Oleg Deripaska has sued the US Department of the Treasury in a bid to force it to remove the sanctions imposed on him last year.
The Russian businessman’s lawsuit claimed on Friday that the US government was biased against him and had made allegations based on “false rumour and innuendo”.
Mr Deripaska was sanctioned last year for his alleged ties to the Russian government. He has asked the federal court in Washington to force the Treasury to remove him from its sanctions list and its “oligarch” list.
The Treasury department did not immediately return a request for comment. Mr Deripaska said in a statement that the lawsuit was about “simple justice.”
“The presumption of innocence is a basic principle of the American legal system, and one that has manifestly been ignored in applying sanctions to me. The US authorities must follow the rule of law, rather than targeting individuals because it is politically expedient. Only the courts can decide if a person is guilty or innocent, and I believe the US courts are objective enough to uphold American law and the Constitution.”
The dramatic move by Mr Deripaska follows the lifting of US sanctions on several of his businesses, including Rusal, the aluminium producer, after he lowered his shareholding in it to below 50 per cent.
The decision by Donald Trump’s administration to remove sanctions on the businesses was criticised by US lawmakers, who tried to pass a resolution to block the move. The attempt failed in the Senate after failing to garner enough Republican support.
Read the court filing here
Mr Deripaska’s lawsuit cited the events in Congress, filed by attorney Erich Ferrari, as evidence that he could not receive a fair hearing with the Treasury in the “current political climate”.
“The general hysteria surrounding Deripaska prevents him from having a meaningful opportunity to challenge his designations through the normal channels for doing so,” the lawsuit said.
Mr Deripaska was sanctioned in April 2018 as part of the US response to Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election. The Treasury said at the time that Mr Deripaska had acknowledged possessing a Russian diplomatic passport and had claimed to represent the Russian government.
“Deripaska has been investigated for money laundering, and has been accused of threatening the lives of business rivals, illegally wiretapping a government official, and taking part in extortion and racketeering,” said Treasury.
The Russian national dismissed the allegations as “nothing more than false rumour and innuendo” that originated from “decades-old defamatory attacks originated by his business competitors”.
The lawsuit said the sanctions had resulted in “the wholesale devastation of Deripaska’s wealth, reputation, and economic livelihood” and an 81 per cent — or $7.5bn — decline in his net worth.
Adam Smith, a former senior official at Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, said Mr Deripaska’s chances of success were slight, given the relatively low evidentiary bar for sanctions and the use of classified information that is not made available to targets.
“The record of people who have gone before Ofac to make these sorts of challenges is not that encouraging,” said Mr Smith, now a partner at Gibson Dunn.
–Additional reporting by Nastassia Astrasheuskaya