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Jersey in Trump’s sights amid oligarch crackdown

Jersey | Published:

TOUGH sanctions have been imposed by the US government on three Jersey-based companies worth billions and controlled by a Russian ‘oligarch’ with close ties to the Kremlin.

The Trump administration in the US has ordered tough sanctions against seven Russian oligarchs including aluminium magnate Oleg Deripaska – pictured with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin – and his companies, three of which are registered in Jersey

The US Treasury has applied strict penalties, including asset freezes and a ban on dealing with American citizens, against seven Russian oligarchs, 12 companies they own or control and 17 senior Russian government officials, as Washington seeks to punish Russia following the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury last month.

Among those facing sanctions is billionaire Oleg Deripaska, 50, and eight of his companies, including three Jersey-registered firms – Basic Element Limited, which is a private investment and management company, EN+ Group, an aluminium and power producer, and United Company Rusal Plc, which is one of the world’s largest aluminium producers.

All three companies, according to the Jersey Company Registry, are registered at 44 Esplanade, at the headquarters of finance firm Intertrust.

The US Treasury statement announcing the sanctions says that ‘non-US persons’ could be penalised if they assist individuals or companies named on the list.

‘All assets subject to US jurisdiction of the designated individuals and entities, and of any other entities blocked by operation of law as a result of their ownership by a sanctioned party, are frozen, and US persons are generally prohibited from dealings with them,’ it says.

‘Additionally, non-US persons could face sanctions for knowingly facilitating significant transactions for or on behalf of the individuals or entities blocked today.’

Hendrik Dewit, a spokesperson for Intertrust, said that the company took the monitoring of its clients’ backgrounds ‘very seriously’.

‘We run nightly checks on our clients and if we find any irregularities with existing clients we take appropriate measures and work with the authorities where necessary,’ he said.

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The share prices of Mr Deripaska’s companies have fallen dramatically since the sanctions were announced. The value of United Company Rusal Plc, which is listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, halved yesterday, while EN+ Group, which is listed in London, saw its share value plummet by 25 per cent over the weekend.

The US Treasury statement says that Mr Deripaska was sanctioned due to being accused of a number of crimes including ordering an assassination, racketeering, money laundering and bribery.

‘Deripaska has said that he does not separate himself from the Russian state,’ it says.

‘He has also acknowledged possessing a Russian diplomatic passport, and claims to have represented the Russian government in other countries.

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‘Deripaska has been investigated for money laundering, and has been accused of threatening the lives of business rivals, illegally wire-tapping a government official, and taking part in extortion and racketeering.

‘There are also allegations that Deripaska bribed a government official, ordered the murder of a businessman, and had links to a Russian organised crime group.’

The Jersey Financial Services Commission and Jersey’s government were all contacted for comment yesterday but had not responded at the time of writing. The government was asked to confirm whether Mr Deripaska has applied for or obtained high value resident rights in Jersey.

During yesterday’s States sitting Senator Philip Ozouf called for Economic Development Minister Lyndon Farnham to implement a review of the vetting process for high-value residents coming to Jersey, in light of the Skripal poisoning and the increasing application of sanctions against Russia among the international community.

In response, Senator Farnham insisted that Jersey has a ‘robust’ regime for vetting incoming high net worth individuals which is continuously reviewed.

This Friday, Bill Browder, a businessman and author who describes himself as ‘Vladimir Putin’s number one enemy’, is due to visit the Island to advise the States on implementing a Jersey version of the Magnitsky Act – a set of sanctions against Russian humans rights abusers which he lobbied the US government to pass.

Statement from US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin regarding the new sanctions:

‘The Russian government operates for the disproportionate benefit of oligarchs and government elites.

‘The Russian government engages in a range of malign activity around the globe, including continuing to occupy Crimea and instigate violence in eastern Ukraine, supplying the Assad regime with material and weaponry as they bomb their own civilians, attempting to subvert Western democracies, and malicious cyber activities.

‘Russian oligarchs and elites who profit from this corrupt system will no longer be insulated from the consequences of their government’s destabilising activities.’

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