FBI Let Blacklisted Russian Tycoon Visit US

Organized crime suspect bypasses visa refusal
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 30, 2009 1:42 AM CDT
Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who owns Russia's Basic Element conglomerate, appears at a news conference in Moscow in 2006.   (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky, File)
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(Newser) – A Russian billionaire barred from the US for years because authorities suspected him of involvement in organized crime was allowed into the country twice this year under a secret deal with the FBI. Despite the objections of other government agencies, metals tycoon Oleg Deripaska was allowed to bypass the visa system for visits that included meetings with execs at Goldman Sachs and General Motors, insiders tell the Wall Street Journal.

Deripaska, a close associate of Vladimir Putin, denies having links to the Russian mafia and blames his inability to get a US visa on a smear campaign instigated by rival tycoons and on blackmail from US officials seeking cooperation with criminal probes. Sources say that Deripaska has been supplying the FBI with information, a charge the oligarch firmly denies. "There are Russian interests that I would never" betray, he said in a recent interview. (Read more Russia stories.)