Exclusive: Oleg Deripaska’s Right-Hand Man was Trump Tower Moscow Developer’s Former CEO
By: Scott Stedman
Oleg Deripaska, the Russian Oligarch whose business partnership with Paul Manafort is under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, is linked to the Russian real estate developer Andrey Rozov, who signed the 2015 Letter-of-Intent with Donald Trump to build a luxury hi-rise tower in Moscow City.
One of Deripaska’s closest associates, Stalbek Mishakov, served as CEO to Expert Development LLC, part of Rozov’s Expert Group of companies. During his tenure from 2012–2014, Mishakov oversaw development of a large shopping center in Reutov, the city outside Moscow where Rozov has also been developing the residential complex Novokosino-2. That scandal-plagued project is now at the center of hundreds of lawsuits from defrauded home buyers, investors, and contractors.
Mishakov has worked for Deripaska in various roles stretching back nearly 2 decades, including as his personal lawyer and adviser. At the same time he was serving as CEO to Expert Development, Mishakov was also part of the leadership team at En+ Group, a commodities company controlled by Oleg Deripaska. The company, valued at $8.5 billion, is among Russia’s 30 biggest public companies.
Deripaska is a “self-made” billionaire and close ally of Vladimir Putin who built his fortune in the aluminum sector during the early 2000’s. Today, his industrial group Basic Element spans six economic sectors — energy and mining, manufacturing, financial services, construction and real estate, agribusiness and airport management. En+ Group, where Mishakov is currently the Deputy CEO, represents his mining, metals and energy assets.
After Mishakov left Expert Development, a second Deripaska-connected businessman, Pavel Lebedev, was named CEO and oversaw the completion of Reutov Park. Lebedev and Mishakov had previously worked together at another Deripaska-owned company, Altius Development, which built the Olympic Village for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
While it is not clear how far back the relationship between Rozov, Mishakov, and Lebedev goes, all 3 served on the Board of Directors for the industrial firm 1MPZ in 2009. At the time, Basic Element owned 51% of their project to convert an old factory into a residential space. 49% of the company was owned by Sergei Polonsky, the former head of Mirax - the development company where Rozov and Felix Sater served on the board together. Basic Element eventually bought out Polonsky’s share, after he fled to Cambodia amidst fraud and embezzlement charges.
Lebedev appears to have left Expert Development by 2016, and the company has since been re-named “Building Systems” — perhaps in an effort to distance itself from the growing controversies surrounding IC Expert, the company responsible for Novokosino-2.
In November, 2015, 3 weeks after signing the Trump Tower LOI, US-sanctioned Sberbank extended a line of credit to IC Expert in exchange for a pledge of 100% of the firm’s equity. But with construction continuing to lag and IC Expert now claiming they don’t have the funds to complete the project, it is unclear what happened to this money.
Both Expert Development (now Building Systems) and IC Expert are owned by mystery offshore companies. Expert Development, where Mishakov and Lebedev successively served as CEO, is owned 100% by Wallington Holding Limited, a British Virgin Islands company of unknown ownership. IC Expert is owned by 3 offshore companies, 60% by Cyprus-based Colisen Trading Limited, 25% by Marshall Islands based Trianguli Limited, and 15% by EcoPrestige, a Russian company in turn owned 100% by Cyprus-based Karnberg Development. While Rozov has been discovered as the owner of Colinsen, the three other companies remain a mystery.
Deripaska’s link to Expert Development raises questions concerning his long history of suspicious business practices and his link to Trump’s ex-campaign chairman Paul Manafort. According to an NBC investigation, $26 million changed hands in the form of a loan between a companies linked to Manafort and Deripaska. Financial documents filed in Cyprus and the Cayman Islands show their business dealings together have totalled around $60 million over the past decade.
In a court filing submitted alongside Manfort’s 12-count indictment, the Special Counsel suggested Manafort may be a flight risk, stating “Manafort [has] connections to Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs, who have provided millions.” Is is unclear if this referred to Deripaska, though the connection to Rozov provided another potential line of communication from Deripaska directly to the Trump team.