U.S.

Wilbur Ross Secretly Linked To Russian Firm With Putin Ties, Paradise Papers Show

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is doing business with a close relative of Russian President Vladimir Putin and failed to disclose their relationship while being confirmed for his Cabinet spot, documents showed Sunday.

A massive leak of legal and financial records unveiled Ross as the latest member of President Donald Trump’s White House team with secret ties to the Kremlin.

Ross, a billionaire New York businessman like Trump, still holds an interest in Navigator Holdings, a shipping company that has a strong business relationship with the Russian energy company SIBUR. The Russian firm is run by Putin’s son-in-law Kirill Shamalov and other members of the Russian strongman’s inner circle, some of whom have been sanctioned by the United States. SIBUR has been handsomely benefitting Navigator: According to financial records, the Russian firm brought in more than $51 million in revenue since 2016.

Ross’s Russia connection never came up during his confirmation process. It only emerged Sunday as part of the “Paradise Papers,” a new report on more than 7 million documents leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the same group that spearheaded the sprawling Panama Papers investigation last year.

The millions of documents from the Bermuda-based law firm Appleby reveal yet another web of financial intrigue spread across the globe in offshore accounts. 

The 79-year-old investor retained financial interests in hundreds of companies when Trump tapped him for commerce secretary — a position putting Ross in charge of sectors where he stands to benefit. Ross divested most of his interests, claiming he wanted to avoid conflicts of interest. But it turns out he secretly held onto a few key assets, including his Navigator stake that ties him to Putin.

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told NBC News he felt “astonished and “appalled,” as well as “misled,” since he and his colleagues in Congress believed Ross had cleared all of his interests. Blumenthal said he would call for an internal Commerce Department investigation of its secretary.

A Commerce Department statement claimed Ross recuses himself from any transoceanic shipping matters and works with the department’s ethics officials to “ensure the highest ethical standards.” But the statement made no acknowledgment of Ross concealing the connection during his confirmation.

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