Investigating Deripaska

Wow, Oleg Deripaska is having a rough month. First, the Kremlin’s military adventures in Georgia and playful Cold War confrontation games with the West cost him (and many other oligarchs) several billion, causing him to lose his treasured stake in the Canadian auto part manufacturer Magna. Then there’s this bit from the Wall Street Journal. And this is the guy John McCain spent his birthday with?

Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, whose business is facing a squeeze amid the credit crisis, also is under investigation by U.S. and U.K. authorities in connection with a $57.5 million wire transfer last year, according to people familiar with the matter. (…) The wire transfer being investigated in the U.S. and U.K. originated with a Russian company Mr. Deripaska controls, UC Rusal, passing through Barclays PLC offices in New York and London, according to emails, other documents and people with knowledge of the transaction. Some of the funds ended up with Deripaska consultants in Washington who, according to lawyers and government officials, are being investigated by the Justice Department and Manhattan district attorney for possible money laundering or other crimes.

The transfer is one of dozens under scrutiny. Authorities are looking into whether some of the money might have been moved in connection with potentially illicit activity in countries where Mr. Deripaska’s industrial interests have operations, including Nigeria and Kazakhstan.Mr. Deripaska didn’t respond to requests for comment about the probe, including written questions, but in the past has denied any association with criminal activity.In the money transfer, Moscow’s MDM Bank wired the funds through a unit in Latvia to a Barclays branch in New York and then to a Barclays account in London, documents indicate. When a Barclays executive asked about the origin of the funds, he was given letters by a Rusal executive describing the source as a firm called QPB Investment Ltd., according to people familiar with the matter. QPB is registered in Belize, a nation with strict corporate secrecy laws, and couldn’t be reached for comment.[Russia’s Deripaska Faces Western Investigations]Barclays turned over records of the transfer to British authorities and to U.S. state and federal authorities in response to subpoenas, lawyers said. A spokesman for Barclays declined to address specifics of the transactions but said: “We have robust compliance programs in place, and it is our policy to cooperate fully with any investigation or request from law enforcement.” A spokesman for Rusal declined to comment.The funds went to an account in the name of Brookrange Ltd., a firm based in Gibraltar. A lawyer for the firm said it could “neither confirm nor deny the existence of any business transactions.”