Leonard Blavatnik, a Ukrainian-born billionaire with dual U.S.-U.K. citizenship who has become familiar to many Americans due to his connection to the Russia investigation, stands to make a financial windfall after the U.S. Treasury decided to lift sanctions against Russian aluminum giant Rusal.
Though the Treasury initially sanctioned Rusal and other companies controlled by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska — a business partner of Blavatnik sanctioned for his role in “a range of malign activity around the globe” — those sanctions were removed this month after Deripaska and the Trump administration reached a restructuring agreement.
According to The New York Times, Blavatnik’s firm SUAL Partners Limited, which he founded alongside another Russian oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg — also sanctioned by the U.S. — is one of Rusal’s major shareholders.
Based on a confidential Treasury Department document showing that SUAL will own 22.5 percent of Rusal after the restructuring, the rise in Rusal’s stock price has increased the value of SUAL Partners’ holding in the company by about $800 million.
But this is not the end of the story: Blavatnik — a major Republican donor, beginning in 2014 — has ties to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who participated in the decision-making process that eventually saw Rusal’s sanctions lifted.
Democrats in Congress have begun questioning whether Mnuchin should have recused himself from the Rusal sanctions decision, considering this connection.
The questions from Democrats about a possible conflict of interest stem from an acquisition, announced in April 2017, by an arm of [Blavatnik’s company] Access Industries, of a stake in a movie production company called RatPac Entertainment. The deal gave Access “a piece of” a joint film deal venture that RatPac had formed in 2013 with one of Mr. Mnuchin’s companies, Dune Entertainment, to finance Warner Bros. films, according to an article by the Hollywood Reporter posted on Access’s website.
Though Mnuchin reportedly has divested from Dune Entertainment and RatPac-Dune in full, Democrats are not convinced there is no conflict of interest remaining,
[Senator Ron Wyden (D-NY)] is interested in a report that Mr. Mnuchin had “frequented” Mr. Blavatnik’s yacht before becoming Treasury secretary, and that Mr. Mnuchin’s brother, Alan Mnuchin, a financial adviser, had represented RatPac-Dune in a deal to sell its film library to Warner Bros., which was finalized this year.
The Treasury Department said that Mr. Mnuchin attended only one party on Mr. Blavatnik’s yacht, but would not provide details about the circumstances.
Blavatnik’s name has popped up previously regarding the Republicans and the Trump administration, particularly with regard to his donations to President Trump’s inaugural committee, which caught the attention of special counsel Robert Mueller.
While Mr. Blavatnik had given mostly to Democrats through the end of 2014, his giving has escalated drastically and shifted sharply right since then. He did not donate to Mr. Trump’s campaign or the “super PACs” that supported it, but family members gave $243,000 to the Republican National Committee during the campaign. And two of Mr. Blavatnik’s companies, including his main United States-based company, Access Industries, donated $2.5 million to the super PAC supporting Republican Senate candidates in 2016, plus another $1 million in 2017, according to Federal Election Commission records.
After Election Day, Access Industries donated $1 million to Mr. Trump’s inaugural committee, and Mr. Blavatnik attended inaugural events.