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RA Interview with the Canadian Press

Robert Amsterdam is interviewed here by the Canadian Press regarding Oleg Deripaska’s new stake in Magna International (a Canadian auto parts manufacturer).

Canadian corporations shouldn’t be kissing Putin’s ring: lawyer Canadian Press: JENNIFER DITCHBURN OTTAWA (CP) – Canadian corporate leaders shouldn’t be “kissing the ring” of Russian President Vladimir Putin before they enter into deals with his country’s top companies, says the lawyer for a jailed Russian oil magnate. Robert Amsterdam, a Canadian based in London, reacted with dismay to the revelation that Magna International president Frank Stronach met the Russian leader before striking a multimillion-dollar pact with billionaire Oleg Deripaska. That $1.54-billion agreement will give Deripaska equal voting control with Stronach over his auto parts giant. Amsterdam said the business side of the deal is no problem, it’s Putin’s role he questions. “Mr. Deripaska brings synergies to the table and if that’s what the shareholders and management believe, that’s fine, but the idea that somehow this needed to be blessed by Mr. Putin sends every Canadian and every Russian the absolute worst message, and that’s what we need to resist,” Amsterdam said Monday in an interview during a short trip to Canada. “We need to have our top companies and the world’s top companies stop empowering autocracy.” Like Deripaska, Amsterdam’s client Mikhail Khodorkovsky is one of a number of tycoons who became wealthy in the years following the collapse of communism in Russia with the help of key government policies. But while Deripaska has kept close to Putin and the Kremlin, even marrying a granddaughter of former president Boris Yeltsin, Khodorkovsky found himself facing fraud charges in 2003. Khodorkovsky’s empire built around the oil company Yukos was then worth $15 billion and he had begun funding Russian opposition parties and publicly calling on Putin to stamp out Kremlin corruption. Yukos has now been dismantled and sold off, with the participation of some European firms that Amsterdam accuses of “reputation laundering” to remain in Putin’s good graces. Khodorkovsky was convicted and sent to a Siberian jail and is expected to face even more charges soon. “I want Canadians to understand that a government that is capable of that should not be treated at face value and should not be given this presumption of regularity,” Amsterdam said. “This is a show trial. That’s why they have him in the Gulag, that’s why they’ve put him over a uranium mine in Siberia, because they’re trying to kill him and they’ve stolen his company.” Amsterdam has been lobbying governments, including Canada, to take a stand against corruption in Russia and within Russian corporations. He would like to see Parliament hold hearings on the issue. In Britain, public discourse on Russian corruption has been more vigorous. In April, several top Russian officials boycotted a regular meeting of English and Russian business leaders because of such accusations. Petro Canada is currently in talks with Russia’s state-run OAO Gazprom to ship liquefied natural gas through a location in Quebec. Prime Minister Stephen Harper promoted such deals last year during G8 meetings in St. Petersburg. But Amsterdam said that Gazprom is notorious for its lack of transparency and its close ties with Putin. Allegations of corruption should give big Canadian companies pause, he said. “Petro Canada needs to make sure it counts its fingers going in and going out of that deal.”