Ex-owner of Aughinish sues US over sanctions

By Andrew Harris, David Voreacos and Eamon Quinn

Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska, who until recently owned the huge Aughinish Alumina smelter in the Shannon Estuary, has sued the US Treasury Department and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, seeking a US court order lifting sanctions against him.

Mr Deripaska is “the latest victim” of “political infighting and ongoing reaction to Russia’s purported interference” with the 2016 US presidential election, according to the complaint filed in a US court. He’s been unfairly and illegally targeted by the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, and his net worth has dropped by $7.5bn (€6.6bn) due to the sanctions, according to the lawsuit.

Mr Deripaska is the billionaire founder of En+ Group and Rusal. He was among the most prominent tycoons penalised with sanctions by President Donald Trump’s administration. The sanctios had until recently included Rusal and threatened hundreds of jobs at Aughinish.

The move followed the passage of a law to retaliate against Moscow for meddling in the 2016 election.

The US Treasury slapped sanctions on Mr Deripaska, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and six other Russian oligarchs in April 2018 in response to the Kremlin’s “malign activity around the globe”.

In January, the US lifted sanctions on three firms tied to Mr Deripaska, including Rusal, though he remained personally under US sanctions, with his property blocked.

The sanctions have resulted in “the utter devastation of Deripaska’s wealth, reputation and economic livelihood,’’ according to the complaint, filed in a Washington federal court.

The US Treasury Department’s actions were arbitrary and capricious, Mr Deripaska claims. He asked the court to intervene, seeking an order to bar the agency from referring to him as an oligarch.

He also asked the court to order his removal from executive orders imposing the sanctions and the so-called Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List administered by Ofac.

“His investments have become toxic, and defendants have caused his former companies to separate from him through the irrevocable divestiture of his interests and severance of his control,’’ according to the complaint.

Bloomberg. Additional reporting Irish Examiner.

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