Russian Oligarch in Election Probe Linked to Drug Cartel
New evidence indicates that Oleg Deripaska, the Russian billionaire who paid $10 million a year to Paul Manafort between 2004 and 2009, has been in business since 2004 in Guyana with a politically powerful crime family involved in international drug trafficking whose most famous member is a drug pilot who had also been the chief pilot of the owner of the flight school in Venice Florida that taught Mohamed Atta to fly.
Michael Francis Brassington is a professional pilot with a sordid criminal career in international drug trafficking.
In July 2000, he was the co-pilot on the ill-starred flight of a luxury Learjet (N351WB) that was busted by DEA Agents on a runway of Orlando Executive Airport carrying 43 lbs. of heroin.
The plane belonged to Wally Hilliard, the owner of Huffman Aviation, the flight school where Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi began flight training on July 3, 2000. When Hilliard’s Learjet was busted on July 22, Atta was not even a month into his lessons.
According to DEA affidavits and court testimony, Brassington flew co-pilot on 39 weekly round trips on Wally Hilliard’s Learjet in the year 2000 before getting busted. Each time the Learjet flew from Florida to Venezuela and back, before heading north to end at Teterboro Airport outside New York. The connection has never been mentioned in the mainstream media.
(SEE “The Brassington Files,” for a dozen stories about Brassington which have appeared on this site as part of an investigation of the 9/11 terrorist’s time in Florida.(“Welcome to TerrorLand” is available on this site.)
Russia’s Aluminum Wars Go Global
It has been reported extensively that Oleg Deripaska fought and won three brutal wars of attrition during the 1990’s for control of a global strategic resource.
Thousands died in what were called the Russian Aluminum Wars. When they were over, Oleg Deripaska was the last man standing.
Deripaska is identified in the New York Times, as “a former nuclear physicist who wrested control of the Russian aluminum industry from a netherworld of organized crime figures.” In truth, a more accurate description of him would be as “the biggest Russian Mobster on the planet.”
In the West, the Aluminum Wars are still being contested.
Michael Francis Brassington’s “Cousin Winston” was Guyana’s Minister of Privatization. It’s a plum position— citing the Russian example—and one of the most lucrative jobs in the world.
In Guyana, on April 28,2000, Winston Brassington issued a press release headlined “Guyana rejects bauxite bid from Reynolds Metals.”
“The government has rejected a bid by the local subsidiary of U.S. aluminum firm Reynolds Metals Co. to buy out the state’s interest in a joint bauxite venture, officials announced.”
“Mike Brassington, head of the state’s privatization unit, said the government rejected the undisclosed bid because it was below officials’ price expectations.”
Reynold’s bauxite assets were nationalized “during a now-abandoned socialist experiment in the 1970s.” The company later returned to Guyana at the invitation of the government. Based in Richmond, Virginia, Reynolds Metals is best known to consumers as the manufacturer of Reynolds Wrap.
It was a dust-up. A flare-up. A mini-Aluminum War. While the picture remains murky, like watching players in unmarked uniforms maneuver on a dimly-lit field at twilight, it was clear that Reynolds Aluminum’s 30-year history in Guyana no longer cut any ice.
“That would be great”
Three years later a dispatch out of Georgetown from the Associated Press reported the Guyanese government had just cut a billion dollar deal selling Guyana’s bauxite resources to Oleg Deripaska’s RUSAL, the world’s largest aluminum producer.
“After agreeing to buy 90 percent of shares in Guyana’s state-owned bauxite company, officials from Russian mining corporation RUSAL, which belongs to Russian aluminum baron Oleg Deripaska, discussed setting up an aluminum plant that could process 1 million tons of bauxite per year, according to Mike Brassington, the head of Guyana’s government privatization agency,” the AP reported.
“Brassington estimated it will cost $1 billion dollars to build the aluminum plant, but that it would “provide thousands of jobs” in Guyana, a South American country of 700,000 people.”
Brassington said, “That would be great.”
Somebody in Guyana finally figured out that all that bauxite was being turned into cash that wasn’t ending up in a Government of Guyana bank account.
“Company pays $11.9 billion into Consolidated Fund over 11 years,” read the July 2, 2014 headline in popular Guyanese daily Kaieteur News.
“The National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) headed by Winston Brassington lashed out through a statement contending reports driven in the media have no basis in fact.”
“NICIL makes it clear that it paid into the Consolidated Fund $11.9 billion dollars in dividends from the profits of its operations between 2002 and 2011. It insists it is a holding company owned by the Government of Guyana, and is expected to be and is, in fact, financially self sufficient.”
Then came one of those deliberately obfuscating paragraphs that suddenly makes everything clear.
“In 2002, NICIL and the Privatization Unit were operationally merged. A Management Cooperation Agreement (MCA) was signed appointing the Privatization Unit as exclusive manager of NICIL and reaffirming that privatization of NICIL’s assets would be conducted in accordance with the Privatization Policy Framework Paper of 1993 (White Paper on privatization).
If you fall asleep reading about the “Privatization Policy Framework Paper of 1993,” you may miss the fact that The Ministry of Privatization, headed by Winston Brassington, was merged with the State Privatization Unit, led by Michael Brassington.
This fact was cited as a reason for why the citizens of Guyana weren’t being robbed blind.
While most of Guyana’s 700,000 benighted citizens subsist well below the poverty line, the Brassington’s, already famously rich, had added another swiftly-flowing revenue stream, through the simple expedient of treating the country’s resources as their own.
Oleg Deripaska probably felt right at home.
Meanwhile, in another part of the jungle
Beginning with a certain notoriety for flying co-pilot during the major drug bust the Orlando Sentinel called “the biggest heroin bust in Central Florida history,” Michael Francis Brassington became something of a celebrity in Guyana, the ultimate swampy backwater.
He moved in fast company. His father was the longtime CEO of Barclay’s Bank in the Caribbean. *Before that he’d been a courier— “bag man” is the less polite term—for the British Bank.)
Ten years later, when Brassington was sentenced to prison in the U.S. in the U.S. (for recklessly endangering passenger’s lives) newspapers and residents who had avidly followed coverage of his trial offered their thoughts.
“The Brassington family is well known in Guyana, a former British colony,” wrote one. “Michael Brassington’s great-grandfather came from Britain and established sugar plantations & estates throughout Guyana. The family is well-known for their wealth and power.”
“They come from a powerful old English Guyanese Family,” seconded another, “that in recent years joined forces with (current President of Guyana) Jagdeo. Their cousin Winston Brassington is an avid Jagdeo supporter. And the boys are involved in drug running with Winston and Gerry Gouveia.”
“These guys (Brassington and his brother Paul, a co-defendant) are the nephews of Peter D’Aguiar,” wrote another observer. “Their aunt is Peter D’Aguiar’s wife.”
“Uncle Peter,” as it happens, for decades controlled one of the three major political parties in Guyana, and maintained close ties with everyone’s favorite uncle, Uncle Sam. When the Agency called on him for assistance during a CIA-sponsored coup in Guyana in 1968, he was only too glad to help.
Mr. Bigski does New York
By 2005, Oleg Deripaska was richer than just about anyone before him in the history of the planet. Still, he had a problem. Because of his unsavory reputation, he couldn’t get into the U.S. It was like Jay Gatsby getting banned on Long Island.
And the list of Deripaska’s enemies kept growing— unpaid former business partners, widows and orphans of murdered business partners—and now included the heads of beleaguered US aluminum giants, and their acolytes in the U.S. government, unhappy about Deripaska’s vise-like grip on key Third World bauxite mines.
It was time for a charm offensive.
Deripaska started buying politicians, former politicians, and original gangsta K-Street lobbyists like Paul Manafort, who was far from being only U.S. political insider selling access to Russian Mobsters. John McCain, his campaign manager Rick Davis, even former Senator Bob Dole used his one good arm to hold out a begging bowl.
The charm offensive worked. In December 2005, Deripaska was issued a multi-entry U.S. visa. During his brief stay in the U.S. he signed a World Bank loan, spoke at a Carnegie Endowment meeting, and even attended a dinner at Harvard University, where, thanks to a generous donation, he was appointed to an international council.
Of course, Harvard will let anyone in if they’ve got enough money.
Despite its high points, Deripaska’s trip did not end well. Under the terms of his visa, he was forced to endure lengthy FBI questioning. The interview went badly. When Deripaska left the country, his visa was revoked over concerns about his ties to organized crime.
Years later, in 2009, the U.S. government lifted the ban to let him visit New York again. This time he was taking meetings with Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Apparently, that was good enough for US Customs.
Paul Manafort and his “Olig-Daddy”
When Oleg Deripaska and Paul Manafort hooked up in 2004, Deripaska was richer, and doing more deals, than anyone alive.
In the winter of 2004, The Ukraine, Russia’s next-door neighbor, had a revolution, or a putsch, depending on your point of view. It was either a peaceful “Orange Revolution” which overthrew the corrupt Putin-backed Viktor Yanukovich, or a diabolical opening gambit of the Fourth Reich.
Yanukovich’s opponent was pro-Western opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko. Yushchenko was poisoned, almost died, but held on to win. Afterwards, a murder investigation was launched against Yanukovich’s main backer, who then turned to Paul Manafort for a little image adjustment.
Paul Manafort worked on the presidential campaign of the candidate whose side poisoned the other guy. Remember? The one with the hideous huge bumps on his face?
After that, Manafort’s work as Trump’s unpaid campaign chairman last year must have seemed a piece of cake, at least until Trump asked him to resign after revelations that Manafort orchestrated a covert Washington lobbying operation until 2014 on behalf of Ukraine’s ruling pro-Russian political party.
Under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, people who lobby in the U.S. on behalf of foreign political leaders or political parties must provide detailed reports about their actions. Reportedly, Manafort did not disclose any details of his lobbying work to the Justice Department.
If Manafort rolls (turns state’s evidence), as now seems likely, and eventually goes into witness protection to fend off Russian assassins…For the sake of anonymity, will they make him give up the pink ties?
They’re called philanthropists.
And so it is with Oleg Deripaska. He has helped finance construction for Russia’s Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, made headlines when he stepped in to fix the city’s stray dog problem after the Games began, and more.
Still, and apparently not tongue in cheek, a Toronto Globe and Mail profile in 2011 reports that Deripaska is not eager to publicize his numerous charities. He does still allows himself the occasional humble brag, however, as when he told reporters he’d contributed some $250 million between 2000-09, “largely to education projects. ”
He bankrolled major projects like the refurbishment of the Bolshoi Theater, and plowed money into the restoration of Russia’s neglected Orthodox churches. He wasn’t eager to tout those philanthropic acts either.
Except, maybe, on his own website, which claims he’s donated the equivalent of about $185 million. Anyone spreading around $185 million dollars can be indulged if he wants to speak a few heartfelt words of wisdom to those of us rocking the cheap seats.
Deripaska writes, but not memorably, on his website, “Motivated and active people create something to be proud of for generations and are changing our world and our lives for the better.”
Maybe someone should have just introduced him to Bono.
NEXT: Michael Francis Brassington and Oleg Deripaska share a few things in common. Example: Both have often received fawning press coverage.