The United Kingdom raided a British company tied to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska after investigators in the United States sought information about the Kremlin-linked billionaire’s business, in what is a possible spinoff case from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
U.S. authorities are scrutinizing 18 different individuals and companies, including the U.K.-based real estate company Terra Services, which until last year was run by Deripaska, a powerful Russian industrialist with global businesses and ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and a central figure in Mueller’s report. The U.K. said the investigation was “live and ongoing” and Terra itself claimed that these search requests were likely made “in connection with the special counsel investigation being conducted in the U.S.”, according to court filings first obtained by Bloomberg.
An international case like this stemming from Mueller’s inquiry wouldn’t be unusual — Mueller referred 14 criminal cases for outside prosecution, only a few of which are publicly known, and he made 13 requests to foreign governments for information. Mueller testified this summer that there are likely ongoing counterintelligence investigations flowing from his two-year probe. And Deripaska remains a highly-scrutinized figure in the U.S. He has been sanctioned by the U.S. government multiple times since Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, including in 2018 in response to “worldwide malign activity” by Russia, although one of his firms had sanctions against it lifted in early 2019.
U.K. authorities apparently seized around 25,000 electronic documents from a U.K. storage unit owned by Terra in December and that the inquiry only became public because Terra is currently fighting to stop the U.K. from providing the records to U.S. investigators. Court records indicate that the investigators feared that the records might be hidden or destroyed without a warrant being issued. British investigators also obtained a search warrant against Terra in connection to a possibly unrelated money laundering scheme.
The U.K. judge who signed off on the search and seizure last year noted that the reams of documents could assist “in an ongoing investigation” into “criminal offenses” carried out by former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and former business associate and deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, whom court records referred to as “two U.S. subjects.” Both Manafort and Gates featured prominently in the Mueller report as well, because of their ties to Russian figures and their work in Ukraine for pro-Kremlin politicians.
The unnamed U.S. investigators, who seem to be working in partnership with the U.K.’s National Crime Agency, say they are looking for any evidence of money laundering or tax and fraud crimes.
Mueller wrapped up his investigation in the spring, concluding the Russian government had interfered in the 2016 presidential election through cyberattacks and social media disinformation campaigns, but he did not establish any criminal collusion between the Trump campaign or the Russians. Deripaska, who was not charged by Mueller, played a central part in Mueller’s conclusions because of his connections to Manafort. Deripaska and Manafort worked together for years and the Russian had loaned the American millions of dollars before the two had a falling out.
During the 2016 campaign, Mueller says Manafort instructed Gates to share polling data with Manafort’s Kyiv-based business partner Konstanin Kilimnik, who was then expected to share the information with others in Ukraine and with Deripaska. Mueller’s report stated that it “did not identify evidence of a connection between Manafort’s sharing polling data and Russia’s interference in the election.”
The London court documents reportedly don’t include the U.S. search request or the UK search warrant, and only excerpts from the warrant are available. The filings don’t say which U.S. agency is handling the investigation and the judge hasn’t let Terra see the U.S. request. Terra’s lawyer told the court that there is “a degree of confusion as to what exactly is being investigated.”
The Justice Department declined the Washington Examiner’s request for comment and the U.K.’s National Crime Agency didn’t immediately respond.
Manafort was convicted in Virginia and pleaded guilty in D.C. case in 2018, and he was sentenced to roughly seven years in prison earlier this year. Gates has been a cooperating government witness for Mueller and beyond, recently testifying in a Mueller offshoot case against former Obama White House Counsel Greg Craig in connection to Democratic lawyer’s foreign business dealings in Ukraine, for which Craig was found not guilty in a D.C. court this summer.