Trump Administration’s Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross failed to disclose a set of lucrative of investments in a Russian company owned by Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law during his Congressional confirmation hearings. Yesterday, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) began releasing a series of documents which are being called the Paradise Papers. A total of more than 13.4 million records detail a wide range of records exposing ties between a number of politicians, including Wilbur Ross. The papers reveal that the Russian-held shipping company in which Ross holds a stake netted over $68 million in profits since 2014.
As the Paradise Papers reveal, more than a dozen names of Trump major donors, cabinet members and advisers appear in the leaked records which were obtained by the German newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
Details of Ross’s Involvements with Putin’s Son-in-Law
Kirill Shamalov is married to Katerina Tikhonova and is Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law. He is part owner of a Russian gas company named Sibur. Sibur, as leaked documents and public filings show, partners up with a off-shore shipping company called Navigator. The partnership escalated from 2014 forward in the wake of Russian aggression in the Ukraine and the annexation of the Crimea.
The financial holdings and investments held by Ross were obscured through a series of off-shore tax havens administered by law firms such as Appleby and former subsidiary Estera–which spun off as a stand-alone entity in 2016. The opening salvo from the ICIJ’s web-site notes,
“Nearly 7 million records from Appleby and affiliates cover the period from 1950 to 2016 and include emails, billion-dollar loan agreements and bank statements involving at least 25,000 entities connected to people in 180 countries. Appleby is a member of the “Offshore Magic Circle,” an informal clique of the planet’s leading offshore law practices. The firm was founded Bermuda and has offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and other offshore centers.”
These secretive havens afford opportunities for the one percent to hide their investments and avoid paying taxes on their revenues through an elaborate series of shell companies. Ross, a billionaire himself, hid his involvements and investments in Russian companies through such scheming. His failure to fully disclose these interests during Congressional confirmation hearings add yet another Trump administration member’s name to the growing number of administration members with ties to Putin.
Revisiting Ross’s Failure to Disclose Investments by Congressional Members
Senator Richard Blumenthal, confirmation committee member who participated in the questioning of Ross, noted,
“Our committee was misled, the American people were misled by the concealment of those companies.”
The involvement of Ross and Shamalov dates back to 2011, as the source discloses. In that year, Ross began to heavily invest in Navigator through his investments company WL Ross. His investment gave him two seats on the company’s board. In 2012, WL Ross gained control of Navigator through the investment of $110 million from the faltering bank, Lehman Brothers.
Shamalov is the son of Nikolai Shamalov, one of Putin’s oldest friends. In 2013, Navigator became a publicly-traded stock on the New York Stock exchange and the collaboration between Shamalov and Ross increased exponentially. In September 2014, Shamalov increased his holdings in Sibur when he purchased $1.3 billion worth of shares in the company from Gennady Timchenko–the financing was provided by Gazprombank. Timchenko is currently under U.S. Sanction. The Gazprombank’s Deputy Director is Shamalov’s brother.
The President Who Has Claimed Not to know Russians
President Trump has repeatedly claimed that he knows no one in Russia, has no ties or business interests in the country and that the whole “Trump-Russia” thing involving collusion between members of his administration is just a ruse.
And yet, name after name from his administration pops up with regularity as investigations proceed. Wilbur Ross, Trump’s Commerce Secretary, is just the latest player whose multiple and lucrative ties to Russia prove rather damning. Ross is merely the latest of those in the Trump circle who has misrepresented or lied and then been caught.