US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has hit back at accusations surrounding his business relationship with Sibur, Russia's largest integrated gas processing and petrochemicals company.
Ross has a financial holding in Navigator Holdings, a shipping firm which counts Sibur among its most important customers. Ross was a member of the board of directors of Navigator from November 2012 until November 2014.
Democrats have attacked Mr. Ross as a result of the revelation. Senator Richard Blumenthal accused of failing to disclose the information in filings he submitted before the Senate confirmation hearing for his cabinet position.
"I am astonished and appalled because I feel misled," Blumenthal told NBC News.
"Our committee was misled, the American people were misled by the concealment of those companies."
Mr. Ross, 79, is a billionaire investor who ran the bankruptcy advisory practice in the New York office of the Rothschild Group and later his own private equity fund. He divested himself of many investments before he became Commerce Secretary, but retained his interest in Navigator Holdings.
In response to the furor, Mr. Ross told the BBC that there is "nothing wrong with" his investment in Navigator Holdings, since the company is not on the list of entities sanctioned by the US. He also denied that he failed to disclose the information to the government when he was appointed to the cabinet.
US Commerce Sec Wilbur Ross tells me "there's nothing whatsoever improper about Navigator having a relationship with Sibur." #ParadisePapers— Kamal Ahmed (@bbckamal) 6 ноября 2017 г.
"There's nothing whatsoever improper about Navigator having a relationship with Sibur," Ross said.
"The fact that [Sibur] happens to be called a Russian company does not mean there's any evil in it."
"If our government decided to sanction [Sibur], that would be a different story," Ross said. "Our government has not made the determination to sanction them [Sibur], so there’s nothing wrong with that. Where there is evil, is the misstatement that I did not disclose those holdings in my original form."