offshoot of Mueller’s work, federal authorities are seeking records seized from a U.K. company associated with Deripaska, according to documents filed in a London court this week. As part of the previously undisclosed inquiry, U.S. authorities are seeking evidence of “money laundering, tax offenses and fraud offenses” from 18 individuals and companies including Terra Services Ltd., a real estate firm that until last year was controlled by Deripaska, the filings say.

The inquiry is “live and ongoing,” according to a U.K. government filing Thursday. Terra, in another filing, said the search request appears to have been made “in connection with the special counsel investigation being conducted in the U.S.” into Russian election interference.

The investigation came to light because Terra is challenging a search warrant that led to the December 2018 seizure of at least 25,000 electronic documents from a British storage unit it owned. Terra asked a London judge to prevent the documents from being handed over to the Americans.

Redacted Report

The presiding U.K. judge who granted the search warrant in December 2018 said that any seized materials could be helpful “in an ongoing U.S. investigation into a number of criminal offenses committed by two U.S. subjects, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates,” according to court documents. But by that time Manafort had been convicted and was awaiting sentencing. Gates had already pleaded guilty and was cooperating with prosecutors.

Mueller’s team ended its work earlier this year, referring several matters to other U.S. prosecutors. Many of those haven’t been made public. Parts of Mueller’s report dealing with Manafort and Gates are redacted to avoid interfering with unspecified ongoing investigations.

According to Mueller’s report, one-time Trump campaign chairman Manafort had a business dispute with Deripaska that he was looking to resolve, and he offered Deripaska briefings and internal polling data. Manafort was convicted of multiple crimes and is serving a sentence of more than seven years; Deripaska wasn’t accused of wrongdoing.

U.S. Request

The U.S. request named 18 entities including Terra Services and two U.K.-based lawyers. The documents available in the London case don’t include the U.S. request for a search, or the corresponding U.K. search warrant, but quote from parts of the warrant. The filings don’t say which U.S. authorities are currently handling the matter.

The U.K. National Crime Agency, which carried on the search, and the U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment.

Judges have so far denied requests by Terra and others to see the U.S. letter.

‘Degree of Confusion’

“There is a degree of confusion as to what exactly is being investigated,” Terra’s lawyer, Monica Carss-Frisk, said in court.

Deripaska’s office in Moscow referred queries to Terra Services. A lawyer for the U.K. firm declined to comment.

Deripaska, who grew rich in Russia’s aluminum business, is one of the highest-profile Russians caught up in waves of U.S. sanctions against the country since its 2014 annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine. Some companies formerly controlled by Deripaska were removed from the blacklist in January, following an administration effort to lift the sanctions that was supported by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

One of Deripaska’s companies subsequently committed funds to a new aluminum plant to be built in McConnell’s home state, Kentucky.

The billionaire himself remains under U.S. sanction, which means American citizens and entities are prohibited from dealing with him.

The British warrant said that the owners would seek to destroy or conceal evidence if it wasn’t issued, according to filings in the London case.

Just days before the warrant was issued, the NCA conducted its own search of the storage unit to “assist a money laundering investigation.” The British search, authorized under legislation that allows for covert surveillance, should have been approved by a judge, Terra said in its filing. It’s unclear if the investigations are related.

Cable Deal

Manafort and Deripaska fell out in 2008 over a deal to buy a cable company in Ukraine. Lawsuits filed by Deripaska in 2014 describe how Gates, Manafort’s deputy, failed to respond to requests for information on the investment around the same time. In September 2010, Deripaska asked Gates to account for the $18.9 million he’d invested, but the report was never delivered, according to court documents.

Documents unsealed in June 2018 showed that Manafort and his wife acknowledged on a 2010 tax return that they owed $10 million to Deripaska.

Deripaska handed control of Terra Services in January 2018 to an individual named Pavel Ezubov, whose name matches that of the billionaire’s cousin, Russian media group RBC reported last year. The firm owns several properties in San Tropez and Paris, RBC said. It has just six employees, according to a U.K. corporate registry.

(Releads and updates with Deripaska firm’s commitment to Kentucky aluminum plant.)

--With assistance from David Voreacos and Yuliya Fedorinova.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Browning in London at jbrowning9@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net, ;Jeffrey D Grocott at jgrocott2@bloomberg.net, David S. Joachim

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