The US Presidential Election, scheduled for November 3, is just over three months away, but its outcome is becoming increasingly unpredictable. The traditional election struggle is becoming more and more acute. In this struggle the parties constantly use a wide range of arguments aimed at discrediting each other. One of the main topics of criticism of Trump from his opponents is the collusion of the current US President with Moscow. In this context the most frequently mentioned figure is Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, through whom, according to Democrats, the main attempts to influence from Moscow on Trump were carried out.
So, on August 18, the US Senate Intelligence Committee, following an investigation into interference in the US election, said that Deripaska promoted Russia’s interests in a number of countries where he had economic interests, including in Ukraine, and his actions were coordinated by the Russian Authority.
“The Committee found that Deripaska conducts influence operations, often in countries where he has significant economic interests. The Russian authorities coordinate and direct Deripaska in many of these operations, “ the document states.
According to the Committee, Deripaska in 2004-2009 worked with the Chairman of Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential Campaign Paul Manafort and with his help conducted a “multi-million-dollar campaign” in a number of countries. Manafort and Deripaska started working together in Ukraine, the report says.
“Pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarchs with deep economic ties to Russia also paid Manafort tens of millions of dollars and formed strong ties with Manafort independently of Deripaska,” the US Senate Intelligence Committee said.
In January 2019, the US Treasury lifted sanctions on Oleg Deripaska’s companies after the Russian billionaire relinquished his controlling stake in the En +, Mr Deripaska’s holding firm, and retained only 0.01% of RUSAL’s shares, on which he had no right to receive dividends.
Formally, it was believed that Deripaska would no longer be able to receive money from RUSAL.
This allowed the sanctions on the company to be lifted, although the billionaire himself continued to remain under sanctions.
But in fact money keeps coming from RUSAL to the entities associated with Mr. Deripaska and the oligarch can dispose of them at his own discretion if desired. Technically, there is nothing illegal in this scheme.
Everything happens with the knowledge and approval of the Board of Directors. RUSAL continues to finance structures close to Oleg Deripaska through … charitable foundations.
The Company’s 2019 annual report notes that «RUSAL is committed to corporate social responsibility for the sake of well-being of the present society and benefit for generations to come, making every effort to create a new quality of life and promote social development in the regions where the Company operates. Social investment is an integral part of the Company’s strategy». As per the report, «In 2019, RUSAL allocated more than USD31 million to sponsorship and charity projects.»
The company’s social projects are managed by RUSAL’s special charitable foundation, The Center for Social Programmes (CSP).
CSP is engaged in the distribution of money that the company donates to charity. And this money is channeled through Russian entities connected with Oleg Deripaska directly or indirectly.
It is very difficult to understand the intricate schemes of using RUSAL’s money: foundations and Autonomous Nonprofit Organizations (ANO) transfer money to each other, so that the ultimate recipient of the funds allocated by the company for charity is difficult to determine. The scheme, which can be used to circumvent US sanctions, involves several intermediaries. The key ones are ANO “New Generation School” and the Foundation for the implementation of socially significant programs for the development of regions Rassvet (Dawn), these Two received from the CSP a total of 645 898 680 rubles in 2019.
Volnoye Delo, a foundation supporting social innovation, is also involved in money distribution. Under the terms of the sanctions relief deal, Oleg Deripaska transferred to Volnoye Delo about 21 million shares of EN+, amounting to 3.22 percent of the company. In fact, all of them are part of one system, establishing and financing each other and participating in each other’s management in order to calmly transfer money among themselves for the maintenance and conduct of statutory activities. What unites these institutions is that they were created by Oleg Deripaska and his closest associates and are still under their control.
According to its web site, Volnoye Delo foundation was created by Oleg Deripaska in 2008. Deripaska’s personal page deripaska.com states that “today, it is one of the largest non-profit organizations in Russia involved in charity, patronage and volunteer projects”. Tamara Rumyantseva and the ANO “New Generation School” (since March 2019) are listed as the co-founders of Volnoye Delo.
Interestingly, according to official information, there are at least three fоundations with the name “Volnoe Delo”. Tamara Rumyantseva besides being a founder in one of them, is a member of the Council in the other.
Two Volnoe Delo fоundations, in turn, alternately co-founded the ANO “New Generation School”. The second co-founder of the ANO “New Generation School” is Oleg Vikhanskiy, one of the closest associates of Oleg Deripaska.
Oleg Vikhanskiy has been an advisor to the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of LLC Company Basic Element since 1998, since 2005 – a member of the Board of Directors of INGOSSTRAKH Insurance Company. He heads the Institute for Comprehensive Strategic Studies (ICSS), a think tank for Oleg Deripaska. Frequent references to ICSS experts can be easily found in numerous posts by Oleg Deripaska in his Telegram-account.
How close ties the two Olegs have is evidenced by the confession of Vikhanskiy himself, who calls Deripaska his teacher and at the same time his student: “Oleg may have learned a lot from me. But I also learned a lot from him. And I want to say that I before meeting him and I now are two different people. Now I am more of a practitioner, I see management and business from the real side. But much more than just understanding business, I learned from him how to be a leader, how to interact with very different people.”
The largest contribution to the statutory activities and support of the ANO “New Generation School”- 194,645,000 rubles – was received in 2019 from the RUSAL’s Center for Social Programmes (CSP). ANO “New Generation School”, in turn, transferred more than 75 million rubles to Volnoe Delo, and Volnoe Delo transferred back 355,000 rubles for the conduct of statutory activities and maintenance of the ANO.
ANO “New Generation School” received 106,201,000 rubles for the same purposes in 2019 as a donation from the Rassvet Foundation, founded by another longtime associate of Oleg Deripaska, Vladimir Erenburg. Back in 1997, he held the post of the CEO of LLC Siberian Aluminum, was Vice-president of Oleg Deripaska’s company Basic Element, etc.
By the way, we also find Vladimir Ehrenburg on the Board of the Volnoe Delo Foundation, while Tamara Rumyantseva, the co-founder of the Volnoe Delo Foundation, is on the Board of Trustees of Rassvet Foundation. Where does Rassvet Foundation get its money from? Most of the proceeds in 2019 — almost half a billion rubles – were received from the CSP, i.e. from RUSAL.
Finally, the most important question: how is the money received from RUSAL spent?
Where, for example, almost 200 million rubles, transferred to the ANO “New Generation School” have gone, if its front page website indicates that the “New Generation School” program has been implemented since 2004 through the ANO by Oleg Deripaska’s charitable Foundation Volnoe Delo. There is not a word about the CSP money, and the Volnoe Delo Foundation, as we recall, transferred only 355,000 rubles to the ANO in 2019. But even if we take into account all the funds spent by the ANO in 2019, which is about 210 million rubles, the amount is still less than the total receipts (about 300 million rubles) from the CSP directly and through Rassvet. By the way, the latest activities of the ANO, information about which is available on the site, refer to November 2017, and its staffing, including part-timers, is only 6 people.
The situation with the Volnoe Delo foundation is not much clearer. The foundation has real charitable programs. For example, 17,567,500 rubles were allocated for the program of assistance to regional libraries in 2019. About ten million rubles were spent on the Women’s Health program. 12,241,100 rubles were allocated for a project in the field of animal protection and conservation. But the largest funds are allocated for the administrative and business expenses of the foundation itself – more than 125 million rubles for 2019. It turns out that RUSAL actually pays for the administrative and business expenses of Deripaska’s foundation.
Why the charitable foundation spends such a huge amount of money not on charity, but on its own expenses, one can only guess. But one eloquent fact speaks volumes: the official annual income of Ekaterina Nikitina, the foundation’s CEO, amounted to more than 6 million rubles in 2019. About the same amount – RUB 6,816,100 – was allocated by the foundation for the entire 2019 (!) for the program to promote the development of healthcare and public health. Well, the Rassvet foundation, judging by the financial statements, simply kept most of the CSP’s money in its accounts. The balances of unused funds received under donation agreements amount to 371,610,000 rubles.
So, at the end of 2019, more than $ 10 million was transferred by RUSAL to only two entities associated with Oleg Deripaska. These transactions did not raise any objections either from the Board of Directors or from the Russian watchdogs, since they were made for charitable purposes. Later on, the spending of these funds was controlled by Russian organizations, which should not report to either RUSAL, or even more so to the American supervisory agencies. Oleg Deripaska claims that 5,000 people are involved in sanctions against Russia in the United States. Probably at least one of those 5,000 should go into schemes that use RUSAL’s charity money.
Oleg Deripaska constantly accuses Russian Authority that it does not oppose the sanctions imposed by the US Treasury on Russian companies, and actually makes sure that Russian banks follow them.
Earlier, Oleg Deripaska said that Russia did not pay enough attention to countering US sanctions, although during the time Russia was under sanctions, one could learn to do this effectively.
As it appears, the Russian oligarch himself can offer ready-made schemes to help bypass sanctions. The entities associated with him have a proven model, which is already being used to get money from RUSAL, from the control of which Deripaska was formally removed.