WASHINGTON—Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Roger Wicker (MS), Commissioner Sen. Marco Rubio (FL), Commissioner Sen. Cory Gardner (CO), and Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC) today called on the Trump Administration to continue its aggressive enforcement of Russia sanctions programs. The senators named Yuri Chaika and Alisher Usmanov – senior members of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle – as examples of what Congress will be looking for in the Administration’s upcoming report required under the “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.”
In their letters to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, the senators outlined suspicious activities conducted by the two Russians that also involve U.S. persons and companies – raising the possibility of violations of the “Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”
The letter reads in full:
We write today regarding your Department’s work on the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (Public Law 115–44). We understand that you are currently working in close coordination with the Secretary of Treasury and the National Director of Intelligence to deliver a report to Congress, as required under Section 241 of this law, regarding oligarchs and parastatal entities of the Russian Federation.
As you continue your work, we would like to draw your attention to individuals from President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle who have been linked by Russian and international press reports and anticorruption investigators to significant acts of corruption. Some of their dealings have involved U.S. persons and shares of U.S. companies raising the possibility of violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
One such individual is Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika. According to information obtained by Novaya Gazeta and Russia’s Anticorruption Foundation, Mr. Chaika’s close relatives, as well as the relatives of other senior officials from the Prosecutor General’s Office, have been involved in business dealings with the owners of the Avilon Automotive Group. Avilon is a luxury vehicle dealer that has received at least $286 million worth of state contracts from Russian government agencies, including the Prosecutor General’s Office itself. According to documents deposited before a U.S. court, Kamo Avagumyan, co-owner of Avilon, has partnered with Mr. Chaika’s son, Artyom Chaika, in a five-star hotel in Greece. The hotel project is also co-owned by Olga Lopatina, the former wife of Russian Deputy Prosecutor General Gennady Lopatin. Ms. Lopatina has reportedly been involved in business dealings with members of the notorious Kushchevskaya crime gang that was responsible for numerous murders in southern Russia.
Another person of interest is Alisher Usmanov. Mr. Usmanov is one of Russia’s most politically influential oligarchs with close ties to the Kremlin and stakes in leading media outlets. According to documents reviewed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the New York Times, and the Guardian, an offshore company controlled by Mr. Usmanov was behind a $200 million investment in Facebook. At the time, Mr. Usmanov served as Director General of Gazprom Investholding. The shares were later sold at a profit of $1 billion. As detailed in an investigation by the Anticorruption Foundation, Mr. Usmanov recently donated an estimated $85 million mansion in Moscow to a foundation with direct links to Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev. This has been widely viewed as a form of bribery.
It is our sincere hope that you will continue to closely review all reports of corruption by Russian officials and oligarchies. We hope we have helped shed some light on a couple emblematic examples of the types of individuals that should be included in the administration’s upcoming report required under Section 241 of Public Law 115-44. We look forward to reviewing this report in the coming weeks.