Oleg Deripaska Sues Stephen Mnuchin For Making Him Poor
Pity the poor oligarchs! Won't someone please think of the Russian billionaires so cruelly impoverished by the spiteful caprice of the Trump administration's attack dogs in the Treasury Department? However will Oleg Deripaska even afford to maintain all his yachts and houses and jets when the American government cuts him off so brutishly from the international financial system? Thus he has been forced to sue Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin for arbitrarily adding him to the sanctions list and forcing him to meager subsistence on canned caviar and lobster foraged from a suburban Moscow dumpster.
Deripaska's lawsuit, filed Friday in DC, is a masterpiece of melodrama and pathos. Really, Tolstoy would blush.
The effect of these unlawful actions has been the wholesale devastation of Deripaska's wealth, reputation, and economic livelihood. As a direct result of Defendants' actions, Deripaska has been ousted from the international business community, as banks and businesses refuse to transact or deal with him or his businesses out of fear of their own potential exposure to U.S. sanctions for doing so. Further, Deripaska—whose net worth has fallen more than $7.5 billion, or approximately 81%, since the time of the designations—has been irrevocably forced out of his controlling interests in his largest businesses some of which—including En+—he founded and developed over 30 years. He has also witnessed his remaining businesses—which together employ more than 200,000 people and 1.5 million contractors—edge to the brink of collapse, as banks refuse to extend them loans, and counterparties terminate their relationships with them.
You may remember Oleg Deripaska, the aluminum magnate who paid Paul Manafort $10 million per year to "benefit the Putin Government." During the 2016 campaign, Manafort offered private briefings to pay off money owed to the oligarch. There's no evidence that the briefings ever took place, but shortly after Manafort passed internal Trump polling data to his GRU-linked buddy Konstantin Kilimnik, the Russian troll farms started amplifying the Trump campaign's message in the very same upper midwest states Trump needed to win, by sheer coincidence. Deripaska was connected to former escort Nastya Rybka, who claimed to have video of him discussing a plan to ratfuck the American election and is currently in fear for her life after being released from a Thai prison. He's been linked to Russian organized crime and accused of ordering the murder of a banker in 1995. In short, happy oligarchs are all the same; every unhappy oligarch is unhappy in his own way. But in either event, NO1CURR, because HAHAHAHA FUCK YOU, OLEG!
Before the election, Russian lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya -- currently under indictment for lying to a federal court -- offered the Trump campaign sexxxy dirts on Hillary Clinton in exchange for sanctions relief. During the presidential transition, Michael Flynn promised sanctions relief to the Russian ambassador, then lied about it to the FBI. For the past four years, the Russians have been doing everything possible to manipulate the US government so Vladimir Putin and his cronies could get out from under the sanctions imposed for the invasion of Ukraine, murder of Sergei Magnitsky, and ratfucking the American election. From the beginning, this has always, always, always been about the sanctions. And it's STILL about the sanctions.
Oleg Deripaska's lawsuit is also about sanctions. And discovery! Because, like his fellow oligarch Yevgeny "Troll Farm" Prigozhin, Deripaska is only too delighted to use American rules of evidence and presumption of innocence as a crow bar to pry loose information from the US government.
Because Trump is not-so-secretly in luuuurve with Vladimir Putin, his administration had to be dragged kicking and screaming into imposing sanctions on Russia by a veto-proof majority. The State Department did a lackluster job of compiling a list of individuals to sanction, simply recycling the Forbes list of Russian oligarchs, typos and all. Which Deripaska's very good lawyer Erich Ferrari is characterizing as an arbitrary determination -- and he ain't wrong! That doesn't mean that Deripaska should be exempt from sanctions. It just means the Treasury Department should do its goddamn job! Although Deripaska citing Putin's favorite sanctions-hating former congressman Dana Rohrabacher in support of that argument is a nice touch:
Members of Congress have also previously noted that "[we] can't just say because someone has a lot of money, that they are an oligarch, which then says they are evil in some way." Corruption: Danger to Democracy in Europe and Eurasia: Hearing Before the H.R. Subcomm. on Eur., Eurasia, and Emerging Threats of the H. Comm. on Foreign Affairs, 114th Cong. 37 (2016) (statement of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Chairman, H.R. Subcomm. on Eur., Eurasia, and Emerging Threats of the H. Comm. on Foreign Affairs).
Secretary Mnuchin has been hustling to get Deripaska's aluminum companies, En+ and RUSAL, off the sanctions list by allowing them to shuffle the paperwork to decrease Deripaska's ownership stake to below 50 percent -- while making him hundreds of millions of dollars richer. And for his troubles, Mnuchin finds himself sued by Deripaska, who is demanding that Treasury hand over the classified basis for its sanctions designation and/or take Deripaska off the list. Womp womp!
In addition to economic harms, poor Oleg has been subject to terrible bullying by his own Russian compatriots since he was forced to wear the Scarlet S. Why are you trying to help the Russian government, Secretary Mnuchin?
The designations have also benefited Russia's Communist Party, which holds the second highest number of seats in the Russian Parliament and whose leader has publicly attacked Deripaska and organized rallies against him because of his divestment and relinquishment of control in the companies that were recently delisted by OFAC. Specifically, Gennady Zyuganov, has called for a criminal investigation of Deripaska for allegedly giving the companies "to the Anglo Saxons to control" and for acting against the strategic policy and national security of Russia.
As proof of the harm, Deripaska cites his own lawsuit suing Zyuganov for slander. Which is highly probative evidence, we are sure. And Deripaska argues that he can't possibly go through the administrative process to contest the sanctions designation at Treasury, since everyone in the Deep State is BIASSSS against him:
The current political climate makes it unlikely that Deripaska can receive a fair hearing through Defendant OFAC's [Office of Foreign Asset Control] administrative reconsideration process. Defendants have shown overt bias against Deripaska by providing misleading guidance on the ability of his companies to be removed from U.S. sanctions lists and by promising to aggressively pursue sanctions against him. Members of Congress—potential stakeholders in any future delisting—have also exhibited their own animus towards Deripaska by expressly referring to him as an "enemy" and a "criminal," absent any evidence and without consequence to their political standing.
So Deripaska is suing the Treasury, and he would like them to hand over all their papers, please. Reuters reports that the case is unlikely to make much headway:
Doug Jacobson, a trade lawyer in Washington, said that while the court may agree to order OFAC to hand over some records it would likely defer to the agency on the sanctions themselves.
"He's asking the judge to basically look at the executive order and make determination independent of OFAC and I think that's a very big ask," Jacobson said.
Michael Dobson, a former senior official at OFAC who worked on Russia sanctions before leaving the agency in late 2018, called Deripaska's lawsuit an "annoyance claim" that was unlikely to get traction given the broad deference given to OFAC by the courts.
But if you get to throw a little sand in the gears and possibly kick up a few internal government documents, it's well worth it. Because sometimes the real pee tape is the nuisance lawsuits you force the government to defend giving you a platform to attack democracy along the way.
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.