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Saturday, January 5, 2019

Vekselburg, the Trump campaign, and a super yacht

Just over a year ago, the luxury yacht Tango, rated as #14 in its class,  slipped into Auckland, and caused whispers in the port.

As the New Zealand Herald reported, its oligarch owner, Vicktor Vekselberg, had a reputation for trying to influence American politics.  According to a story by Grant Bradley, the superyacht was understood to be owned by a Russian tycoon who once paid $100 million for the world's greatest collection of Faberge Eggs, and who has been linked to fallout in the United States presidential election.

Seventy-eight meters long, and with a crew of twenty-two, it is capable of carrying fourteen pampered guests in seven cabins, and is valued at $150,000,000 USD.  According to, The yacht Tango was built at the famous Feadship Van Lent shipyard, designed by Eidsgaard Design, and has a top speed of 22 knots. She was delivered to her owner Viktor Vekselberg  -- one of the richest men in Russia, who made a huge fortune from aluminium and oil -- in 2011.

Well, it was November 2017 when she glided into Auckland with no fanfare at all, having motored there from Fiji.  And at once the whispers began.  As the news story continued, ABC News in the US had quoted one expert on oligarchs as saying there was good reason to probe the role Vekselberg and another billionaire may have played in the 2016 election, given what he says was "a continuous relationship of these oligarchs with Kremlin and security services".

Vekselberg also reportedly donated to Hillary Clinton's election campaign.  It was boasting about his ties to Trump, however, that proved his downfall, costing him billions.
As Bloomberg reveals,  "Not long after Michael Cohen stopped pursuing a Trump-branded property project in Moscow, another Russian connection to the future U.S. president’s entourage started to form.
"Like the real estate plan, it didn’t end well—particularly for Russian tycoon Viktor Vekselberg. His effort to engage in statecraft at the highest level unraveled spectacularly, costing him billions, cleaving his family and severing the extensive ties to the U.S. elite that turned him into what one Moscow newspaper called the “most American” of Vladimir Putin’s plutocrats.
"This saga, much of it previously unreported, began with a chance encounter between Cohen, Trump’s now-disgraced former lawyer, and Vekselberg’s American cousin, Andrew Intrater, in the fall of 2016. Soon, Trump would be in the White House and Vekselberg would be privately boasting of having the pull needed to help achieve the sanctions relief the Kremlin was craving, people familiar with the matter said. Instead, he became the richest victim of the most dangerous standoff between the U.S. and Russia since the Cold War.
"The story of Vekselberg’s fall from grace in the U.S., where his American grandchildren, Yale-educated children and wife all live, is based on interviews with more than a dozen people in the billionaire’s orbit in both countries. The optimism about the future of bilateral relations that the one-time oil magnate expressed as recently as a year ago has given way to bouts of occasional public melancholy.
"Through much of 2017, as the nascent Trump administration navigated controversies of its own making, Vekselberg was giving Russian officials and fellow businessmen vague yet certain assurances about his influence in the White House, according to six people who interacted with him at the time. He’d attended Trump’s swearing-in ceremony in Washington as a guest of Intrater, who’d donated $250,000 to the inaugural committee, and come back with a newfound sense of clout, they said.
"Vekselberg’s spokesman in Moscow, Andrey Shtorkh,said the billionaire never tried to be a go-between on the sanctions issue. “Vekselberg has not and could not have offered anyone his help to resolve sanctions,” he said by email late Thursday. “He has no ability to do so.”
 "Shortly after being grilled in New York in March as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s election-meddling probe, Vekselberg and the younger, brasher aluminum baron Oleg Deripaska (owner of super-yacht Queen K) were slapped with sanctions over Putin’s “malign activities.” Vekselberg has since lost about $3 billion of his-now $13.4 billion fortune, mainly due to declines in the market values of his minority stakes in Swiss industrial companies and Deripaska’s Rusal. And that doesn’t count the estimated $2 billion or more of stocks and cash that have been frozen or tied up in banks as a result of the U.S. penalties...."

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