It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
A "Marina Shap" failed to pay the rent on her cubicle at Manhattan Mini-Storage in the SoHo section of New York. When the manager opened the bin last January, however, he found an intriguing assortment of knickknacks: Two 9-millimeter pistols, a 12-gauge shotgun, and, the FBI asserts in a court filing, "various documents in a box and gym bag." The fluke discovery of the guns was hardly earth-shattering in gun-happy New York. But the documents drew the attention of the FBI's Russian organized crime squad. According to a sealed criminal complaint filed with the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn and obtained by BUSINESS WEEK, the FBI maintains that the mini-storage document trove sets forth a tale of stock manipulation and money laundering. Allegedly involved are more than 30 foreign shell companies and bank accounts that, the complaint maintains, were used to launder the proceeds from illegal stock sales during 1994 and 1995.
The feds are charging that the stock scheme involves two individuals--Gennady "Gene" Klotsman and Felix Sater--who they say ran a now-defunct micro-cap brokerage, White Rock Partners & Co., which later changed its name to State Street Capital Markets. Both are charged with stock manipulation and money laundering.
In the sprawling Trump-Russia investigation, one name constantly pops up: Felix Sater. In story after story, Sater is described as Donald Trump’s former business partner, a convicted stock swindler who was born in the Soviet Union, worked in Russia, tried to win Trump a deal in Moscow, and even helped broker a Ukrainian peace plan that Vladimir Putin would have loved.
Basically, he’s portrayed as something just short of a Russian spy. Effectively, he has been a spy — but for the United States.
For the first time, BuzzFeed News has verified the surprising sweep of Sater’s undercover work and many of his specific exploits. He worked as an asset for the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency (or DIA) and tracked Osama bin Laden. Then he worked for more than a decade for the FBI, providing intel on everything from the mob to North Korea’s drive for nuclear weapons. He still operates as a source for the bureau, according to two current FBI agents.
Today, as he is being questioned about Trump's business deals and ties to Russia, he has built relationships with at least six members of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, some going back more than 10 years.
Sater contacted Cohen on behalf of I.C. Expert Company, (I.C. Expert) a Russian real-estate development company controlled by Andrei Vladimirovich Rozov. Sater had known Rozov since approximately 2007, and in 2014 had served as an agent on behalf of Rozov during Rozov's purchase of a building in New York City. Sater later contacted Rozov and proposed that I.C. Expert pursue a Trump Tower Moscow project in which I.C. Expert would license the name and brand from the Trump Organization but construct the building on its own. Sater worked on the deal with Rozov and another employee of I.C. Expert.
Cohen was the only Trump Organization representative to negotiate directly with I.C. Expert or its agents. In approximately September 2015, Cohen obtained approval to negotiate with I.C. Expert from candidate Trump, who was then president of the Trump Organization. Cohen provided updates directly to Trump about the project throughout 2015 and 2016, assuring him the project was continuing. Cohen also discussed the Trump Moscow project with Ivanka Trump as to design elements (such as possible architects to use for the project) and Donald Trump Jr. (about his expeirence in Moscow and possible involvement in the project) during the fall of 2015.
“Due to scheduling issues, the Committee has moved Mr. Sater’s open interview to March 27. He continues to cooperate with the committee,” a spokesperson for the House Intelligence Committee said in an emailed statement to Reuters.
“In light of the cursory letter from the Attorney General, and our need to understand Special Counsel Mueller’s areas of inquiry and evidence his office uncovered, we are working in parallel with other Committees to bring in senior officials from the DOJ, FBI and SCO [special counsel’s office] to ensure that our Committee is fully and currently informed about the SCO’s investigation, including all counterintelligence information,” a spokesperson for the House Intelligence Committee said Monday. “With the focus on those efforts this week, we are postponing Mr. Sater’s open interview,” the spokesperson said.
...a proffer agreement is a written agreement between federal prosecutors and individuals under criminal investigation which permit these individuals to give the government information about crimes with some assurances that they will be protected against prosecution. Witnesses, subjects or targets of a federal investigation are usually parties to such agreements.
Proffer agreements are not complete immunity agreements. Although the government cannot use actual proffer session statements against the individual in its case-in-chief, the information provided can be used to follow up leads and conduct further investigations. If those leads and further investigations lead to new evidence, the new evidence can be used to indict and convict the individual who gave the information in the proffer session. Proffer agreements typically contain a clause allowing the government to impeach you with your proffer statement in a subsequent proceeding if your testimony is inconsistent with your proffer.
... a new lawsuit filed in the Southern District of New York by a bank from the Central Asian country of Kazakhstan alleges that Sater helped launder millions of dollars stolen from the bank and funnel them into real estate projects, some of which may have been linked to President Donald Trump. The lawsuit centers on BTA Bank’s decade-long battle to recuperate billions of dollars allegedly stolen by its former chairman, the fugitive Mukhtar Ablyazov. The Kazakh bank claims that Ablyazov stole over $4 billion dollars before fleeing to Russia and later Europe, and it has pursued numerous lawsuits against him in a wide range of jurisdictions.
The Financial Times, citing five sources with knowledge of the matter, reported that Sater had agreed to cooperate with investigators looking into an international money laundering scheme involving Viktor Khrapunov, a former government minister in Kazakhstan. Khrapunov, who now lives in Switzerland, has been accused by the Kazakhstan government of embezzling millions of dollars and is wanted by Interpol.
Meanwhile, BTA’s fight to recuperate the stolen funds has reached President Trump's inner circle. It was mentioned during the public Congressional testimony last month of Trump’s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen. The embattled lawyer, who is going to jail for financial crimes related to his work for Trump, noted that BTA had paid him to help relocate the bank's assets.
“Michael Cohen was recommended to BTA Bank in 2017 as a person who had access to the best legal resources, and was hired by BTA to assemble a winning team," Matthew Schwartz, a partner at Boies Schiller Flexner LLP and former federal prosecutor who represents BTA Bank and the City of Almaty, told Newsweek. "Instead, Michael Cohen did absolutely nothing of value, and BTA quickly tore up its agreement with him. Since that time, BTA has cooperated fully with all law enforcement investigations of Michael Cohen," Schwartz added. Sater, another Trump associate and a longtime business partner of the Khrapunov family, has also been drawn into the fight between BTA and Ablyazov. The dispute culminated on Monday, when BTA sued Sater, accused him of money laundering and noted that Trump had met with the young Khrapunov.
Sater received multiple subpoenas to produce documents and be deposed in the case against Mukhtar Ablyazov who is alleged to have defrauded BTA Bank of up to $5 billion as chairman. Ablyazov's alleged fraud is one of the biggest cases of financial fraud in history.
Monday's lawsuit alleges that Sater traveled to Russia around 2013 at Ilyas Khrapunov's request in order to look for potential locations to invest the money stolen by Ablyazov. "Sater conspired with Ilyas to invest the stolen funds to develop a Trump Tower project in Russia," the court documents read. That same year, Sater’s former development company Bayrock helped Ilyas Khrapunov purchase three condos in Trump Tower SoHo and quickly resell the properties. It is unclear whether Trump knew about the origin of the funds at the time, but financial experts have long claimed that the money was likely laundered through Trump Tower. Sater told Newsweek that he was not involved in Khrapunov’s purchase of Trump Tower condos, and that he had already left Bayrock before the purchase was complete. Monday’s lawsuit, however, argued that Sater conspired with his former clients to launder money through a variety of real estate projects, including five in the U.S., and avoid asset freezing orders against Ablyazov and the Khrapunov family. “Felix Sater is a notorious New York ‘businessman’ and two-time felon who, along with wanted criminals Mukhtar Ablyazov and Ilyas Khrapunov, and others known and unknown, participated in an international criminal conspiracy to launder and conceal at least $440 million that was stolen from the Plaintiffs in Kazakhstan, and to evade lawful asset freezing and receivership orders issued by the courts of the United Kingdom,” the lawsuit filed Monday reads.
It was revealed in 2009 that the bank was defrauded of up to $6 billion of cash in one of the world's biggest cases of financial fraud. The banks former chairman Mukhtar Ablyazov is alleged to have perpetrated the fraud. Ablyazov has said that under his leadership BTA did conceal assets to protect them from being seized by the government.]
BTA Bank sought bankruptcy protection in 2010 from U.S. creditors while it restructured $11.6 billion of debt. The debts were incurred by alleged mismanagement and embezzlement by former BTA Bank Chairman Muktar Ablyazov.
"The defendant in question, Felix Sater, provided valuable and sensitive information to the government during the course of his cooperation, which began in or about December 1998. For more than 10 years, he worked with prosecutors from my Office, the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York and law enforcement agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies, providing information crucial to national security and the conviction of over 20 individuals, including those responsible for committing massive financial fraud and members of La Cosa Nostra. For that reason, his case was initially sealed.
A sovereign wealth fund (SWF) is a state-owned investment fund or entity which comprises of pools of money derived from a country's reserves. Reserves are funds set aside for investment to benefit the country's economy and its citizens. The funding for an SWF comes from central bank reserves which accumulate because of budget and trade surpluses, official foreign currency operations, money from privatizations, governmental transfer payments and revenue generated from the exporting of natural resources.
The amount of money in an SWF is substantial. According to the World Economic Forum, as of 2018, the UAE's fund was worth about US$683 billion. The Forum also finds that Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, the largest in the world, has exceeded US$1 trillion since 2017.
There is a concern that SWFs have political influence. Some of the most significant sovereign wealth funds, except for Norway, are not entirely transparent about their investments and corporate governance practices, which leads some to think they are for political, not financial motives.
With the ninth anniversary of his flight from the authorities in his homeland of Kazakhstan fast approaching, the raft of transnational court cases involving fugitive embezzler Mukhtar Ablyazov show no sign of abating. In a saga which stretches from an institutional aversion to tackling kleptocracy in the United Kingdom, to U.S President Donald Trump’s shady business partners, the murky world of Mukhtar Ablyazov even led his family to make a pit stop in the Central African Republic to pick-up diplomatic passports. Yet despite having judgements against him totaling $4.9 billion in the British courts alone, almost six years since he fled from the UK to avoid three concurrent 22-month sentences for contempt of court, Ablyazov remains a free man, living the high life in France whilst bemoaning his plight to be a simple case of “political persecution.”
Biggest question being if, as the BuzzFeed News article states and Felix Sater alleges, he is still working as an undercover asset for the FBI then why isn't he ever criminally charged for anything?
Giustra began putting together the company later named UrAsia Energy Ltd. with potential investors in 2004. In 2005, the company paid $75 million for a 30-percent stake in a Kazakhy uranium mine to Jeffcott Group Ltd., a privately-held company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands. It also paid $350 million for a 70-percent stake in two other Kazakhy uranium mines to oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov.
In November 2005, UrAsia’s initial public offering was listed on the Canadian TSX Venture Exchange at a value of more than Can$500 million. In 2007, Giustra sold UrAsia to Uranium One Ltd. in a $3.7- billion reverse merger; the directors of UrAsia received $4 million in stock options each.
A New York Times article in January 2008 stated that Giustra was a newcomer to Kazakhstan mining operations and was awarded the rights to buy into the mining ventures because of his connection to Bill Clinton. The article described how Giustra and Clinton arrived on Giustra’s private plane on "the first stop of a three-country philanthropic tour" and attended a "sumptuous midnight banquet," giving the president of Kazakhstan a "propaganda coup" and Giustra a signed agreement two days later; the article went on to mention that "just months after" the deal Giustra donated millions to the Clinton Foundation and pledged millions more. Other media outlets pointed out that the article contained several factual errors. Media Matters cited Canadian publications who had reported on Giustra and his former company Yorkton’s engagements in gold and copper mining in Kazakhstan in the 1990s. Forbes pointed out—among other errors—that according to flight manifests Giustra had arrived on his own plane four days earlier; Clinton arrived on another private plane late on September 6, 2005, and "stayed less than a day" before traveling on to India with Giustra. They attended a state dinner with Nursultan A. Nazarbayev, the President of Kazakhstan, and 50 other guests on September 6, 2005.
The sale of 15% of Kazakh state-owned uranium producer Kazatomprom in a dual-listing offering in November, and the acquisition by Kazatomprom of Energy Asia (BVI) Limited's interests in the Kharasan projects, were identified by Uranium One as recent supply-side developments.
... Uranium One has a 30% indirect interest in the Kharasan mine through a 30% interest in Kazakh limited liability partnership Khorasan-U.
Canadian miner Uranium One Inc. has been sideswiped by a high-level political scandal in Kazakhstan, after police arrested the head of the state-run nuclear company and accused him of illegally selling uranium properties to foreigners. The former Soviet Republic issued a statement yesterday confirming that Kazatomprom president Moukhtar Dzhakishev and several other executives were under investigation for allegedly embezzling stakes in major uranium fields and "handing them" to offshore companies.
At least one of these deals appears linked to Vancouver-based Uranium One, a development that panicked investors and sent the company's shares plunging by nearly 40 per cent. Kazakhstan's National Security Committee claims it has found several instances of improper transactions, but it identified only one: the sale of a 30-per-cent stake in Kyzylkum, a joint venture that operates one of the country's largest uranium mines. Officials said the stake was sold in 2005 for barely more than $100,000.
Uranium One owns a 30-per-cent stake in the partnership, which it inherited when it bought another Canadian miner, UrAsia Energy Ltd. But UrAsia paid $75-million for the rights in 2005, and it purchased them from a private company called Jeffcott Group - not the government. The murky allegations have sown considerable confusion, not least in the executive suite at Uranium One. A distressed Jean Nortier, the company's CEO, called the situation a "complete misunderstanding." He pointed out that the government had previously conferred its blessing on the deal. "When you do a transaction in Kazakhstan, you need the government's approval. UrAsia got the approval, and when UrAsia merged with Uranium One, that approval was given again," he said in an interview. Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev has already jailed the heads of state-owned rail and energy companies, and appropriated a bank owned by the oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov, who fled the country. Mr. Ablyazov sold stakes in two other uranium properties to UrAsia, Uranium One's predecessor, and Kazakh Communist Party leader Serikbolsyn Abdildin suggested yesterday that the banker's case is connected with that of Mr. Dzhakishev. A group of prominent Kazakh businessmen, meanwhile, attacked the government for arresting Mr. Dzhakishev in an open letter to President Nazarbayev. "His arrest seems to be inexplicable and negatively affects the country's business climate as Kazakh entrepreneurs no longer feel they are protected by law," they wrote. This isn't the first time that Uranium One's Kazakhstan properties have courted controversy. A New York Times article last year probed the relationship between former president Bill Clinton and Canadian mining mogul Frank Giustra, who founded UrAsia and negotiated the company's purchase of the three uranium properties in the country. The article detailed how Mr. Giustra accompanied Mr. Clinton on a diplomatic trip to Kazakhstan at the same time he was attempting to secure exploration rights there. Both men have denied there was any political interference.
Mr. Giustra later arranged a meeting between Mr. Dzhakishev, the jailed Kazatomprom executive, and Mr. Clinton at the former president's home in Chappaqua, N.Y.
Uranium One's Kazakhstan assets are the cornerstone of the company's mining properties.
According to the documents, which are attached to several hundred emails sent to the project's leader, Igor Osadchy, the effort was launched in April and is led by a firm called the Internet Research Agency. It's based in a Saint Petersburg suburb, and the documents say it employs hundreds of people across Russia who promote Putin in comments on Russian blogs.
"Understanding the gravity of my actions, for the better part of the next 20 years, I provided extraordinary assistance to our government involving serious matters of national security, posing tremendous risks to my safety, and the safety of my family. My cooperation extended to the highest levels of government and implicated some of our nation's greatest enemies, whose terrorism threatened our way of life. I provided crucial intelligence information and assistance to numerous U.S. national security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies regarding well-known terrorists and their organizations, including Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda several years before and after the September 11, 2001 attacks. This assistance significantly enhanced and potentially saved the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of military personnel before and during military operations carried out in hostile countries."
New York developer Felix Sater is due to testify in Congress this week about his role in Donald Trump’s attempt to build a luxury tower in Moscow. A lawsuit filed Monday may provide new fodder for his inquisitors, with its claim that Sater, a longtime associate of Trump’s, sought to use money stolen from a bank in Kazakhstan to help develop the building.
The suit by BTA Bank JSC alleges that Sater and the wealthy Kazakh businessman Ilyas Khrapunov explored financing the tower deal in 2012 with some of the $4 billion stolen a decade ago by Khrapunov’s father-in-law, ex-BTA Chairman Mukhtar Ablyazov. While the Moscow plan fizzled, other transactions tied to Sater helped launder the purloined cash, the bank says.
“Sater helped Ablyazov, Khrapunov and others launder tens of millions of dollars in those stolen funds into the United States,” according to the complaint filed Monday in Manhattan federal court. “Sater also tried to help them stash some of the stolen money overseas, including in real estate in Moscow.” Sater, 53, will testify before a closed-door session of the House Judiciary Committee. He was also scheduled to appear publicly before the Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, but the hearing was postponed on Monday. A central focus of his testimony is expected to be Trump’s longtime effort to build a Moscow tower. The president’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, has previously said Trump sought to build in Moscow through the entire 2016 presidential campaign.
The couple also enlisted the legal advice of Giuliani’s former law firm to set up an energy company in the Netherlands in 2007. The company was called KazBay B.V., and was partially owned by Bayrock. Giuliani’s former law firm, Bracewell & Giuliani, opened an office in Kazakhstan in 2007, the same year the pair moved to Switzerland. The law firm was allegedly used to raise funds for Guliani’s 2008 run for president.
The couple’s son Ilyas Khrapunov is wanted in Ukraine for allegedly orchestrating a hack of the computer systems of a law firm representing the Kazakh bank BTA Bank. The bank’s former chairman, Mukhtar Ablyazov, who is also Ilyas Khrapunov’s father-in-law, has been accused by his former employer of embezzling billions of dollars of assets. Court documents allege that Ablyazov enlisted the help of his son-in-law to hide the money he purportedly stole from BTA Bank, and that the money was subsequently laundered through Trump towers, in addition to other U.S. properties. It is unclear if Trump or his associates knew about the origins of the funds when the purchases of the Trump tower condo were made.
The project was a collaboration between Donald Trump's The Trump Organization, the Bayrock Group and Tamir Sapir. Trump has not invested his own capital in the project. Before the Trump name was removed, the Trump SoHo was the most recent building project constructed by Trump with his name on it..
According to Forbes, Bayrock is "a series of commonly controlled, but not wholly owned, limited liability companies."
Bayrock Group is arranged in tiers, with Bayrock Group LLC having a majority or plurality interest in around 12 subsidiary holding companies. The holding companies in turn have majority interests in companies on lower tiers. The lower tier subsidiaries correspond to individual real estate projects, with Bayrock Spring Street corresponding to Trump SoHo, Bayrock Camelback to the Phoenix hotel project, and Bayrock Merrimac to the Trump Fort Lauderdale hotel. Other Bayrock subsidiaries include Bayrock Whitestone and Bayrock Ocean Club.
Bayrock Group has had strategic partnerships with international entities outside of the United States including Icelandic investment company FL Group.
What is true is that Trump is involved in a civil tax fraud case. But his involvement, and that of two of his children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, is this: they are named as material witnesses in a case focusing on a man named Felix Sater....
The Bayrock case is being civilly prosecuted under New York's qui tam law, which means that it has been brought by a third party whistleblower. If you're a regular reader of the blog and feel like you've heard that phrase before, you're not wrong: in 2014, a qui tam case was brought in New York against Vanguard, alleging tax fraud. The Bayrock case is also a tax fraud case. In the Bayrock case, as explained by the attorneys involved in the case, the State's claims are being pursued by the "relators" (the whistleblowers who brought the lawsuit). The relators are represented by attorneys Frederick M. Oberlander and Richard E. Lerner.
“The New Cold War powerfully argues that America and Europe's excessive focus on Iraq and Afghanistan has blinded them to a threat closer to home. Thoroughly informed, steeped in his subject's recent history, with a flinty, caustic style that usually sizes up political phenomena with exacting precision, Lucas reminds us why longtime foreign correspondents surpass rookies who parachute into a foreign hotspot....Lucas offers one of the best briefs on how Yeltsin's Wild West became Putin's chilly petrofascism, detailing the return of rigged elections, forced psychiatric medication, the use of natural resources as foreign-policy bludgeons, and the rogue nations that are once again Moscow's best friends." --Philadelphia Inquirer
“A meticulously constructed indictment of Putin's strong-arm tactics at home and his increasingly aggressive tone in dealing with his immediate neighbors and any other countries that try to question his behavior.”—Newsweek.com
“Brilliantly reported, morally unblinkered look at what has happened to Russia under Mr. Putin…For bringing the nature of the threat so vividly to light, Mr. Lucas has performed a public service.” – Brent Stephens, Wall Street Journal
Skolkovo Foundation is the principal agency responsible for the Russian Skolkovo Innovation Center, a scientific and technological centre for the development and commercialisation of advanced technologies. It is a non-profit organization founded in 2010 and charged by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev with creating a new science and technology development centre in the Moscow suburb of Skolkovo. The Skolkovo innovation system comprises the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (SkolTech) established in partnership with MIT, corporate R&D centres, business incubators, private seed and venture funds, and start-up companies, as well as residential space and social infrastructure. It is a city with over 30,000 residents and employees.
The Skolkovo Foundation has offices in the United States and questions have been raised concerning the true intent behind their activities in the United States. In April 2014, FBI Assistant Special Agent Lucia Ziobro wrote an unusual article in The Boston Business Journal which indicated that the FBI suspected that Skolkovo "may be a means for the Russian government to access our nation’s sensitive or classified research.”
Viktor Vekselberg, the Russian oligarch at the center of a widening scandal over influence peddling by President Donald Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen, has been banned from doing business in America under U.S. sanctions. But as of this week, Vekselberg was still the chairman of a U.S. nonprofit group that boasts support from several Fortune 100 corporations and one of Trump's top advisors.
Named for Renova Group, Vekselberg's sanctioned Russian holding company, the Renova Fort Ross Foundation was established in 2010 to preserve an unlikely historic landmark: a California state park situated along the state's wild northern coastline two hours north of San Francisco. The park contains a 19th-century fort built by early Russian settlers in America. At the Kremlin's request, Vekselberg delivered it from dire financial straits.
Under Vekselberg's patronage, the Fort Ross State Historic Park became a cause celebre among corporations and institutions doing business in Russia. Donors and supporters have included U.S. oil giant Chevron, PepsiCo, Cisco Systems, Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Also among the foundation's donors is American billionaire Steve Schwarzman, founder of the Blackstone Group and former chairman of Trump's Strategic and Policy Council.
Topping the list of contributors to Vekselberg's cause are his cousin Andrew Intrater and Columbus Nova, the U.S.-based investment firm that Intrater founded and owns. Earlier this month, Columbus Nova confirmed having paid [Michael] Cohen $500,000 for "real estate" consulting.
Lawyers for Columbus Nova vehemently deny that the firm served as a pass-through for Vekselberg to funnel money to Cohen in exchange for access to members of the Trump administration. Still, the ties between the firm and the Russian oligarch are close enough that special counsel Robert Mueller's agents reportedly stopped Vekselberg in an airport earlier this year to question him about Columbus Nova's hiring of Cohen.
The costs of being associated with Vekselberg rose sharply in April. That's when the Treasury Department sanctioned both Vekselberg personally and the Renova Group. The moves were part of a sweeping wave of sanctions related to issues such as the poisoning of a former Russian spy and the backing of Bashar Assad's regime in Syria. They targeted Russian government officials and some of Putin's closest allies in the private sector.
In a matter of hours, Vekselberg reportedly saw more than $1 billion of his assets frozen by U.S. banks.
Ever since Renova stepped in to help Fort Ross, the Renova Fort Ross Foundation, or RFRF, has served as a hub for Russian-themed events and outreach that extend well beyond the park itself, always aimed at portraying Russia in a favorable light. Festivals, exhibitions and academic projects put on by the foundation in New York, Moscow and San Francisco have helped raise the profile of the Renova Group in the United States. The goodwill that Vekselberg has accrued through his philanthropy has translated into political access.
Rarely was this more evident than in October 2012, when Vekselberg chaired a $2,500 per person gala dinner held in San Francisco's City Hall to mark the bicentennial of Russian settlers' arrival in California. The black-tie fundraiser epitomized how Vekselberg had managed to turn an obscure state park, thousands of miles away from his home base in Moscow, into a centerpoint of his influence.
According to a Forbes article written by a reporter who attended the event, the program featured speeches by Vekselberg and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who was seated next to the Russian billionaire. An official greeting from then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was read aloud by a former U.S. ambassador to Russia.
The Kremlin was also well represented. Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky traveled from Moscow to be there. A greeting from Putin was also read aloud.