Viktor Vekselberg

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Viktor Vekselberg
Виктор Вексельберг
Viktor Vekselberg
Vekselberg in 2008
Born (1957-04-14) April 14, 1957 (age 65)
Drohobych, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union
(present-day Drohobych, Ukraine)
Citizenship
Alma materMoscow Transportation Engineering Institute
OccupationBusinessman
Known forFounder of Renova Group
TitleChairman of Renova Group
Spouse(s)Married
Children2
Awards
Websitevekselberg.org

Viktor Felixovich Vekselberg (Russian: Виктор Феликсович Вексельберг, Ukrainian: Віктор Феліксович Вексельберг; born April 14, 1957) is a Ukrainian-born[4] Russian–Cypriot oligarch, billionaire, and businessman. He is the owner and president of Renova Group, a Russian conglomerate. According to Forbes, as of November 2021, his fortune is estimated at $9.3 billion, making him the 262nd richest person in the world.[5]

Vekselberg is close to the Kremlin,[6][7] overseeing projects to modernize the Russian economy.[8] In April 2018, the United States imposed sanctions on him and 23 other Russian nationals in relation to Russia's annexation of Crimea, officially freezing up to $2 billion in assets.[9] In March 2022, following Russia's invasion against Ukraine, the United States strengthened its sanctions and the UK, EU and Australia also placed sanctions on Vekselberg, thereby seizing his assets and imposing a travel ban. [10][11][12][13]

Early life and education[edit]

Viktor Vekselberg was born in 1957 to a Ukrainian Jewish father and a Russian mother[14][15] in Drohobych, Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (although some reports state that he was born in Lviv).[16] In 1979, he graduated from the Moscow Transportation Engineering Institute.[16] Thereafter, he worked as an engineer[17] and research manager at a state-owned pump manufacturer.[16][17]

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev witnessed the signing of a memorandum on cooperation between Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger and Viktor Vekselberg, June 23, 2010

Career[edit]

In 1988, after the Gorbachev administration relaxed restrictions on private business as part of its new policy Perestroika and Glasnost, he founded NPO Komvek which did work for the Irkutsk Aluminum Plant[16] and in 1990, he co-founded Renova Group with college classmate,[16] Leonard Blavatnik.[18] KomVek owned 67% of Renova and Blavatnik's company Access Industries owned the remainder.[18] He benefited financially from the privatization of the aluminum industry in Russia under the Yeltsin administration in 1993.[16] In 1996, he co-founded the Siberian-Urals Aluminium Company (SUAL) via a merger of the Ural and Irkutsk Aluminum Plants.[18] (SUAL would later be incorporated into United Company RUSAL, the largest aluminum company in the world). Using revenues generated from his aluminum business, he purchased a minority interest in Tyumen Oil (TNK), one of Russia's largest oil and gas companies.[17][19] In 1997, he secured a controlling interest in Tyumen and was appointed to the board of directors; in 1998, he was appointed chairman of the board.[18] Later, he integrated those and other assets under the umbrella of Renova Group, delegating operating responsibilities to managers.

In 2003, the Renova Group, along with Access Industries (owned by Leonard Blavatnik) and the Alfa Group (owned by Mikhail Fridman, German Khan, and Alexei Kuzmichov) announced the creation of a strategic partnership to jointly hold their oil assets in Russia and Ukraine, forming the AAR consortium. In the same year, they merged AAR with British Petroleum's Russian oil assets in a 50-50 joint venture named TNK-BP, the largest private transaction in Russian history.[20] Acting as a chairman of the executive board of TNK, Vekselberg was instrumental in negotiating and closing the transaction.

In April 2009, Swiss Federal Finance Department initiated a criminal investigation against Vekselberg in connection to alleged violations of securities law.[21] As a result of the investigation, Vekselberg was fined $38m by Swiss authorities.[22] In 2008, Vekselberg proxied a deal between Russian and Hungarian governments, buying the former embassy building from Hungary for $21m and immediately selling it to the Russian government for $116m, while the market price of the building was estimated at $50m. Investigation of the paper trail by Alexey Navalny and the Rospil project has found several invalid and backdated documents,[23] thus suggesting a collusion (e.g. the tender held by the Hungarian side was totally fictive, as the building was already sold by that time). Hungarian officials responsible for the deal (Tátrai Miklós, Marta Horvathne Fekszi and Arpad Szekely) were detained in February 2011.[24] On the Russian side, a criminal investigation was only started in August 2013.[25]

In 2010, Vekselberg was appointed President of the Skolkovo Foundation, a non-profit organization funded by a mix of private investors and the Russian government, with the goal of building a technology research hub in Russia.[26] As its president, Vekselberg signed a deal for Cisco Systems to invest $1 billion over ten years into Skolkovo Foundation projects.[26] The Federal Bureau of Investigation subsequently issued a statement claiming that the Skolkovo Foundation was being used by the Russian government to gain access to classified American technology.[26]

In May 2010 Vekselberg reported that he would be relocating from Zurich to the Zug canton, a region of Switzerland that still supports the lump sum tax policy which was abolished by Zurich.[27]

In March 2017, he was offered citizenship of the Republic of Cyprus due to his investments in the country, however a spokesperson for Vekselberg reiterated that he only had Russian citizenship.[28]

Designation under United States sanctions programmes[edit]

Vekselberg is one of many Russian "oligarchs" named in the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) signed into law by President Donald Trump in 2017.[29]

In March 2018, members from Robert Mueller's team of special counsel investigators questioned Vekselberg at a New York area airport.[30]

In April 2018, the United States Department of the Treasury imposed sanctions on Vekselberg and Renova Group through designation under Executive Order 13662 ("Blocking Property of Additional Persons Contributing to the Situation in Ukraine"). [31][32]

A cybersecurity startup company associated with Israeli Prime Minister candidate, Benny Gantz, closed due to funds that the U.S. had frozen belonging to the subject who was an investor in Gantz's tech company, The Fifth Dimension and who was caught up in the Mueller probe of Stormy Daniel's payoff by former Trump lawyer, Michael Cohen, who had developed close ties with the subject.[33]

In February 2021, Vekselberg complained that more than $1.5 billion of his funds were frozen in American and Swiss bank accounts and that he was not allowed to send "small amounts" to charity.[34]

Seizure of the Motoryacht Tango[edit]

United States Attorney General Merrick Garland announces the seizure of the Motoryacht Tango, April 4, 2022

Following the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, United States President Joseph R. Biden signed Executive Order 14068, "Prohibiting Certain Imports, Exports, and New Investment With Respect to Continued Russian Federation Aggression," an order of economic sanctions under the United States International Emergency Economic Powers Act. The order targeted two properties of Vekselberg worth an estimated $180 million: the an Airbus A319-115 jet and the motoryacht Tango.[35] Estimates of the value of the Tango range from $90 million (U.S. Department of Justice estimate) to $120 million (from the website Superyachtfan.com).

In April 2022, the yacht was seized by Civil Guard of Spain and U.S. federal agents in Mallorca. A United States Department of Justice press release states that the seizure of the Tango was by request of Task Force KleptoCapture, an interagency task force operated through the United States Deputy Attorney General. [36][37][38]

The matter is pending in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The affidavit for the seizure warrant states that the yacht is seized on probable cause to suspect violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1349 (conspiracy to commit bank fraud), 50 U.S.C. § 1705 (International Emergency Economic Powers Act), and 18 U.S.C. § 1956 (money laundering), and as authorized by American statutes on civil and criminal asset forfeiture.[39]

Art collection[edit]

In February 2004, Vekselberg purchased nine Fabergé Imperial Easter eggs from the Forbes publishing family in New York City.[40] The collection was transported to Russia and exhibited in the Kremlin and in Dubrovnik in 2007. Vekselberg is the single largest owner of Fabergé eggs in the world, owning fifteen of them (nine Imperial, two Kelch, and four other Fabergé eggs). In a 2013 BBC Four documentary, Vekselberg revealed that he had spent just over $100 million purchasing the nine Fabergé Imperial eggs from the Forbes collection.[41] He claims never to have displayed them in his home, saying he bought them because they are important to Russian history and culture, and he believed them to be the best jewelry art in the world. In the same BBC documentary, Vekselberg revealed plans to open a museum to display the eggs in his collection.[41] The result was the Fabergé Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia, which had its official opening ceremony on November 19, 2013.[42]

In September 2006, Vekselberg agreed to pay approximately $1 million in expenses to transport the Lowell House Bells from Harvard University in the United States back to their original location in the Danilov Monastery and to purchase replacement bells. The historic bells returned to Moscow on September 12, 2008, with the assistance of the U.S. director of the organization, Edward Mermelstein.

Vekselberg paid £1.7 million at a Christie's auction in 2005 for Odalisque, a nude said to be the work of Russian artist Boris Kustodiev.[43] However, soon after the purchase, experts working for Vekselberg's art fund, Aurora, began to cast doubt on the picture's authenticity. They claimed that Kustodiev's signature, dated 1919, was done in aluminium-based pigment not available until after the artist's death in 1927. Vekselberg sued Christie's, and the judge ruled in July 2012 that he was entitled to recover the £1.7 million that he paid for the painting, plus Christie's was ordered to pay around £1 million in costs.[44]

Charitable donations[edit]

Vekselberg's firm Renova donated between $50,000 and $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation.[45]

He donated $4.5 million to the construction of the $50 million Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, and is the chairman of the museum's board of trustees.[46][47] He finances the restoration and construction of synagogues in Russia, including the construction of the Choral Synagogue in Saratov.[48]

In 2019, a monument was opened in Moscow to commemorate resistance heroes in concentration camps and ghettos. Vekselberg donated $300,000 to its creation.[49]

In 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic began, Viktor Vekselberg donated 180 million rubles to buy medical equipment, personal protective equipment, and food for socially vulnerable groups of citizens.[50]

In 2021, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov awarded Viktor Vekselberg, among other leaders of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, for helping to bring back Russian tourists from abroad.[51]

Personal life[edit]

He is married to Marina and has two children, a daughter and a son.[52] His father is Jewish, and his mother Christian. He identifies himself as multi-national and does not attend weekly synagogue or church services.[53]

Vekselberg is a longtime friend and business partner of British–American billionaire and major Republican Party donor Leonard Blavatnik,[54] who is close to former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.[55]

Being placed under sanctions by President Trump's administration he names to be his personal tragedy, because he was left unable to visit his daughter and grandson in New York.[56]

Vekselberg reportedly lives in Switzerland.[57]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Farolfi, Sara. "Russian Billionaire linked to Trump, Manafort Has New Cyprus Passport". OCCRP. Retrieved March 16, 2022.
  2. ^ Presentation of state decorations January 26, 2017, kremlin.ru
  3. ^ "Bloomberg Billionaires Index: Viktor Vekselberg". bloomberg.com. Retrieved June 25, 2021.
  4. ^ Filatova, Irina (March 15, 2012). "Newsmaker: Vekselberg's Career Is Filled With Energy". The Moscow Times. Retrieved February 28, 2022.
  5. ^ Forbes: The World's Billionaires - Viktor Vekselberg October 2019
  6. ^ Viktor Vekselberg: Tracking Down Russia's secret billionaire August 3, 2013, By Stephen Smith, Esquire
  7. ^ Vekselberg denies Kremlin influence by Matthew Allen in Thun for Swissinfo, May 27, 2008
  8. ^ Russian 'Silicon Valley' to be self-sufficient in 5-7 years - Vekselberg March 23, 2010, RIA Novosti
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  10. ^ "UK sanctions Russian oligarch behind major Fabergé egg loan to V&A exhibition". The Art Newspaper - International art news and events. March 18, 2022. Retrieved March 26, 2022.
  11. ^ "Russian billionaire on EU sanctions list quits as Royal Academy trustee". the Guardian. March 1, 2022. Retrieved March 26, 2022.
  12. ^ "Australian government extends sanctions to Russian oligarchs Oleg Deripaska and Viktor Vekselberg". the Guardian. March 18, 2022. Retrieved March 26, 2022.
  13. ^ Pickford, James; Massoudi, Arash (March 14, 2022). "Tate cuts links with two billionaires hit with sanctions over Ukraine invasion". Financial Times. Retrieved March 26, 2022.
  14. ^ Der Spiegel: "Im Westen wartet keiner auf mich" by Walter Von Mayr and Gerhard Spörl March 6, 2006 (in German) | "Der alltägliche Antisemitismus ist nicht zu leugnen. Ich habe ihn selbst häufig zu spüren bekommen, obwohl ich unter Juden nicht als Jude gelte, da meine Mutter Russin ist. Die Russen wiederum halten mich nicht für einen Russen, weil mein Vater Jude ist" - "The everyday anti-Semitism is undeniable. I myself often get to feel it, even though I don't count as a Jew among the Jews, as my mother is Russian. The Russians in turn do not think I'm a Russian because my father is a Jew."
  15. ^ The Guardian: "The richer they come ...Can Russia's oligarchs keep their billions - and their freedom?" By Luke Harding July 1, 2007
  16. ^ a b c d e f Norris, Stephen M. "Blockbuster History in the New Russia: Movies, Memory, and Patriotism" p. 251-253]
  17. ^ a b c "With $7.5 billion in his pocket, Viktor Vekselberg to increase his shareholdings in Switzerland" By Stanley Green, Jewish Business News, April 9, 2013
  18. ^ a b c d Russia Profile: "VEKSELBERG, Victor Feliksovich" Archived August 24, 2013, at the Wayback Machine retrieved August 25, 2013
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  20. ^ The Daily Telegraph: "BP in Russia: a timeline" October 22, 2012
  21. ^ "Strafverfahren gegen Vekselberg im Fall Sulzer". April 6, 2009. Archived from the original on April 9, 2009.
  22. ^ Russian tycoon fined $38M in Switzerland, set to appeal fine. Sputnik News. February 1, 2010
  23. ^ "Инновационные технологии: как это работает на самом деле". Archived from the original on June 25, 2012. Retrieved July 31, 2012.
  24. ^ Hungary: detentions linked to the sale of property in Moscow. OSW. February 16, 2011
  25. ^ Возбуждено уголовное дело по факту хищения при приобретении Минрегионом здания в центре Москвы. Interfax. 8 августа 2013.
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  27. ^ Ведомости (May 12, 2010). "Виктор Вексельберг переселяется в деревню из-за референдума". www.vedomosti.ru. Retrieved December 5, 2018.
  28. ^ Farolfi, Sara; Harding, Luke; Ophanides, Stelios (March 2, 2018). "EU citizenship for sale as Russian oligarch buys Cypriot passport". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved December 12, 2018.
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  33. ^ Hoffman, Gil. (December 16, 2018). "Did Stormy Daniels cause Benny Gantz's Cyber Company to close shop?" Jerusalem Post website Retrieved December 16, 2018.
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  38. ^ "$90 Million Yacht of Sanctioned Russian Oligarch Viktor Vekselberg Seized by Spain at Request of United States". Justice.gov. April 4, 2022. Archived from the original on April 4, 2022. Retrieved April 4, 2022.
  39. ^ "In the Matter of the Seizure of The Motor Yacht Tango, with Internatinal Maritime Organization Number 1010703". Justice.gov. Retrieved April 4, 2022.
  40. ^ Forbes, February 4, 2004: Russian Tycoon Buys Forbes Faberge Eggs
  41. ^ a b "The World's Most Beautiful Eggs: The Genius of Carl Faberge" BBC FOUR
  42. ^ The Fabergé Museum has officially opened in the Shuvalov Palace in St. Petersburg, Official website of the Link of Times Foundation, archived from the original on February 4, 2017, retrieved March 6, 2015
  43. ^ High Court Drama, Art News, February 5, 2013, retrieved March 6, 2015
  44. ^ Singh, Anita (July 27, 2012), Russian oligarch wins £1.7m refund, www.telegraph.co.uk, retrieved March 6, 2015
  45. ^ "Special counsel probing flow of Russian-American money to Trump political funds". ABC News. September 26, 2017.
  46. ^ Bloomberg: "Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center Peres Inaugurates Jewish Museum Funded by Putin, Vekselberg" By Ilya Arkhipov & Henry Meyer November 8, 2012
  47. ^ Vekselberg headed the board of trustees of the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center Interfax, July 18, 2013
  48. ^ Вексельберг построит синагогу в Саратове Izrus, 3 February 2015 13:55
  49. ^ "В Москве откроется памятник жертвам Холокоста. Участие в церемонии примет президент России". Эхо Москвы (in Russian). Retrieved December 3, 2021.
  50. ^ "Лечебные миллиарды: как участники списка Forbes борются с коронавирусом". Forbes.ru (in Russian). Retrieved December 3, 2021.
  51. ^ "Лавров: россияне оценили помощь бизнеса в вывозе граждан из-за границы в начале пандемии". ТАСС. Retrieved December 3, 2021.
  52. ^ The Guardian: "Rosneft deal makes Viktor Vekselberg Russia's richest man" by Simon Goodley and Luke Harding October 23, 2012
  53. ^ Кого в России считать евреем? Archived March 10, 2014, at the Wayback Machine Александр Рогаткин, Выпуск от October 31, 2004
  54. ^ May, Ruth (August 3, 2017). "GOP campaigns took $7.35 million from oligarch linked to Russia". Dallas News.
  55. ^ "Kremlin-linked Billionaire, Netanyahu Friend Donated to Trump's Private Legal Fund". Haaretz. September 25, 2017.
  56. ^ Foy, Henry (June 3, 2019). "Russian billionaire pushes back over US sanctions". Financial Times. Retrieved December 3, 2021.
  57. ^ "Meet the oligarchs: Switzerland's awkward guests".

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