Leaked papers show commerce secretary hid ties to Putin ‘cronies’

Leaked documents show secretary of commerce, Wilbur Ross, didn't divest holdings in Navigator, a shipping company, which has ties to Sibur, a Russian energy firm controlled by a Russian oligarch subject to U.S. sanctions and Russian President Vladimir Putin's son-in-law. Photo by Pete Marovich/UPI

Nov. 6 (UPI) — Leaked documents show President Donald Trump‘s commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, didn’t disclose holdings in a company tied to Russian interests while being confirmed for his Cabinet post.

The 7 million internal documents of Appleby, a Bermuda-based law firm, were leaked to German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung and shared with outlets such as NBC News through the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

The documents known as the “Paradise Papers” show Ross retains an interest in a shipping company, Navigator Holdings, which has business ties to Sibur, a Russian energy firm controlled by Gennady Timchenko, a Russian oligarch subject to U.S. sanctions, as well as Putin’s son-in-law, Kirill Shamalov, and other members of the Russian president’s inner circle.

The Appleby files also contain references to members of the Trump administration, including chief economic adviser Gary D. Cohn and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, although there is no evidence of illegality in any of their dealings, according to The New York Times.

While being confirmed for the position of commerce secretary, Ross provided to the ethics official of the Commerce Department a list containing entities and interests he planned to get rid of and another list naming those he planned to keep.

The ICIJ report found that Ross and other investors own four Cayman Island entities, which were listed among the assets he intended to keep.

The four holdings were linked through ownership chains to two other entities, WLR Recovery Fund IV DSS AIV L.P. and WLR Recovery Fund V DSS AIV L.P., which hold 17.5 million shares in Navigator and were not among the assets Ross declared he would retain.

Navigator’s annual reports showed that Sibur brought in $23.2 million in revenue in 2016 and $28.7 million the following year.

In January, Navigator held a naming ceremony for two state-of-the-art tankers on long-term leases to Sibur.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said members of Congress involved in Ross’ confirmation hearings believed he had divested all of his interests in Navigator and were unaware of its close ties to Russia.

“I am astonished and appalled, because I feel misled,” Blumenthal said. “Our committee was misled, the American people were misled by the concealment of those companies.”

A Commerce Department statement said Ross never met Timchenko or Shamalov. It added Ross was on the board of Navigator from 2012 to 2014, and that no funds managed by his company ever owned a majority of Navigator’s shares.

“Secretary Ross recuses himself from any matters focused on transoceanic shipping vessels,” Ross’ press secretary, James Rockas, said.


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