Newly discovered financial documents and ownership history records suggest that the Kremlin-connected oligarch Oleg Deripaska may own part of the development company with which Donald Trump signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) in late 2015 to build Trump Tower Moscow.
The agreement was signed by Donald Trump on October 28th, 2015, four months into his presidential run. Presented by Felix Sater, the Letter of Intent confirmed a non-binding agreement between Trump Acquisition LLC and the Russian development company IC Expert. According to Michael Cohen, the deal was abandoned in January 2016 because he “lost confidence that the prospective licensee would be able to obtain the real estate, financing and government approvals.” Previous exclusive reporting has shown that the Russian state-owned Sberbank issued a loan worth approximately $184 million to IC Expert three weeks after the LOI was signed.
Capilana Trading Limited in the British Virgin Islands was the majority owner until just months before Donald Trump partnered with IC Expert, when Capilana’s share in the Russian development company dropped to 15%. Weeks after IC Expert’s chairman Andrey Rozov was granted amnesty by the Russian government in a negligent homicide case, the majority ownership of IC Expert was transferred to a prominent Cyprus lawyer in order to mask the true ownership.
Deripaska’s connection to Capilana is through his Cypriot manager — Ioanna Theofilou. Whereas many Cypriot directors and secretaries act for hundreds or thousands of companies, Theofilou is only involved with a few dozen, with the plurality of those being companies owned by Deripaska. For example, subsidiaries of Deripaska’s largest companies En+ and RUSAL list Theofilou as its director and secretary. When Deripaska established a Panamanian company under the RUSAL umbrella, he again entrusted Theofilou to be one of his only directors. The only other Panamanian company in which Theofilou is a director cannot immediately be traced to Deripaska, though the same officers are involved, and the incorporation dates are only one year apart.
British Virgin Islands law allows the principals of a company to remain anonymous. This secrecy makes it an attractive destination for high-profile businesspeople to register their companies. Normally, this would be the end of the trail for a company such as Capilana, but when conducting business in a foreign country such as Cyprus, principals of a company must be present.
Exclusively obtained 2014 financial documents in Cyprus left a hint: Ioanna Theofilou was the sole shareholder of Capilana
Documents submitted to the British Virgin Islands government indicate that the only changes to the directors of Capilana occurred in late 2016, months after the Letter of Intent was signed. It cannot be confirmed that Theofilou is acting on behalf of Deripaska in this instance, though a good portion of her work in the past decade has been for the Russian oligarch’s most prized companies. The shareholder of the company has never been altered.
Previously, it was established that two of Deripaska’s CEOs, Stalbek Mishakov and Pavel Lebedev, were in charge of IC Expert’s sister company Expert Development. One of Deripaska’s closest associates and one-time personal lawyer, Mishakov served as CEO of Expert Development for over a year, and oversaw the development of a large shopping center in Reutov, Moscow. At the same time he was serving as CEO of Expert Development, Mishakov was also part of the leadership team at En+ Group, an energy company controlled by Deripaska. The multi-billion dollar conglomerate is one of Deripaska’s most successful ventures to date.
Lebedev and Mishakov previously worked together at another Deripaska-owned company, Altius Development, which built the Olympic Village for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Mishakov, Lebedev, and Andrey Rozov also all served on the Board of Directors of the industrial firm 1MPZ.
Deripaska has become a key player in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US elections. Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was deeply in debt to Deripaska, at one point asking how he can use his position on the Trump team to “get whole”. In July 2016, Manafort offered to give Deripaska private briefings about the campaign. Press officers for Deripaska did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The revelations come as Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny released a video showing Deripaska and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko secretly meeting on a yacht in Norway in August 2016. The meeting came days after Manafort had dinner with his longtime employee with suspected ties to Russian intelligence, Konstantin Kilimnik. Kilimnik acted as an intermediary throughout the campaign for Manafort to reach Deripaska.
Manafort did not join the Trump team until late February 2016, approximately one month after Michael Cohen claims the Moscow deal was terminated. The potential of Deripaska having a share in Trump’s Moscow developer raises new questions about when the Russian oligarch first may have had contact with the Trump campaign.