Home / Thoook News / Owners of western Canada’s biggest steel company on U.S. Treasury’s new ‘Putin list’

Owners of western Canada’s biggest steel company on U.S. Treasury’s new ‘Putin list’

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A Russian steelmaking giant that employs over 1,000 people in Regina has seen its major shareholders named on the so-called “Putin list” — a who’s who of 114 Russian politicians and 96 oligarchs said to have directly benefitted from links to President Vladimir Putin.

The U.S. Treasury list was a legal requirement under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017, brought in response to alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

Perhaps the most famous oligarch named is Roman Abramovich, a major shareholder in the London-listed Evraz PLC, which owns Evraz North America. Evraz employs 1,800 people in Canada, with sites in Regina as well as Calgary, Camrose and Red Deer in Alberta.

Aleksandr Abramov, non-executive chairman of Evraz PLC and Aleksandr Frolov, its CEO, are also listed. In Evraz PLC’s 2016 annual report, Abramovich is listed as owning 31.03 per cent of all shares in the company, Abramov 21.38 per cent, and Frolov 10.68 per cent.

The “name and shame” oligarch list has been mocked as it is a carbon copy of a Forbes magazine ranking of Russian billionaires. In Russia, it has drawn scorn because some of those listed do not, in reality, enjoy Putin’s favour.

Yet the list has spooked rich Russians who fear it could make them informally blacklisted in the global financial system.

A building at Evraz North America’s Regina plant.

Some of those listed — noted on the nine-page document by asterisks — are already under sanction, but the Trump administration has decided not to immediately punish anybody else, leading some U.S. lawmakers to accuse Trump of giving Russia a free pass.

“The list has no bearing on Evraz North America’s operations,” Evraz North America said in an emailed statement.

“Evraz North America, a wholly owned subsidiary of Evraz plc … is headquartered in the United States.

“We have a long legacy of business success and are proud of our deeply American and Canadian roots, which include steel manufacturing facilities that have been in operation for many decades.”

The office of Steven Bonk, Saskatchewan’s economic minister, said it was aware of the company’s ownership structure but was not concerned.

“Irrespective of who owns Evraz, the company has always been an important business presence in Regina and Saskatchewan. In our view, Evraz is a good corporate citizen, supporting many worthy causes in the community.

“Our government is focused on ensuring pipelines can get built so that Evraz can maintain and possibly expand employment at its Regina facility.”

Peter Warrian, a steel industry expert at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global affairs, said the inclusion of major individual steel industry players on the list was, “obviously an area of some concern.”

“There may be a second shoe to drop,” he said. “That is the Trump administration implementing steel tariffs, citing national security concerns. There are expectations in the steel industry that that’s on the way.”

Though the report isn’t a sanctions list, Russian President Vladimir Putin called it a hostile and “stupid” move spearheaded by Trump’s political foes.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attend a meeting with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on January 31, 2018.

“All of us, all 146 million, have been put on some kind of list,” he said at a meeting with activists from his ongoing presidential campaign.

“Certainly, this is an unfriendly move, which further exacerbates the already strained Russia-U.S. relations and hurts international relations as a whole.”

In Forbes’ most recent figures, Evraz major shareholder Abramovich’s wealth is pegged at $11.2 billion USD — making him the 145th richest person in the world.

He has known ties to Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner. His wife Dasha Zhukova — a dual U.S.-Russia citizen from whom he recently separated — is a longtime friend of Trump. The two women have been pictured at various social gatherings, including a 2014 trip to Russia and a 2016 outing to tennis’ U.S. Open

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In a release in 2015, Evraz said it had made over 550 miles (885 kilometres) of pipe for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which was halted under President Barack Obama but re-launched under Trump. Evraz has made at least 24 per cent of the large-diameter pipe for Keystone XL in Regina.

After re-floating the project, Trump backtracked on his own earlier “America first” directive that all pipe used would have to be built using American steel only, indicating that pipe already constructed elsewhere could be used.

The move was welcomed at the time by Canadian Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale, who tweeted in March 2017 that, “Canada has been working hard to make this point. Important for companies like Evraz Steel.”

Abramovich, also owner of Chelsea Football Club in the English Premier League, was once the protégé of famed Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, with the pair partnering up at Russian oil company Sibneft in 1995.

They later had a spectacular falling out, when in 2011 Berezovsky — who had fled Russia to the U.K. in 2000 in fear of the Putin regime — took Abramovich to court seeking billions, saying he had been coerced by Abramovich into selling him discounted Sibneft shares. Abramovich had made his fortune when Sibneft was sold to state gas giant Gazprom for $13.1 billion USD in 2005.

Abramovich, however, won the court case. Berezovsky was found dead at his U.K. home in 2013. Suicide was suspected but an inquest returned an open verdict on his death.

Though the new “Putin” report has caused a stir, a person’s inclusion on the unclassified list does not mean that “the U.S. Government has information about the individual’s involvement in malign activities,” the report reads.

U.S. President Donald Trump looks on during a tax reform meeting with American workers in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 31, 2018.

Putin has pointedly steered clear of criticizing Trump, describing the list as part of U.S. political infighting. He said the Kremlin had pondered possible retaliation while waiting for the list to be announced, but decided to refrain from action.

“We were ready to take retaliatory steps, and, mind you, serious ones, which would cut our relations to zero,” he said. “But we will refrain from taking these steps for now.”

In the build-up to the list’s release, Russia hawks in Congress had pushed the administration to include certain names, while Russian businessmen hired lobbyists to keep them off.

In the end, the list of 114 Russian officials released just before a Monday evening deadline included the whole of Putin’s administration, as listed by the Kremlin on its website, plus the Russian Cabinet, top law enforcement officials and senior executives at state-owned companies.

U.S. officials said more names, including those of less-senior politicians and businesspeople worth less than $1 billion, are on a classified version of the list being provided to Congress.

Under the law that authorized the “Putin list,” the government was required to sanction anyone doing “significant” business with people linked to Russia’s defence and intelligence agencies, using a blacklist the U.S. released in October.

But the administration decided it didn’t need to penalize any additional persons, for now. State Department officials said the threat of sanctions had been deterrent enough.

— With files from the Associated Press

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