Oleg Vladimirovich Deripaska

Ms Alexandra “Lexi” Bowes-Lyon (left) and Russian tycoon Oleg Vladimirovich Deripaska.

| Pool

Why Russian tycoon Oleg Vladimirovich’s trip to Kenya haunts King Charles’ relative

In February 2021, Ms Alexandra “Lexi” Bowes-Lyon, a New York-based British socialite and a relative of King Charles’ organised an improvident Kenyan tour for Oleg Vladimirovich Deripaska which has now come back to haunt her with a risk of even being jailed.

Mr Deripaska alias Oleg Mukhamedshin is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and at the time of his travel to Kenya, the US Treasury Department had blacklisted him. He was blacklisted in 2018, making it illegal for any US national to do any business with him.

Ms Alexandra “Lexi” Bowes-Lyon, is a New York-based British socialite whose father is the King’s third cousin.

Mr Deripaska who the US linked to the Kremlin three flew from Moscow to Nairobi in his private jet “before boarding an aircraft leased by the charity and owned by Michael Spencer, the billionaire former Conservative Party treasurer who sits in the House of Lords as Lord Spencer of Alresford,” International Media reported mid-last week.

Already, Space for Giants, a company that Ms Bowes-Lyon does not deny knowledge of, told Nation.Africa that he was their guest then.

The western country also claims that Mr Deripaska an industrialist illegally used the US financial system to service real estate projects owned by him with the help of two women; Ms Olga Shriki who at the time the crime was being committed was based in the US and Ms Natalia Bardakova who was based in Russia.

According to the US Department of the Treasury, Deripaska was designated for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of directly or indirectly, a senior official of the Government of the Russian Federation.

“Deripaska has said that he does not separate himself from the Russian state. He has also acknowledged possessing a Russian diplomatic passport, and claims to have represented the Russian government in other countries,” read a statement by the US Department.

The statement further revealed that he had been investigated for money laundering, and was also accused of threatening the lives of business rivals, illegally wiretapping a government official, and taking part in extortion and racketeering. 

“There are also allegations that Deripaska bribed a government official, ordered the murder of a businessman, and had links to a Russian organized crime group,” it further stated.

Ms Bowes-Lyon, is a director at Space for Giants USA, an organisation that was launched in Kenya in 2011 and whose mission is to protect Africa’s remaining natural ecosystems and the large wild animals.

“We help protect Africa’s remaining natural ecosystems and the large wild animals they contain while bringing major social and economic value to local communities and national governments,” a statement on its website reads in part.

Once Mr Deripaska arrived in Kenya where he spent three days touring the area, he was welcomed to the lavish Suyian Ranch by the CEO of the organization Dr Max Graham and Ms Bowes-Lyon. The Russian national at the time was accompanied by a bodyguard and two others.

During his stay in the country, the duo tried to convince him to purchase a ranch within Laikipia but Mr Deripaska turned down the offer.

Nation.Africa contacted Space for Giants for a comment on the raised allegations and it responded by saying that Mr Deripaska’s trip to Kenya took place two and a half years ago and that the company ended its relationship with him in 2021.

Space for Giants also said that two years prior to him being sanctioned by the United Kingdom in 2022, they had accepted a donation from him.

“Two years prior to Mr Deripaska being sanctioned by the UK IN 2022, a branch of Space for Giants UK accepted a donation from him,” the company in its response said.

It also denied allegations that Mr Deripaska during his visit to Kenya neither made any kind of donations to any Space for Giants entity nor did he purchase a ranch.

The organisation also confirmed that indeed there was an investigation which took place in the USA in 2021 and it fully cooperated.

According to the organization, the investigations were on Mr Deripaska and not the activities it engaged in.

“Indeed, the US authorities have confirmed that Space for Giants has at no point itself been under investigation but was a cooperating witness. We are not in a position to comment on whether the US investigation is ongoing,” Space for Giants said.

The organisation also said that it had reviewed and updated all of its internal governance policies, including our gift acceptance policy.

It is worth noting that since the US sanctioned Mr Deripaska, a number of US nationals have been investigated over their interactions with him.

On October 20, 2021, officers drawn from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) on the basis of court warrants raided two houses located in Washington and New York which are linked to him.

At the time the US was scrutinizing his relationship with Mr Paul Manafort who served as former US President Donald Trump’s campaign manager after it emerged that Mr Deripaska had handed him a Sh1.4 billion loan.

Hestia International in Delaware is a state known as a tax haven and had been listed as the owner of the two properties.

On Monday last week, the US Department of Justice indicted a former FBI senior official Mr Charles McGonigal pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and to commit money laundering in connection to an agreement where he was to provide services to Mr Deripaska.

“In 2021, McGonigal conspired to provide services to Mr Deripaska, in violation of US sanctions imposed on Deripaska in 2018. Specifically, following his negotiations with an agent of Mr Deripaska, Mr McGonigal agreed to and did investigate a rival Russian oligarch in return for concealed payments from Mr Deripaska,” a statement by the Department of Justice read in part. 

The Department further revealed that Mr McGonigal agreed to conceal Mr Deripaska’s involvement by ensuring that he does not name him in electronic communications, he should use shell companies as counterparties in the contract that outlined the services to be performed, using a forged signature on that contract, and using the same shell companies to send and receive payment from Deripaska.

The department said that Mr McGonigal pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Jennifer H. Rearden. He pled guilty to one count of conspiring to violate the IEEPA and to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. 

The sentencing will be done by Judge Rearden on December 14, 2023, the department said.