‘Russian collusion’ might actually be a thing, but it seems the Mueller team should have looked into the FBI’s past to find it, after Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska revealed he funded a covert op for the bureau in the early 2010s.
The bombshell revelation was made by the Russian businessman in an exclusive interview with The Hill TV. The story of the businessman’s involvement with the FBI was reported before yet now it’s confirmed by Deripaska himself.
The billionaire tycoon, who is the founder of the Russian aluminum giant United Co. Rusal, said he spent over $20 million between 2009 and 2011 to fund a private operation to rescue Robert Levinson from captivity in Iran after he was approached by FBI operatives that were led by Robert Mueller at the time. Ex-FBI agent Levinson disappeared back in 2007 during a ‘private’ mission in Iran, which was later confirmed to have been a CIA operation.
“I was approached, you know, by someone [who] is under a lot of scrutiny now — McCabe,” Deripaska said. “He also said that it was important enough for all of them [FBI]. And I kind of trusted them.”
While the businessman insists he wasn’t expecting anything from the bureau in return, he might have been rewarded for his ties with the FBI. Deripaska was denied a US visa back in 2006 over his alleged ties to Russian organized crime, yet in 2009 he was granted a very rare law enforcement parole visa.
The operation to rescue Levinson was quite successful, and the Deripaska-funded team got “close” to securing a deal to free the agent. In 2010, apparently thanks to their efforts, a video showing the US citizen in captivity emerged, proving that he was still alive. The operation, however was ultimately torpedoed by the US State Department, headed by Hillary Clinton at the time, that objected to the Russian businessman’s involvement.
“I heard that some Russian ‘hand,’ or whatever you call people who are expert on the Russians at the State Department, [said], ‘We just don’t want to owe anything to this guy,’” Deripaska stated. It’s unlikely that the former FBI agent is still alive after being missing for over a decade, the Russian businessman believes, since he would have likely been freed in 2016 when the Iranian nuclear deal was struck.
Deripaska has also shed some light on his ties with one of the main purveyors of the “Russian collusion” hysteria – British spy Christopher Steele. His legal team hired Steele to do some research back in 2012, when Deripaska was involved in a legal battle with a business rival in London – apparently not being aware of Steele’s ties to the FBI.
Using the visa troubles pretext, Steele lured the businessman into a meeting with some Justice Department officials, who were said to be willing to help. Instead, they tried to recruit him.
“They actually never talk, you know, about the [visa] problem. They start talking about anything else. They ask, ‘Do you have anything? Give me names. Cases, whatever,’” Deripaska said, adding that he was shocked when Steele resurfaced during Clinton’s presidential campaign and became one of the main sources for the now-defunct “Trump-Russia collusion” theory.
Under the Trump administration, Deripaska’s troubles with US authorities went well beyond petty visa issues, culminating in personal sanctions, imposed in 2018. He was ultimately included on Washington’s so-called ‘Kremlin list’ of “oligarchs” and politicians. The designation resulted in Deripaska’s US assets and entities being blocked and his enterprises blacklisted for any business relations.
The businessman has challenged the decision in the US court. The tycoon claims the sanctions are ruining his business and says they have already cost him over $7.5 billion.
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