The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the US Department of Justice for two years unsuccessfully tried to make the Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska his informant, writes The New York Times (NYT) referring to current and former officials, as well as people from the environment of the billionaire.
According to the interlocutors of the publication, attempts to recruit Deripaska continued in 2014-2016, the US intelligence services wanted to receive from him information about the alleged interference of Russia in the American elections. In return, the US promised the businessman, in particular, to solve his problems with obtaining an American entry visa, the newspaper said.
As an intermediary in the negotiations with Deripaska, according to the publication, the former high-ranking official of the US Justice Department Bruce Ohr and the former agent of the British special services Christopher Steel, who was working with him, acted now. The latter is the author of the so-called dossier on Donald Trump, which contained unconfirmed reports of a compromising character about the American president.
As sources told NYT, first the US wanted to receive information from Deripaska about alleged links between Russian organized crime and the Russian authorities. According to the interlocutors of the publication, the businessman told the representatives of the American special services that this information is not true. He also expressed an unwillingness to meet with them again.
Later, the American side became interested in the alleged collusion between Trump's electoral headquarters and Russia. In September 2016, FBI employees without warning came to Deripaska's home in New York, writes NYT, and began to question him about the head of the staff of Trump Field Manaforte, which, they reported, was the link between the Republican's election campaign and the Kremlin. According to the publication, Deripaska called this theory ridiculous and rejected the existence of any connections between the assistants of Trump and the Russian authorities.
According to the newspaper, by that time the Justice Ministry and the FBI had realized that attempts to recruit Deripaska had failed. "Systematic efforts to induce the oligarch to cooperate, which were not previously reported, appear to have yielded no results. Deripaska told American investigators that he does not agree with their theories about Russian organized crime and the Kremlin's collusion with the Trump campaign, "the newspaper quotes one source as saying. According to the publication, the businessman reported on these attempts to the Russian authorities. The newspaper recalls that in April this year the US Justice Department included Deripaska and a number of related companies, including En + and UC Rusal, in the sanctions list.
At the same time, Deripaska was not the only Russian businessman with whom US special services tried to cooperate, NYT asserts. This was only part of a large-scale program to assess the possibility of declining to cooperate "half a dozen of the richest people in Russia," the newspaper writes.
In May, the NYT reported that representatives of the team of US Attorney General Robert Mueller were trying to interview Russian businessman Viktor Vekselberg. According to the publication, this happened in late February or early March this year at the airport in New York. As sources told the newspaper, federal agents stopped the owner of Renova after he stepped off the ramp of a private plane, tried to inspect his electronic devices and interview.
"There are no signs that Mr. Müller suspects Mr. Vekselberg of committing offenses," the publication wrote. At the same time NYT recalled that Vekselberg was present at the inauguration of Trump. "The interest in him (Vekselberg) suggests that the special prosecutor concentrated his attention on possible links between the Russian oligarchs, the Trump campaign and the inaugural committee," the newspaper wrote.
In early April, CNN reported that Mueller's team interviewed two Russian businessmen on the so-called "Russian cause". According to the television channel, one of them was interviewed immediately as soon as his private plane landed at the airport in New York, the second - during his trip to the United States. The names of entrepreneurs were not named. Another businessman was sent an informal questionnaire with the wish to meet for a conversation.
US Attorney Robert Müller is investigating possible Russian interference in the US presidential election in 2016 and alleged links between Moscow and Trump's campaign headquarters.