By Pádraig Hoare
Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, whose firm owns Aughinish Alumina in Limerick, is embroiled in a London High Court battle involving Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich.
In his first public appearance in London since being hit with US sanctions over his ties to the Kremlin, Mr Deripaska revived a decade-old feud with rival Russian billionaire Vladimir Potanin.
Mr Deripaska appeared in a London court for a hearing on a case to stop Mr Abramovich from selling a stake in Russia’s largest mining company, MMC Norilsk Nickel, to Mr Potanin.
Both Mr Potanin and Mr Deripaska have long jostled for power at the company, which operates some of the richest mines in platinum, palladium, and nickel.
During the case, Mr Deripaska repeated his previous claims that US accusations against him were groundless, while admitting the sanctions had hurt Rusal, which owns Aughinish Alumina.
US sanctions on Mr Derispaska have led to uncertainly over 450 jobs at Aughinish, as well as more than 200 agency roles.
Mr Deripaska told the court he was “quite upset that Rusal’s interests could be seriously damaged” by the sanctions.
The jobs in Limerick have been under a cloud as the US sanctions imposed on Rusal played havoc with metal markets over the past few weeks.
Enterprise Minister Heather Humphreys raised Aughinish with US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross in Washington last week, while the IDA remains in close contact with the plant’s management as the concerns remain.
Tánaiste Simon Coveney said he was “closely monitoring developments”, while acting US ambassador to Ireland, chargé d’affaires Reece Smyth, said Washington was “taking seriously” the concerns over the fate of the Aughinish Alumina workers.
The US Treasury has now softened its stance towards companies such as Rusal after Mr Deripaska said he would relinquish control.
The US administration has given American companies until October 23, instead of June 5, to wind down business with Rusal.
Rusal’s shares have lost more than half of their value since the sanctions were imposed last month.
Additional reporting: Reuters