Some of the oligarchs now face major U.S. sanctions, while others are getting arrested on the Kremlin’s orders. Is Putin’s circle of the shameless rich beginning to crumble?
Seven of them were sanctioned on April 6 by the U.S. Treasury, along with 17 government officials and 12 Russian businesses. More U.S. sanctions are on the way in connection with Syria’s chemical weapons program.
And in addition to all that, Moscow authorities hustled Russian billionaire Ziyavudin Magomedov off to jail in his tracksuit and without a toothbrush late last month, just as he and his family were headed for his private plane and a vacation in Miami. His older brother, Magomed, a former member of Russia’s Federation Council, is also behind bars.
Russian journalist Yulia Latynina called the Magomedovs’ arrest on embezzlement charges a “cataclysmic event” for Russian business and wondered, “Where can a poor billionaire go now if you have on the one hand the U.S. Treasury and on the other the example of the Magomedovs?”
Among the oligarchs hit the hardest by the new U.S. sanctions is Oleg Deripaska, who has drawn the interest of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team because of his dubious financial entanglements in Ukraine with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Shares in Deripaska’s aluminum company Rusal fell 20 percent last Monday, and Deripaska lost almost 15 percent ($1.1 billion) of his net worth that same day.
Deripaska’s recent setback comes just weeks after 6 million viewers were treated to a video posted by Alexei Navalny showing Deripaska aboard his yacht with a self-professed “seductress” named Nastya Rybka hanging on his neck. (Rybka is now in a holding cell in Thailand with her manager on unspecified criminal charges, but that doesn’t do Dereipaska much good.)
To make matters worse for down-in-the-dumps Deripaska, Alexander Bastrykin, the head of Russia’s feared Investigative Committee, had unkind words for the Russian oligarch during a recent lecture to law students at St. Petersburg University.
Bastrykin told his audience about a boy who had shouted “down with corruption” as he hung on a lamp post during a protest on Moscow’s Pushkin Square in March 2017: “Do you know who he was?
The son of Deripaska, who Navalny caught vacationing with some woman.” The young man was questioned by police, according to Bastrykin, and told them he had traveled half the world with his father and was already bored with life, but he had never been in Pushkin Square, named for Russia’s greatest poet.
It’s funny, Bastrykin went on, that the heirs of the Russian oligarchs allow themselves to shout about crime. Because no one has forgotten that “Deripaska has himself figured in corruption cases, which would have been pursued if amnesties hadn’t come up.
In the 1990s, the economy was being derailed with the help of corruption, direct banditry, fraud. The state pretended that this era was over, all was forgiven. Well, it’s not for you, Deripaska’s son, to shout ‘down with corruption!’”