Trump’s Treasury Department Just Lifted Sanctions on Three Businesses Linked to a Russian Oligarch

January 28, 2019, 10:59 AM UTC

The Trump administration on Sunday lifted sanctions on three Russian firms controlled by Oleg Deripaska, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The sanctions on the aluminum company Rusal, its parent company EN+, and power firm JSC EuroSibEnergowere were announced in April 2018. They were brought against the three companies in response to Russia’s “malign activity around the globe,” and Deripaska was targeted as an individual because the U.S. claims he has threatened the lives of business rivals, bribed government officials, and has links to organized crime. Deripaska denies the allegations.

When the sanctions went into effect, Deripaska’s businesses plummeted on stock markets around the globe and cost Deripaska himself $3.8 billion in three weeks. But the sanctions were challenged by a campaign financed by the three firms, which argued that the sanctions would have negative knock-on effects on the global aluminum market and on companies in the U.S. and allied countries.

The deal to lift the sanctions on the three companies entailed a restructuring at each to reduce Deripaska’s control, but he and his allies will reportedly maintain a controlling share of EN+.

Earlier this month, a majority of House Republicans voted with Democrats to keep sanctions on the three companies, but the vote was mainly symbolic, as the measure had already failed in the Senate. Lawmakers have raised questions about the appropriateness of lifting these sanctions in light of Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign’s links to Russia. Deripaska is a client of Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort. Christopher Bancroft Burnham, who served on Trump’s State Department transition team, was appointed to the board of EN+ as part of the deal to lift the sanctions.

Clarification, Feb. 4, 2019: Due to a copy editing error, the original version of this article incorrectly inferred that newly appointed independent director of En+, Christopher Burnham, had once worked with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. In fact, Burnham has neither worked with Deripaska nor met him—or for that matter, Paul Manafort. He was specifically recruited and appointed as a director based on his global expertise and reputation as a leader in good governance and accountability, in addition to his independence from Deripaska, and only after being thoroughly vetted and approved by the OFAC office of the US Department of the Treasury. We apologize to Burnham and regret the error.