U.S. Treasury Department in Washington. Photo: Mike Scarcella

Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, long facing scrutiny over his ties to President Vladimir Putin, on Friday sued the U.S. government to reverse “devastating” sanctions that he claimed have destroyed his reputation and cut him off from international business.

Deripaska, represented by Washington lawyer Erich Ferrari, who specializes in U.S. government sanctions disputes, claimed U.S. Treasury’s block on his property and assets have contributed to the “wholesale devastation of [his] wealth, reputation, and economic livelihood.” Deripaska’s suit claimed he has lost $7.5 billion since the Treasury first imposed sanctions in April 2018.

“By sanctioning Deripaska and including him in an arbitrarily contrived list of ‘oligarchs,’ defendants have acted without regard to these obligations and beyond the bounds of their authority,” according to Deripaska’s lawsuit, which was brought against the Treasury Department and its Office of Foreign Assets Control.

The Treasury Department declined to comment on the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Deripaska, according to his complaint, “has been ousted from the international business community, as banks and businesses refuse to transact or deal with him or his businesses out of fear of their own potential exposure to U.S. sanctions for doing so.”

The suit comes amid broadening congressional scrutiny of how the Trump administration has handled sanctions against Russian businesses and executives. The administration has sanctioned more than 200 Russian-related entities and individuals, but the decision to lift sanctions against three Deripaska-owned companies drew criticism and questions from members of Congress.

Indeed, members of Congress questioned the Treasury Department’s moves to lift sanctions against companies Deripaska controls, including Rusal, one of the world’s largest aluminum producers. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin participated recently in a bipartisan classified briefing with U.S. House members.

Mnuchin said in a statement in January that “Deripaska will remain sanctioned, his property and interests remain blocked, and any companies he controls are also sanctioned.”

On lifting sanctions against three companies under Deripaska’s control, Mnuchin said: “These entities are undergoing significant restructuring and governance changes that sever Deripaska’s control and significantly diminish his ownership. They have committed to provide Treasury with an unprecedented level of transparency into their dealings to ensure that Deripaska does not reassert control.”

Paul Manafort arrives at Federal Court in Washington, D.C. for his arraignment and bail hearing on June 15, 2018. Credit: Diego M. Radzinschi / NLJ

Deripaska has repeatedly denied any involvement in alleged Russian collusion that is the focus of Special Counsel Robert Mueller III’s ongoing investigation. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, convicted in Washington and Virginia courts on lobbying and financial crimes, has reportedly long known Deripaska. Ferrari, Deripaska’s lawyer, said in Friday’s complaint “it appears to be the case that there is simply no evidence Deripaska is involved in the Russian government’s activities.”

Friday’s lawsuit claimed the political climate in the United States precludes the ability of Deripaska from challenging his blacklist designation through an administrative process at the Office of Foreign Assets Control.

“Members of Congress—potential stakeholders in any future delisting—have also exhibited their own animus towards Deripaska by expressly referring to him as an ‘enemy’ and a ‘criminal,’ absent any evidence and without consequence to their political standing,” according to the lawsuit. “Indeed, the general hysteria surrounding Deripaska prevents him from having a meaningful opportunity to challenge his designations through the normal channels for doing so.”

Ferrari is no stranger to suing the Treasury Department over its sanctions. In July 2017, he represented a Belizean banana farmer who challenged sanctions imposed for his alleged ties to Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. Those sanctions were lifted the following month, according to the Federal Register.

 

Here’s the complaint Deripaska filed Friday in Washington:

 

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