How the scandal with Paul Manafort in the USA will decimate the richest oligarch of Ukraine
The former head of Donald Trump’s campaign headquarters and former president of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych’s adviser Paul Manafort received at least USD 75 million from Ukraine. Among people who transferred the above money, the prominent role is played by “the richest Ukrainian” oligarch Rinat Akhmetov.
As known, the former political strategist of the Party of Regions of Ukraine, Paul Manafort, together with his business partner, Rick Gates, decided to surrender at the mercy of the US authorities who charged them, on the one hand, in the undeclared work of the fugitive President Viktor Yanukovych and other pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine from 2006 to 2015, and on the other, in obtaining a colossal (as for lobbying activities) amount of funds through numerous offshore companies (mainly in Cyprus). In general, according to the prosecution, at least $ 75 million from Ukraine passed through his accounts.
The former head of Donald Trump’s campaign headquarters and Viktor Yanukovych’s former adviser may face up to 80 years in prison. Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor in the “Russian case”, expects that Manafort and Gates, in order to avoid imprisonment, will go on a deal with the investigation and disclose all the information they know about Trump’s presidential campaign, as well as people who transferred the above $ 75 million. Among them, the prominent role is played by “the richest Ukrainian” oligarch Rinat Akhmetov.
It was Akhmetov who, at the end of 2004, attracted an American as a political consultant for Viktor Yanukovych for the first time. This is how this period of cooperation between SCM Holding (Akhmetov’s property) and Paul Manafort in the spring of 2007 was described by the correspondent, and now the deputy Mustafa Nayem.
“A group of American political technologists appeared in Ukraine long before the start of the parliamentary race in 2006. According to our information, in mid-2005, Rinat Akhmetov held several meetings with some American consultants, including Paul Manafort. It was about providing consultations to SCM Holdings in preparation for the placement of the company’s shares on the western stock exchanges. The version that the Americans were originally involved in the maintenance of SCM, has become almost official. It is also supported by Rinat Akhmetov himself.
– In 2005 SCM faced the task of developing a communication corporate strategy. To this end, the company invited several consultants, including Mr. Manafort. In addition to him, the group of consultants were also the world-famous company Burson-Marstellar and the European company MMD, – mentioned Akhmetov in the commentary for “Ukrainian Truth”.
However, some sources in the Party of Regions assert that for the first time Paul Manafort came to Donetsk somewhere around 10th of December 2004 – between the second and third rounds of the presidential elections.
– “The conversation about SCM arose much later, at the beginning of 2005,” says one of the leaders of the presidential election campaign, Viktor Yanukovych, “and Paul Manafort was originally invited to the elections, more precisely, for the third round of presidential elections. But just two weeks before the election, Paul openly declared that it was already impossible to influence the course of the campaign.
According to Rinat Akhmetov, Paul Manafort was advised to him in “one of American law firms.” However, according to one of the versions, the American was a protege of Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska.
Manafort is associated with several companies that provide services in the field of lobbying and political consultations. He is a co-founder of such companies as “Davis Manafort & Freeman, Inc.”, “Davis, Manafort & Stone” and “Black, Manafort, Stone, & Kelly”.
According to sources, SCM Holdings signed a contract with “Black, Manafort, Stone, & Kelly”, specializing mainly in the field of economic lobbying.
Today, Akhmetov does not deny that he was the initiator of the cooperation of the Party of Regions with Paul Manafort and his colleagues.
“At some point, in connection with Mr. Manafort’s additional experience, he was recommended to the Party of Regions as a specialist who could help the party in the parliamentary elections,” Akhmetov told “Ukrainska Pravda”. – “When the Party of Regions decided to use the services of Manafort, SCM completely stopped its relationship with him”.
At the same time, Akhmetov claims that he did not cover the costs associated with attracting Manafort to the campaign headquarters.
“The only services that my company covered to Mr. Manafort were services provided by Mr. Manafort for SCM,” claims the richest Ukrainian and adds: “SCM did not pay for any political services provided by Mr. Manafort for the Party of Regions.”
Business partner of Rinat Akhmetov and one of the closest friends of Prime Minister Anton Prigodsky states that the services of Americans were paid “solely from the party box office.”
Despite the fact that in spring of 2007, Akhmetov claimed that he had stopped cooperating with Manafort, this did not become an obstacle to their further work. According to a similar scheme (as with Rinat), then his relations with Oleg Deripaska, which actually introduced ‘Pal Ivanych’ (as Manafort was called behind his back at the headquarters of the Party of Regions), with the ‘Dear’ in 2004 .
The American political consultant worked for the owner of UC Rusal not only in Russia and Ukraine (where he owned the Nikolayev Alumina Refinery and the Zaporizshky Aluminum Plant), but also, for example, in Montenegro. In 2008, Manafort’s partner Rick Gates organized a meeting for the Russian billionaire with presidential candidate John McCain, and in 2016 Manafort offered him consultations on presidential campaign in the United States.
During his work with Deripaska, the structures of Manafort received from him $ 60 million in loans. Now Deripaska is suing a political technologist in the Cayman Islands: a Russian billionaire allegedly handed Manafort $ 19 million for investments in the interests of Deripaska, and he appropriated them.
Image credits: thedealybeast.com
Akhmetov’s “romance” with Manafort resumed in 2008, when the Ukrainian oligarch was once again concerned with the fact that he was prohibited to enter the US because of suspicions of links with post-Soviet organized crime. At that time the idea arose that Akhmetov could acquire some major asset in the States and thereby get a green card already as a solid investor. The choice fell on the United Coal Company, which was just put up for sale and produced coking and energy coal in four states at once (West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee).
In spring of 2008, the mining and metallurgical monopoly of Rinat Akhmetov, “Metinvest”, began to prepare this deal. As recalled one of the board of directors of Metinvest B.V. members, with the purchase of coal mining capacities at the other end of the world, the modernization of capacities of Makeyevka Metallurgical Plant competed in an intracorporate competition of potential investment projects, comparable in terms of required investments. And the term of their return here was one and a half times shorter. In addition, the project of buying United Coal Company originally has a flaw in the need to build a special terminal for the reception of American coal (it was later launched with scandals for several years in the now occupied Sevastopol).
However, despite all this, Rinat Akhmetov’s representatives pressured through the board of directors of Metinvest B.V. the option of buying United Coal Company. What is even more surprising in this whole story: in fall of 2008, when the global financial crisis broke out, Metinvest did not flinch and brought this initially more questionable from the point of view of economic efficiency transaction to the “victorious” end. In April 2009, Metinvest through its subsidiary Metinvest US acquired 100% of the UCC for more than $ 1 billion: $ 443 millions were paid immediately and another $ 599 millions – in the form of equal semi-annual payments, prolonged to 2015. Already at the time of consolidation in May 2009, United Coal brought to Metinvest additional revenue of $ 298 million and a net loss of $ 48 million at the same time. In addition to the money already paid for the company and the current losses generated by it, the UCC required large-scale investments. In particular, Metinvest has invested $ 115 millions in the resuscitation of the Affinity mine and the construction of a new enrichment plant with a capacity of 1,000 tons per hour.
Affinity was built in the 1910s. In April 1984, the mine was mothballed by its then owner Eastern Associated and was not exploited for more than a quarter of a century. In 2011, the Affinity complex was inaugurated. At the same time, Metinvest hid from the Ukrainian media that it was not about building a new one, but about resuscitating a mothballed mine built almost a hundred years ago.
As early as next year, 2012, UCC production of thermal coal collapsed 4 times – up to 507 thousand tons. And in 2013 the American division of Metinvest also completely stopped the production of thermal coal. Then it periodically resumed, then again – stopped.
Because of this in 2012, Metinvest fired 325 employees of the UCC or every fifth employee of the American company. In particular, two underground mines and one section of the Sapphire Coal Company, a structural subdivision of the United Coal Company, were closed, in which about 200 people worked.
In February 2013 (first February 7, then – February 19) on the recently returned to life Affinity occurred immediately two fatalities. After that, local media found out that since the resuscitation of Metinvest mine in 2011 16 miners were injured or killed there. It also became known that since the beginning of 2013, the Office of Occupational Safety and Industrial Hygiene in the US mining industry (MSHA) found 66 security breaches at the Metinvest mine. During the year Affinity 68 warnings were issued and a fine of $ 126,000 was imposed, of which Akhmetov’s mine paid only 16,000 dollars at that time.
But most importantly: as a result, the Donetsk oligarch never got the opportunity to fly to the US because, in the opinion of the US government, he remained a person related to organized crime. Not even the lobbying efforts of Paul Manafort helped, who in fact was the main ideologist of the deal with the United Coal Company.
In 2012, it became obvious to Akhmetov’s circle that the “investment in exchange for a visa” project was unpromising. It was decided to work radically with the image of the richest Ukrainian in order to convince the US authorities that he is not such an organized crime leader.
Manafort at one time advised Akin Gump Strauss Hauer Feld as a legal advisor to SCM. And this bundle works to this day. It was the lawyer of Akin Gump Melissa Laurenza (Melissa Laurenza) who represented the American political consultant in the special investigation on the “Russian case”. And she was engaged in this so enthusiastically that in the end she became one of the defendants of this investigation herself.
Obviously, in the emerging situation, Rinat Akhmetov has a fundamental change in the vector of his aspirations towards the United States. If for decades he dreamed to get there, now his pet project is stay away from there as long as possible. From now on, the oligarch of Donetsk can only visit the territory of the US as an accused.
Obviously, the only chance for Akhmetov not to get to American prison with regard to “Manafort case” is to prove his usefulness to the “Washington regional committee”. For example, as an “effective solution” in the Donbass. In this regard, we can assume that even before the end of the year we can witness some impressive change in the status quo in the occupied territories of Ukraine.
Nevertheless, “the richest Ukrainian” apparently will have to pay for his sins. His American assets may become the payment. First of all, the already mentioned United Coal Company. Fortunately, the recent world quotes for coal are at their peak. In any case, this is not a high price for complicity in schemes for money laundering involving American citizens.
Image credits: thedailybeast.com
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