|FBI raids mansion linked to Oleg Deripaska|
FBI agents this week raided homes in New York City and Washington, D.C., linked to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. Why the raids, and what was the FBI looking for? Those questions remain unanswered here in the early going, but the whole affair could have serious ramifications in Alabama's right-wing political world -- and for those tied to the Donald Trump administration. From a report at Reuters about the raids:
FBI agents on Tuesday raided homes in Washington and New York City linked to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire with ties to the Kremlin and to Paul Manafort, the onetime chairman of Donald Trump's 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.
The agents carried boxes out of a mansion in one of Washington's wealthiest neighborhoods, with yellow "CRIME SCENE DO NOT ENTER" tape across the front yard and towed away a vehicle.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed the agency was conducting a court-authorized law enforcement activity at the home, which the Washington Post has previously reported was linked to the Russian oligarch.
The specific reason for sealing off and searching the Washington mansion was not immediately clear, and the FBI spokesperson did not provide details.
How does Alabama enter the picture? Deripaska has longstanding ties to the "Heart of Dixie," mainly through efforts to gain a $40-billion Air Force refueling-tanker contract for the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS). The contract wound up going to U.S.-based Boeing, but had it gone to EADS, Deripaska's companies were to provide aluminum for the project, and much of the manufacturing was to be done in Alabama. From an October 2017 Legal Schnauzer post about Deripaska's links to Alabama, especially via former U.S. Sen. and Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions:
Revelations last week that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort has $60 million of financial connections to a Russian oligarch could shine light on corruption involving some of the biggest names in Alabama politics, according to a prominent whistle blower and opposition researcher.
That's because Alabama GOP luminaries such as Jeff Sessions (Trump attorney general and former U.S. senator), Bob Riley (former governor), and Bill Canary (head of the Business Council of Alabama) have worked with Manafort on a $40 billion-dollar Air Force refueling-tanker deal that was to include the oligarch, Jill Simpson says.
If Special Counsel Robert Mueller digs deeply on the ties between Manafort and Oleg Deripaska, it could lead to Jeff Sessions' office -- and from there to any number of individuals connected to Bill Canary and Bob Riley, Simpson says. Canary already has fallen out of favor with a number of business elites, including executives from Alabama Power, so any ties to the Trump-Russia scandal are not likely to help his standing.
Simpson, who testified before Congress about a Republican plan to conduct a political prosecution against former Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman, said Manafort worked closely with Alabama officials on a proposal that called for the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. (EADS) to build the Air Force tanker, in part, at a planned construction facility in Mobile, Alabama. Deripaska, a billionaire, is part owner of a company that was to provide aluminum for the project.
Why did EADS lose out on the Air Force deal? Deripaska's reported ties to organized crime likely did not help the EADS cause:
The Pentagon wound up choosing U.S.-based Boeing over EADS, perhaps in part because of EADS' ties to seedy characters, including the Gaddafi family in Libya and individuals tied to Vladimir Putin in Russia. From a 2011 post on the competition:
The Russia Connection -- The Gaddafi family reportedly developed ties to EADS through big-money interests in Russia. Prime among them is Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire who partly owns a company that was to provide aluminum for the EADS planes. Deripaska has close ties to Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin, and Russian interests reportedly have a significant stake in EADS. Was the Pentagon comfortable with this arrangement, given the rise of organized crime in Russia? Probably not.
Did Alabama political figures jump in bed with Russian organized crime, tied to Putin, in an effort to land the tanker project for EADS? Are Alabama officials still connected to the Russian mob, now that Donald Trump appears to be Putin's chosen puppet in the White House?
An NBC report late last week could shine white-hot light on those questions. From the report:
Paul Manafort, a former campaign manager for President Donald Trump, has much stronger financial ties to a Russian oligarch than have been previously reported.
An NBC News investigation reveals that $26 million changed hands in the form of a loan between a company linked to Manafort and the oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire with close ties to the Kremlin.
The loan brings the total of their known business dealings to around $60 million over the past decade, according to financial documents filed in Cyprus and the Cayman Islands.
Manafort was forced to resign from the Trump campaign in August 2016, following allegations of improper financial dealings, charges he has strenuously denied. He is now a central figure in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Investigators have said they are looking into Manafort's financial ties to prominent figures in Russia.
Could the FBI raids on Deripaska's homes be tied to possible allegations of money laundering? There is reason to believe the answer is yes. Reports NBC:
Lawyers specializing in money laundering said the loans appeared unusual and merited further investigation.
“Money launderers frequently will disguise payments as loans,” said Stefan Cassella, a former federal prosecutor. “You can call it a loan, you can call it Mary Jane. If there's no intent to repay it, then it's not really a loan. It's just a payment.”
The documents go on to reveal loans of more than $27 million from the two Cyprus entities to a third company connected to Manafort, a limited-liability corporation registered in Delaware.
In a recent post at her Facebook page, Simpson describes her research on Manafort and Deripaska:
This past winter and late last fall of 2016, I laid out exactly how Oleg Deripaska had washed (laundered) millions through Cyprus and the Caymans. Well turns out the grand total was $60 million, which was about what I thought. When folks got to looking closely at the $19 million Manafort was sued over -- which I had the paperwork on, as I track . . . Oleg for press folks . . . well, oh my, it became obvious what was going on. Oleg would give Manafort the money as a loan then mark it off the books for deals but never clear it for tax purposes, and when folks started looking at how Oleg sued Manafort in the Caymans but never filed a bar complaint, it was slowly becoming apparent that [the lawsuit] was all a big hoax.
The Russian mob's influence in the American South goes beyond Alabama, Simpson states. How did Manafort and longtime GOP consultant Richard H. Davis develop
connections to Alabama? Simpson says it developed via EADS and former
Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour:
I first started tracking Manafort and Rick Davis when they started dealing with Riley, Sessions, and Canary through Haley Barbour on the EADS tanker deal for Oleg Deripaska. I might add I went all the way to Russia to track what was up in 2008 with Manafort and Oleg and did a ton of stories. It will be fun to watch what the FBI does now that they realize how much Manafort was making working for Russian Government against our country.
Simpson has been outspoken about the dangers of a cozy relationship between Russian mobsters and Alabama politicians:
Simpson has not been quiet about the ties between Manafort, Russia, and Alabama. She spelled them out to reporters who were looking into the Siegelman case:
I might add when I came forward [on the Siegelman case], I explained all this operation with Russia to 60 Minutes; it was how I got on the show. Folks said ugly things about me back then, but I told the truth on all I knew about Manafort and Rick Davis and the Riley/Sessions/Canary gang -- and their involvement with the top Putin Russian Business Spy Oleg Deripaska, who at that time was cooking a deal to get to supply the aluminum for U.S. tankers for EADS.I [talked] with reporters in New York and at the National Press Club about this. I might add I am the source that outed that whole story in 2008. Had I not known how they operated, from being a Republican back then, I never would have been able to out their whole Russian operation for progressives to push the FBI to investigate in 2016.
Simpson practiced law for 20-plus years, but she no longer is a member of the Alabama State Bar, thanks to a peculiar chain of events she apparently traces to the Alabama Gang, led by Jeff Sessions. She is firing back now as an opposition researcher, with information that could help FBI and Mueller investigators put Sessions and his cronies in a very bad place. She wrote the following to her Facebook readers:
Now y'all know how Oleg Deripaska became my hobby, as I have said many times in the last year -- since I was hired to [research] it . . . in late 2016 and early 2017, it is a heck of story and goes right to Jeff Session's doorstep. I might add that is why he and Russian ass-kissing buddies tried to destroy me in 2014 and 2015, but all the a-holes did was make me more determined than ever to see they went to jail. If I never work again, I am still satisfied I kicked their ass with my research in 2015, 2016, 2017.
Could that research, in fact, cause Sessions, Riley, Canary, and other Alabama politicos to wind up in federal prison? Stay tuned.
Here is more information about this week's FBI raids, which might have a few sphincters tightening among the Alabama political set. Reports Reuters:
A representative for Deripaska said the home, as well as the one in New York, belong to relatives of the oligarch. Reuters could not immediately determine Deripaska's whereabouts.
A spokesperson for the FBI's New York field office confirmed "law enforcement activity" at the home in New York City's Greenwich Village neighborhood but declined further comment.
Deripaska, 53, has been under U.S. sanctions since 2018. Washington imposed sanctions on him and other influential Russians because of their ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin after alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Deripaska once employed Manafort, who was convicted in 2018 on tax evasion and bank fraud charges and was among the central figures scrutinized under investigations of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election, which Moscow denies.
Russia used Manafort and the WikiLeaks website to try to help Trump win that election, a Republican-led Senate committee said in its final review of the matter released last year. While still president last December, Trump pardoned Manafort.
The Senate report found Putin personally directed the Russian efforts to hack computer networks and accounts affiliated with the Democratic Party and leak information damaging to Trump's opponent, Hillary Clinton.
The report also alleged Manafort collaborated with Russians, including Deripaska and a Russian intelligence officer before, during and after the election.
Deripaska owns part of Rusal (RUAL.MM) via his stake in the giant aluminum producer's parent company En+ Group (ENPLI.RTS). Washington previously dropped sanctions against both companies but kept them on Deripaska.
The mind swirls with possible ramifications of this story. Could be big, big news.
This doesn't sound like good news for Donald Trump. Anything involving U.S. and Russia must make him nervous.
Lots of chatter on Twitter about this story, and yes, some think it is bad news for Trump. Some suggest this might mark the rebirth of the Trump-Russia investigation -- perhaps a real one this time.
Many Alabamians have no idea how many of the state's politicians have been in bed with Russian mobsters for a long time -- and how it has poisoned the state's political culture. Could this lead to many bad actors being exposed? We will see.
Alabama -- where the Dixie Mafia and the Russian mob come together.
To a great extent, I think that is true. In some cases, the Dixie Mafia and Russian Mob might have become one and the same.
According to Jill Simpson, Alabama can thank GOP wheeler-dealer Haley Barbour, and his greedy, stubby fingers, for the Russian influence.
Some smart, informed people believe the Siegelman political prosecution was driven by the competition for the Air Force contract. The word is that Sessions-Deripaska group believed Siegelman was pro-Boeing (he had helped promote the company in Huntsville), while Bob Riley would be pro-EADS (a foreign outfit)
Here is an example of ties between Russia and Alabama, from LS post of Nov. 2020, with key reporting from banbalch.com:
Indictment of former Huntsville defense contractor Paul Daigle has connections to Russia, Mueller, Balch and Bingham law firm, and the war in Afghanistan
The indictment Tuesday of the former CEO at a Huntsville defense contractor appears tied to a Birmingham advocacy group's calls for an investigation of the firm's ties to Russia and the scandal-plagued Balch and Bingham law firm.
Paul Daigle, once CEO of Black Hall Aerospace, faces multiple charges related to fraud and conspiracy. Black Hall was a one-time lobbying client of Balch and Bingham. From a report at wbrc.com:
A former chief executive officer was charged in connection to schemes to defraud the United States Government in relation to the conflict in Afghanistan.
According to officials at the U.S. Department of Justice, 40-year-old Paul Daigle was charged with conspiracy, four counts of wire fraud and four counts of false claims in the indictment.
According to a release from the U.S. Department of Justice, Daigle was the CEO of a company based out of Huntsville. The company served as a subcontractor on U.S. Department of Defense aviation contracts related to the war in Afghanistan.
The Huntsville business has not been released at the time.
Here is more on Black Hall Aerospace:
To learn the company's name, which is missing in the Department of Justice press release and all the mainstream media (MSM) reports we've seen, you must turn to banbalch.com, a Web site published by the public charity and advocacy organization Consejo De Latinos Unidos (CDLU). K.B. Forbes, CEO of CDLU and publisher of Ban Balch, writes under the headline"CDLU Provoked Probe: Ex-CEO of Balch and Bingham Client Charged With Afghan War Contract Fraud":
Late last year, we wrote an update about Black Hall Aerospace, a former Balch and Bingham client, that looked like it was headed to extremely turbulent waters. We wrote at the time:
[We] learned from our sources that Black Hall Aerospace allegedly is still being probed by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Our sources told us that Black Hall Aerospace and Leidos have an ongoing financial dispute headed to state court [in 2020]
Could this dispute have been caused by a forensic audit or the alleged probes by the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Defense and Military Criminal Investigations Command?
Our sources also confirmed that Paul Daigle, who has ownership in the aerospace company, has left as chief executive officer; and that Oleg Sirbu, the Soviet-immigrant that wrangled with Daigle and others in an ugly civil-court fight to control Black Hall, has settled all civil matters and is living comfortably in Dubai.
CDLU's involvement in the Black Hall Aerospace story dates to the early days of the Robert Mueller investigation. Writes Forbes:
On May 18, 2017, the day after Robert S. Mueller III was named Special Counsel of the U.S. Department of Justice, we, the CDLU, sent him a letter that included this about Black Hall Aerospace:
Enormous Revenue Growth Raises Questions
The revenue growth at the Russian-linked aerospace company has been enormous and raises serious concerns and questions. According to an online publication, the Russian-linked company, AAL USA, Inc. and/or Black Hall Aerospace, Inc., went from generating $6.5 million in 2014 with 15 employees, to over an estimated $100 million in 2016 with 450 employees. Likewise, according to a court filing on aviationintelligence.org, AAL USA Inc. had less than $1 million in revenue with fewer than 20 employees in 2014 but grew to over 400 employees and $50 million in revenue by 2016.
Something smells awful in this whole affair and we hope that you, Mr. Mueller, will take a deep and closer look.
Looks like Mr. Deripaska has some pretty sweet digs. Can only imagine how much it costs to own and operate a mansion like that in D.C.
"Moscow Mitch" McConnell is part of the Deripaska story. From Yahoo!:
If you recall those golden years of No Collusion Whatsoever Shut Up Please, you will recall that, in 2017, Rusal announced that it would be chipping in $200 million to build an aluminum plant in Kentucky, which is represented in the Senate by then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. This came right after the Treasury Department, at McConnell’s urging, lifted sanctions on the company. What a marvelous coincidence, everyone said, some admittedly in an ironic tone of voice.
Well, back in March, Rusal announced that it would be investing no more money in the plant, ostensibly because its American partners hadn’t held up their end of the bargain as far as finding other investors.
Going forward, it’s going to be interesting to see what becomes of the raid on Deripaska’s house, and what the future looks like for the Kentucky aluminum plant, and whether another marvelous coincidence is a’borning. I know Deripaska’s not supposed to be involved with Rusal anymore, but seriously, folks, the man is an oligarch.
Per Natasha Bertrand on Twitter:
The Deripaska activity is connected to a federal investigation out of New York, FBI told @ShimonPro but could not provide any more info. A source familiar w/the matter said the investigation has been "ongoing" but also provided no further details. https://cnn.com/2021/10/19/politics/f
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