Oleg Vladimirovich Deripaska is a Russian oligarch who is married to Polina Yumasheva, former Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s step-granddaughter, and has close ties to Vladimir Putin. Deripaska has come under scrutiny in the Russia investigation thanks to his long relationship with Paul Manafort, embattled former Trump campaign manager who is in jail awaiting his trials in Virginia and Washington DC.
Once the richest man in Russia, the financial crisis of 2007-2008 nearly wiped Deripaska out completely, reducing his wealth from a reported $28 billion to $5.2 billion in 2017. He won the “aluminum wars” of the 1990’s and founded Rusal, now the second largest aluminum producing company in the world, in 2000 and is credited with bringing the company back from the brink of failure in 2008.
Oleg’s connections to Yeltsin and his close relationship with Vladimir Putin, had a hand in that. Rusal was given a loan of $4.5 billion from the Russian state bank to ease its debt burden. Deripaska’s financial troubles caused a visible rift between Putin and himself, with Putin publicly berating him on TV. Putin visited a cement factory owned by the oligarch and forced Deripaska to sign a contract guaranteeing nearly a million in unpaid wages. When Oleg signed, Putin humiliated him by saying, “And give me back my pen.”
However, their relationship stabilized – the humiliation might have merely been theatre for the citizens of recession-plagued Russia. Deripaska has been called “Putin’s favorite industrialist.” He is also is characterized “among the 2-3 oligarchs Putin turns to on a regular basis” and “a more-or-less permanent fixture on Putin’s trips abroad.”
Oleg Deripaska hired Paul Manafort in 2005, with Konstantin Kilimnik tagging along, to help stop the democratic revolution that was sweeping across Ukraine and get Viktor Yanukovych elected. The AP reported Manafort’s secret pitch to Deripaska which resulted in Manafort signing a $10 million annual contract beginning in 2006. This pro-Russia relationship lasted until at least 2009.
Manafort secretly worked for Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska in 2005 and proposed an ambitious plan to promote the interests of “the Putin Government” and undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics. The plan was to mirror lobbying and political consulting work that Manafort was already conducting in Ukraine at the time.
“We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success,” Manafort wrote in the 2005 memo to Deripaska. The effort, Manafort wrote, “will be offering a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government.”
Deripaska and Manafort both deny any wrong doing and Deripaska offered to testify in front of Congress. The New York Times, citing Congressional sources, reported that Oleg had requested, and was denied, immunity in exchange for doing so. In 2017, Deripaska filed a defamation suit against the Associated Press for their reporting but the suit was dismissed later that year on the grounds he had not disputed any material facts from the AP story.
The aluminum magnate’s relationship with Manafort extended to his investing in a equity fund he and Manafort founded. When the company failed, Deripaska sued Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, and Konstantin Kilimnik to recoup his $18.9 million in losses, alleging Manafort and Gates simply did not respond to a request for an accounting of what happened to the investment and disappeared. There is no indication the court case has been closed.
Emails that were turned over to investigators reveal that, after Paul Manafort became then candidate Donald Trump’s campaign manager in March 2016, having offered to work for the campaign for free, he contacted his protege Konstantin Kilimnik to ask about OVD – Oleg Vladomirovich Deripaska – in what appears to be an effort to rid himself of his debt by offering access via his new role as campaign manager for Donald Trump, The Atlantic reported in October 2017.
“I assume you have shown our friends my media coverage, right?” Manafort wrote.
“Absolutely,” Kilimnik responded a few hours later from Kiev. “Every article.”
“How do we use to get whole,” Manafort asks. “Has OVD operation seen?”
“Yes, I have been sending everything to Victor, who has been forwarding the coverage directly to OVD,” Kilimnik responded in April, referring again to Deripaska. (“Victor” is a Deripaska aide, the source close to Manafort confirmed.) “Frankly, the coverage has been much better than Trump’s,” Kilimnik wrote. “In any case it will hugely enhance your reputation no matter what happens.”
“I am carefully optimistic on the issue of our biggest interest,” Kilimnik went on. “Our friend V said there is lately significantly more attention to the campaign in his boss’s mind, and he will be most likely looking for ways to reach out to you pretty soon, understanding all the time sensitivity. I am more than sure that it will be resolved and we will get back to the original relationship with V.’s boss.” The source close to Manafort confirmed that “V” is a reference to Victor, the Deripaska aide.
Manafort jumped on the suggestion that the campaign might offer the opportunity to restore his relationship with Deripaska: “Tell V boss that if he needs private briefings we can accommodate,” he wrote back eight minutes later.
There is no evidence that Deripaska met with Manafort and received the private briefings offered up in the email exchange. However, Alexei Navalny published a video of Deripaska on a yacht with Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Sergei Eduardovich Prikhodko and accuses Deripaska of transmitting information from Paul Manafort to Prikhodko in August 2016.
In April 2018, Oleg Deripaska was among the Russian oligarchs, companies and senior Russian officials who were sanctioned by the US Treasury Department. In the press release, Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin explained the rational of the sanctions, “The Russian government engages in a range of malign activity around the globe, including continuing to occupy Crimea and instigate violence in eastern Ukraine, supplying the Assad regime with material and weaponry as they bomb their own civilians, attempting to subvert Western democracies, and malicious cyber activities. Russian oligarchs and elites who profit from this corrupt system will no longer be insulated from the consequences of their government’s destabilizing activities.” The accusations against Deripaska were outlined as well.
Oleg Deripaska is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13661 for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, a senior official of the Government of the Russian Federation, as well as pursuant to E.O. 13662 for operating in the energy sector of the Russian Federation economy. Deripaska has said that he does not separate himself from the Russian state. He has also acknowledged possessing a Russian diplomatic passport, and claims to have represented the Russian government in other countries. Deripaska has been investigated for money laundering, and has been accused of threatening the lives of business rivals, illegally wiretapping a government official, and taking part in extortion and racketeering. There are also allegations that Deripaska bribed a government official, ordered the murder of a businessman, and had links to a Russian organized crime group.