More about Swire’s business pal Lord Barker (3)

“Foreign agents running a lobbying and influence operation to ease U.S. sanctions on companies tied to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska were paid $543,958 over the past six months, according to newly released Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) disclosures made available through the Center for Responsive Politics’ Foreign Lobby Watch tool.

In May 2018, Lord Gregory Barker of Battle, a member of the British House of Lords and chairman of En+ Group — a Russian energy company formerly controlled by Deripaska — inked a six-figure-per-month contract with Mercury Public Affairs to lobby for the removal of U.S. sanctions imposed for Deripaska’s role in Russian interference in the 2016 election. Barker has paid the firm more than $650,000 since May.

At the crux of the operation is former Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), who left the Senate in 2017 and quickly entered the revolving door. Despite a two-year “cooling off” period that restricts Senators from immediately lobbying their colleagues under the Lobbying Disclosure Act, Vitter is still able to lobby other key figures in the Trump administration.

Earlier in 2018, President Donald Trump nominated Vitter’s wife, Wendy Vitter, to a federal judgeship with the U.S. District Court in New Orleans.

Vitter received 12 reported disbursements from Barker in June and July 2018, eight of which were for client meetings. In April, Vitter had several meetings with State Department and Treasury Department officials briefing them on Barker’s situation.

Among his activities, Vitter sent form letters to ambassadors from Australia, Germany, Jamaica and Sweden, urging them to press federal offices on behalf of the sanctioned company.

Vitter wasn’t the only big name Mercury enlisted to beef up their lobbying efforts for the sanctioned companies. Mercury also brought on former Trump campaign aide Bryan Lanza, assembling a contingent of the firm’s top lobbyists and foreign influence operatives.

Days before Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced his agency was considering lifting sanctions, Mercury filed FARA disclosures with the Justice Department announcing a new plan for sanctions relief from the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) department.

Titled the Barker Plan, the document stated Deripaska had resigned as director of En+, that he agreed not to seek reelection as director of RUSAL and that the CEO and seven directors of RUSAL along with the president and director of En+, all of whom were appointed by or affiliated with Deripaska, had resigned.

Mercury advocated for the removal of the companies from the sanctions list by warning that “a failure by OFAC to provide a path forward would have severe negative repercussions for both the administration and the global economy.”

The firm also argued that if the Barker Plan was not fully put into effect, En+ could seek “a potential acquisition by Chinese interests or the potential nationalization of the company by Russia.”

Mnuchin also mentioned the threat of Russian nationalization when justifying the department’s December 2018 decision to lift sanctions on the companies, and noted they had been restructured to reduce Deripaska’s stake in the companies to below 50 percent.

In a letter to Congress, Treasury OFAC Director Andrea Gacki defended the decision to remove sanctions writing that “this action – a removal based on a change in factual circumstances that is in line with longstanding U.S. sanctions precedent and practice designed to change behavior – is not intended to significantly alter U.S. foreign policy.”

Senate Democrats and 11 of their Republican colleagues weren’t sold, voting Wednesday to block the Treasury’s decision but falling just short of the required 60 vote threshold. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voted against the Senate’s resolution. In September 2018, Vitter’s Louisiana Reform PAC gave $3,750 to McConnell’s Bluegrass Committee PAC. The House voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to formally disapprove of the rollback of sanctions.

OFAC has reportedly vetted trustees to oversee Deripaska’s shares that he will relinquish to Russia’s state-owned VTB Bank as well as those held by his family. …”

A little more on Swire’s business partner, Lord Barker (2)

“A Conservative peer who chairs a firm being sanctioned in the US for its Russian links has declined to give public evidence about it to a parliamentary committee, leaked documents disclose.

Lord Barker of Battle, the chair of the aluminium giant EN+ which is majority-owned by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, did not wish to appear in open session before MPs because he hopes to persuade Washington to lift the sanctions, letters show. [He was successful – Trump, against the advice of Congress and Senate – allowed Deripaska to operate again in the USA]

Sanctions were imposed on Deripaska and EN+ in April because of the oligarch’s close relationship with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. The letters from Barker are due to be discussed by the foreign affairs select committee, which is looking into the flow of Russian money into the UK, on Wednesday.

The disclosure will raise concerns that the peer is being allowed to avoid parliamentary scrutiny. A Whitehall source said it was “highly unusual” for a parliamentarian not to give public evidence to a committee.

The letters also detail Barker’s attempts to persuade the US authorities to lift sanctions against EN+.

In April, the US treasury imposed sanctions on the company – whose assets include a stake in Rusal, the world’s second-largest aluminium producer – over what it called the Kremlin’s “malign activities”. Overall, it acted against seven oligarchs, 12 companies they own or control, as well as 17 senior Russian government officials amid allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and other issues. Deripaska resigned from EN+’s board in May but remains its biggest shareholder.

MPs are examining the issue of Russian money flowing into the UK following the nerve agent attack in Salisbury in March, which has been blamed upon the Kremlin, a charge it denies.

In a letter sent this week to the committee’s Tory chairman, Tom Tugendhat, Barker wrote that in light of sanctions against Deripaska, he is leading “a major effort” to take control of the company and would only give private evidence until negotiations with the US authorities have concluded.

“OFAC, the sanctions unit in the US treasury, has made it crystal clear that if certain changes are made to Deripaska’s controlling interest in the company, they are prepared to consider lifting the sanctions on the EN+ and Rusal group,” Barker wrote.

He said he would address MPs but only if the meeting was conducted in private. “Until this process is concluded, these measures remain financially and commercially sensitive. Nonetheless, given your interest in this area, I have offered your committee a confidential briefing in respect of this plan and my ongoing high-level discussions with the US treasury.

“You have declined that offer but I will be happy to return instead, as I have already informed you, once my discussions have concluded for an open public session,” he wrote.

In the letter, Barker also discloses that he offered to brief the security minister, Ben Wallace, about the US sanctions regime imposed on the firm and Deripaska. [Wallace refused].

However, he has denied allegations in the Times that he attempted to lobby Wallace.

Barker wrote: “I was very surprised to read this week in the Times, a leaked and partial extract of your correspondence with the minister that suggested that I had written to Mr Wallace ‘to request assistance for Russian associates’.

“As you know and as the attached letter makes absolutely clear, this is factually incorrect.

“I have written to Mr Wallace to kindly ask him to clarify the record and would be most grateful if you could also correct any false impression,” he wrote.

As supporting evidence to the committee, Barker included a letter he sent to Wallace in June in which he offered to meet the minister to explain how the firm planned to reduce Deripaska’s holding.

Barker, a former energy minister who has also been employed by Roman Abramovich, addressed the letter to “Dear Ben” and wrote: “I am now actively pursuing a number of radical changes in response to the imposition of US sanctions, details of which I would like to share with you.

“Together, these measures will result in the removal of Oleg Deripaska from the company and I am working closely with both the US administration, UK regulators and our minority shareholders to achieve this goal.

“Although I have no ask of you or any parliamentary colleague, I would be most grateful for an opportunity to come and update you on my progress and answer any questions you may have,” Barker wrote.

A source close to Barker said: “He wants to give a full account of himself but he cannot do that while negotiations are ongoing with Washington. Greg would be very happy to appear before the committee once negotiations have been concluded.”

A little more on Swire’s business partner, Lord Barker

From Wikipedia entry:

“…In 2001, Barker became the MP for Bexhill and Battle after the retirement of the sitting Conservative MP, Charles Wardle.

Barker’s nomination by the Conservative Party was hotly debated when sitting MP and former Home Office Minister Charles Wardle accused Barker of being disingenuous about his business career and formally requesting Conservative Party Leader Iain Duncan Smith to investigate possible links between Barker and the infamous Russian billionaire Boris Berezovsky.[4]

Wardle supported Nigel Farage (who later became the Leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party), but Barker won the safe seat securing over 10,500 votes ahead of LibDem Stephen Hardy. Close to Conservative leader David Cameron, Barker, in his capacity as Shadow Environment Secretary, accompanied Cameron on his trip to the Arctic Circle in April 2006 for a fact-finding mission about global warming.

In April 2011, Barker was filmed addressing an audience at the Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina, during which he said of the Conservative-led British government: “We are making cuts that Margaret Thatcher, back in the 1980s, could only have dreamed of.” [5]

Barker was implicated in the 2009 MPs’ expenses scandal for his purchase and sale of London flats; this led to widespread outrage from tax payers.[6][7] On 5 February 2013 MP Gregory Barker voted in favour in the House of Commons Second Reading vote on marriage equality in Britain.[8] On 14 July 2014, he announced he would not be standing at the 2015 general election.[9]

House of Lords

In August 2015, Barker was nominated for a life peerage in the Dissolution Peerages List.[10] On 12 October 2015, he was created Baron Barker of Battle, of Battle in the County of East Sussex.[11] He now sits in the House of Lords as a Life Peer. On 10 November, he was introduced to the Lords. He was supported during the ceremony by John Browne, Baron Browne of Madingley, and Guy Black, Baron Black of Brentwood.[12]

Personal life

Barker married Celeste Harrison, an heiress to the Charles Wells brewery fortune, in 1992. Following a diary report in The Observer,[13] Barker confirmed he and his wife had separated, and on 26 October 2006 the British tabloid newspaper the Daily Mirror revealed that he had left his wife and children for vintage fashion expert William Banks-Blaney. The paper backed the story by quoting his mother-in-law.[14] The Sun reported that Banks-Blaney had been employed to oversee renovations on the Barkers’ Peasmarsh family home.[15] It was later revealed that Barker was divorcing his wife. The Independent on Sunday later reported that Barker has confirmed that he is homosexual.[16]

Barker’s wealth is estimated at £3.9m.[17]

In May 2012 Barker attracted media attention after it was reported he used a staff microwave at the Department of Energy and Climate Change to warm a cushion for his pet dachshund, Otto.[18] In January 2012 Otto was a participant in the 20th Westminster Dog of the Year Show, but was beaten to the winning prize by Star, a Norfolk terrier owned by Barker’s fellow Conservative MP, Charlie Elphicke.[19]”,_Baron_Barker_of_Battle

“Tory peer declines to give public evidence to MPs over Russian firm: