Individuals from Kremlin List hire American lobbyists to assess implications for business

Individuals from Kremlin List hire American lobbyists to assess implications for business
Valentin Gapontsev

Yury Shefler and Valentin Gapontsev have turned to the American specialists.

The two businessmen – owner of the alcohol company SPI Group Yury Shefler and co-owner of the technology company IPG Photonics Valentin Gapontsev – have appealed to American lobbying companies in order to understand how their business would be affected by the introduction of the so-called Kremlin List by the United States, RBC found out. Another individual mentioned the US Ministry of Finance report – ex-owner of Northgas gas company Farkhad Akhmedov – has asked lawyers to prepare suits to “defend his honor and reputation in the US courts” following his inclusion in the infamous report.

Yury Shefler has hired the lobbying firm Covington & Burling, as reported by The Hill and according to the documents on the official information disclosure portal on lobbying in the US. The section, describing specific problems requiring lobbying services, states that “the consultants will conduct work related to the report to the Congress and an assessment of its consequences for the SPI Group and its main owner, Yury Shefler.”

In addition, the document mentions lobbyists, who will directly provide services; they are Stuart Eisenstadt (who used to serve as the Deputy Minister of the Treasury and the US Ambassador to the European Union), Alan Larson (ex-Deputy Secretary of State for Economic, Enterprise, and Agricultural Affairs), and Steven Rademaker (who worked as Assistant to State Secretary for Arms Control, in the Senate, and in the House of Representatives of the Congress). RBC had sent SPI Group questions about the reasons for applying to Covington & Burling and expectations of cooperation, but no response was presented at the time of publication. Covington & Burling never responded to the request.

In early March, Gapontsev’s corporation IPG Photonics – a manufacturer of fiber lasers based in Massachusetts – hired the lobby firm McLarty Inbound to “help the client in matters related to the practice of applying Section 241 of the CAATSA Law,” according to the McLarty’s documents and the documents posted on the lobbying disclosure portal. IPG Photonics and McLarty Inbound have neither responded to RBC.

In turn, ex-owner of the gas company Northgas Farkhad Akhmedov has appealed to lawyers to prepare possible legal claims against the US authorities, as the businessman told RBC. “I was the first Russian businessman to say that I will challenge the so-called Kremlin List. So far, this list has been copied from Forbes, but, in any case, I will defend my honor and reputation in the American courts,” Akhmedov said. “Now my lawyers are collecting the necessary documents at the request of the [legal] company Williams & Connolly (it will represent the interests of the businessman, but the contract has yet to be concluded. – RBC) on how much damage this list has caused. [Preparation of a claim] is not a matter of one week or even one month.”

Just like Shefler, 79-year-old Gapontsev left Russia long ago, although he did break relations with it – in 2011, he was awarded the State Prize of the Russian Federation in the field of science and technology; he continues to head the Department of Photonics at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. The physicist-entrepreneur owns 31% of voting shares of IPG Photonics, which he heads. The market capitalization of the company is $13.5 billion, according to Bloomberg.

This year, as Interfax source reported, Forbes transferred Gapontsev from Russian billionaires to American for the first time with the current state worth $3.2 billion (in the last published version of the Forbes Russian rating in 2017, his fortune was estimated at $1.6 billion). “The American office of the magazine appealed to colleagues from Forbes Russia with the proposal to move Gapontsev to the American segment of the list, arguing that he has lived in the United States for a long time, is an American citizen, and has an American business,” the agency’s interlocutor said.

The third person who disagrees with the inclusion in the Kremlin report, businessman Farkhad Akhmedov, was born in Azerbaijan in 1955. In 2012, he sold 49% of Northgas to NOVATEK for more than $1.3 billion. He spent part of the money to buy NOVATEK shares, as well as the shares of LUKOIL, Gazprom, Sberbank, and other companies. In 2004-2009, he first represented the Krasnodar region, and then the Nenets Autonomous District, in the Federation Council. In 2017, Akhmedov ranked 67th in the Forbes Russian rating with a fortune of $1.3 billion. As businessman previously told RBC, with the help of the Kremlin report, the US authorities are trying to “create a sense of fear of uncertainty among the Russian elite, and, as a result, discontent with the country leadership.”

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