FBI agents on this morning searched homes linked to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska in New York’s Greenwich Village and on Washington’s Embassy Row as part of an investigation into whether he violated sanctions imposed on him by the United States, according to people with knowledge of the matter and a spokesperson for Deripaska.
The searches were carried out more or less simultaneously by agents in New York and Washington and were part of an investigation by the FBI and federal prosecutors from the office of the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, the people said.
Deripaska, an aluminum magnate with ties to President Vladimir Putin of Russia, was a client of Paul Manafort, who for several months in 2016 was Donald Trump’s campaign chairman and was convicted in 2018 of financial fraud and other crimes.
A spokesperson for the FBI office in New York would say only that the agents were “conducting a law enforcement operation pursuant to a law enforcement investigation,” and did not provide details on the nature or scope of the inquiry. A spokesperson for the Southern District declined to comment.
But a spokesperson for Deripaska issued a statement confirming the searches and saying that the investigation was related to U.S. sanctions.
“The FBI is carrying out a search at two houses — located in Washington and New York — belonging to Mr. Deripaska’s relatives,” said the spokesperson, Larisa Belyaeva. “The searches are being carried out on the basis of two court orders, connected to U.S. sanctions.”
In 2018, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions against Deripaska and his mammoth aluminum company, saying he had profited from the “malign activities” of Russia around the world. In announcing the sanctions, the Trump administration cited accusations that Deripaska had been accused of extortion, racketeering, bribery, links to organized crime and even ordering the murder of a businessperson.
Deripaska denied the allegations supporting the sanctions, and his allies contended that the sanctions were punishment for refusing to play ball with the Americans.
The Trump administration lifted the sanctions against Deripaska’s companies in 2019 under an agreement intended to reduce his control and ownership, although a confidential document showed the deal may have been less punitive than advertised, leaving him and his allies with majority ownership of his most important company.
Weeks later, Deripaska unsuccessfully sued the U.S. government to overturn the sanctions on him, alleging they were levied without due process and were based on unproven smears that fell outside the sanctions program.
In the lawsuit, Deripaska’s lawyers claimed that the sanctions had cost him billions of dollars, made him “radioactive” in international business circles, and exposed him to criminal investigation and asset confiscation in Russia.
The sanctions restrict his ability to own property or do business in the United States.
Deripaska’s ability to travel to the United States has also been restricted in the past, although he had managed visits to New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Hawaii before the sanctions, people familiar with his travel said.
And he has also been a subject of investigations by the FBI and federal prosecutors in New York for several years, according to people with knowledge of those inquiries, but it is unclear whether the searches have any connection to those matters.
The oligarch also came under scrutiny from the special counsel investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, because of his connections to Manafort.
Deripaska hired Manafort and signed his firm to a $10-million-a-year contract in 2006 at least partly to help him with his visa, which the U.S. government revoked. Deripaska eventually fired Manafort and his partner and later sued them over an unsuccessful telecommunications venture they had pursued together.
But after Manafort joined Trump’s campaign in 2016, he instructed his deputy to periodically provide confidential Trump campaign polling data to an associate that the deputy understood would be shared with Deripaska, according to a report issued by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
During the campaign, the FBI and the Justice Department unsuccessfully tried to turn Deripaska into an informant, signaling that they might provide help with his trouble in getting visas for the United States in exchange for information on possible Russian aid to Trump’s campaign. Deripaska told the U.S. investigators that he disagreed with their theories about Kremlin collusion in the campaign.
Property records show that the homes searched by the FBI today — a sprawling mansion in an affluent neighborhood in Northwest Washington and a three-story historic Greenwich Village town house that was once a speak-easy called the Pirate’s Den and later home to Mayor Jimmy Walker’s paramour — are owned by opaque limited liability corporations.
The LLC that owns the Greenwich Village property is connected to a person identified in British court filings as a cousin of Deripaska.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.