Russian Government Supports Sanctioned Oligarch Tied to Michael Cohen and Trump

Finance Minister Anton Siluanov revealed Monday that the Russian government provided financial backing to the company of a Russian oligarch sanctioned by the U.S. government and linked to Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s embattled fixer and lawyer.

“Support has already been provided, last week,” Siluanov told reporters about the companies of Victor Vekselberg, owner of the Renova Group, a Russian conglomerate involved in the aluminum, oil, energy and telecom industries. The finance minister did not give details about how much financial aid was provided. Vekselberg is worth around $13 billion, making him one of the world’s wealthiest men.

Renova Group also allegedly received credit from Promsvyazbank, which was taken over by Russia’s central bank last year. The government had previously said it planned to use the bank to provide credit to entities hit by international sanctions, but officials said that government funds were not used for the credit line Promsvyazbank gave to Renova Group.

The Treasury Department included Vekselberg on a new list of entities and individuals sanctioned by the U.S. government in response to Russia’s attempt to interfere in the U.S. presidential elections in 2016. But last week, reports revealed that the oligarch might have ties to longtime Trump employee Michael Cohen, who is currently under criminal investigation in the Southern District of New York.

Columbus Nova, a New York-based investment company whose biggest client is Vekselberg’s Renova Group, paid $500,000 last year to the Delaware-based shell company Essential Consultants LLC, which Cohen established and used to pay hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

Columbus Nova’s chief executive is Andrew Intrater, Vekselberg’s American cousin who donated $250,000 to Trump’s inauguration. Clifford's lawyer, Michael Avenatti, has said he believed the hush money paid to his client may have come from Vekselberg, who attended Trump’s inauguration.

Columbus Nova said that the money paid to Cohen was not related to Vekselberg. Nevertheless, observers have suggested that the transaction could be evidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin was using Vekselberg and Cohen to deliver payments to Trump. Some accused Vekselberg of having ties to Russian intelligence, while others argued that the oligarch is not particularly close to Putin and has clashed with the Russian leader in the past.

This article has been updated.