Russian oligarch Deripaska sues US over sanctions


Washington (AFP)

Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska filed suit against the US Treasury Friday, accusing it of illegally targeting him for sanctions and victimizing him as part of the Russia meddling investigation.

The suit, which named the US Treasury, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Andrea Gacki, the head of the Treasury's sanctions unit, said Deripaska had seen his net worth drop by $7.5 billion after sanctions were imposed on him and six other Russian oligarchs on April 6, 2018.

Shares of his Rusal metals group plunged and, to keep Rusal, EN+, and other companies in business, Deripaska was forced to transfer his shares to others.

The Russian billionaire was included in the 2018 sanctions action because he was seen as a close backer of Russian President Vladimir Putin and was also formerly involved in business with Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's ex campaign chairman who has been sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for financial and other crimes.

The sanctions can effectively lock those targeted out of the global financial system.

Treasury applied the penalties to punish Putin's inner circle for Moscow's alleged interference in the politics of Western democracies.

But Deripaska said he was "the latest victim of this country's (the US) political infighting and ongoing reaction to Russia's purported interference in the 2016 presidential elections."

The sanctions were implemented illegally and based only on "false rumor and innuendo and... decades-old defamatory attacks originated by his business competitors," he said in a court filing.

"The effect of these unlawful actions has been the wholesale devastation of Deripaska's wealth, reputation and economic livelihood."

He asked a federal judge to order the Treasury to remove the sanctions on him.

The lawsuit objects to the US allegation that Deripaska is close to Putin and questions the use of the sweeping term "oligarch" for Russian tycoons targeted by Washington.

In January the Treasury lifted sanctions on Rusal and two related companies after Deripaska took action to reduce his stakes in them.

But sanctions remain on him personally, preventing others from doing business with him.

Deripaska has been mentioned frequently in the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, but he has not been charged.

During the 2016 campaign, according to court filings, Manafort offered Deripaska briefings and polling data on the presidential race, making the offer through Manafort's former business partner and suspected Russian intelligence operative Konstantin Kilimnik.