Swire’s business partner hits the national headlines in the USA

This is a LONG article about how Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska is doing all he can to escape sanctions in the USA.

It notes that he is being assisted with this by Lord Barker of Battle “a former protegé of David Cameron” (an energy minister in the Cameron government) who is attempting to persuade the US that Deripaska is giving up control of a company (EN+) that he has run for many years. Barker is chairman of that company. People are not convinced. The article details how Deripaska has wooed many politicians and bankers all over the world. EN+ even hired a well-connected London public relations company, run by Roland Rudd, whose sister, Amber Rudd, was Britain’s home secretary at the time.

Why does this matter to East Devon Watch? Because Lord Barker and Hugo Swire are 50/50 partners in a company called Eaglesham Investments (not yet trading) which was set up to focus on “renewable energy projects” though elsewhere it says it is for “emerging markets”. (Registered 22 May 2018). Swire registered this interest in December 2017 after East Devon Watch drew attention to it in Lord Barker’s register of interests in May 2017.


The article says of Lord Barker:

“Unlike Mr. Deripaska, Lord Barker had a largely spotless reputation. His only minor brushes with scandal came in 2006, when he left his wife to live with a male interior decorator, and in 2012, while serving as energy minister, when he made the tabloids for using a microwave at Parliament to warm a cushion for his pet dachshund, Otto.

Lord Barker’s appointment, the company declared, was proof of its “commitment to the best standard of corporate governance.” His allies say his efforts since then have been focused on what is best for the company — its employees and all of its shareholders — rather than on Mr. Deripaska’s personal benefit.

Others saw Lord Barker’s appointment as chairman of EN+ as proof of a phenomenon known as “Lords on Boards,” a long line of eminent Britons willing to lend their names and connections to Russia’s scandal-singed elite.

Before entering politics in the early 2000s, Lord Barker had worked in Moscow as the head of investor relations for Sibneft, a Russian oil company connected to two Russian oligarchs, Boris Berezovsky and Roman Abramovich, a onetime business partner of Mr. Deripaska’s. Lord Barker’s job was to convince often skeptical investors and financial journalists that Sibneft had shaken off its shady past in rigged privatization deals and broken with the habits of its oligarch founders.

Now, Lord Barker assumed the chairmanship of EN+ and the London listing was a success. Mr. Deripaska, with his family, took around $1.5 billion from the stock sale and was able to repay VTB. …

The prospect that it would soon become illegal under United States law to do business with the world’s biggest aluminum producer outside of China made it dangerous to sign long-term contracts with any entity connected to Mr. Deripaska. Manufacturers feared grave disruptions in their supplies.

Hanging on as chairman of the board, however, was Lord Barker. Rather than being a figurehead chairman, he was suddenly faced with having to save a company whose structures he had only just become acquainted with.

Friends say Lord Barker is not in it for the money but for an opportunity to promote renewable energy, of which Mr. Deripaska has vast amounts thanks to his hydroelectric plants in Siberia and his investments in solar power.

“He would not compromise his beliefs for money,” said Peter Brown, a British businessman and friend of Lord Barker’s who once managed the Beatles.

In recent months, Lord Barker has lobbied Ireland’s business minister to press the Treasury Department to relent on sanctions. He has also made trips to Moscow and to Cyprus, where he presided over the annual general meeting of EN+.

Most important, Lord Barker began hiring lobbyists and lawyers in Washington to promote the Barker Plan. The core of that plan is the still-to-be-proved proposition that Lord Barker and his allies are not merely puppets, and that Mr. Deripaska is really willing to sell down his stake and step away from his empire.

The legal and lobbying teams for Mr. Deripaska’s companies have proposed various measures to reassure the United States government that he would truly do so — and not immediately benefit from an expected rebound in value that would come from lifting the corporate sanctions.

He and several allies have resigned from top positions at EN+ and Rusal. The Barker Plan also calls for the creation of an escrow account into which the proceeds from Mr. Deripaska’s stock sales would be deposited. He would be barred from accessing the money until he met certain conditions, including being removed from the personal sanctions list.

Lord Barker “wants to save Deripaska by getting rid of Deripaska,” said David Ruffley, a former British legislator and an old friend of Lord Barker’s. …

… In Washington, Lord Barker turned to Mercury Public Affairs. Only a few weeks after the sanctions were announced, Bryan Lanza, a former Trump campaign and transition aide who is now a Mercury lobbyist, contacted top officials at the Treasury and State Departments and at the White House.

At that point, Mercury was in the final stages of signing a $108,500-a-month contract to represent the board of directors of EN+. Mercury registered with the Justice Department as a “foreign agent” working on behalf of “Lord Gregory Barker of Battle,” not for Mr. Deripaska or his companies, which might have been prohibited under the sanctions. …

… If nothing else, the lobbying effort is notable for its scale. Lord Barker’s team and Mr. Deripaska’s companies have also turned to a trio of high-powered law firms to make their case to Treasury. Latham & Watkins is representing Lord Barker; Dentons is handling negotiations for Rusal; and Steptoe & Johnson is working for EN+, according to people familiar with the effort. …”