WASHINGTON, July 31 (RIA Novosti) – Russian billionaire Gennady Timchenko is seeking US government financing to purchase American-made luxury jets and has hired powerful Washington lobbyists to assure officials that his wealth is legitimate and not tied to his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Reuters reported Wednesday.
Timchenko, co-owner of leading oil trader Gunvor, has hired the lobbying firm Patton Boggs to advocate on his behalf to US officials as his luxury charter jet firm seeks to buy aircraft from Gulfstream Aerospace using funding from the government-backed US Export Import Bank, Reuters reported.
This effort includes addressing what the lobbyists call “unfounded allegations” that he is one of a group of businessmen who have amassed fortunes thanks to their ties to the Russian president, Reuters reported, citing emails and documents related to the lobbyists’ work for Timchenko, as well as interviews with US officials and Patton Boggs.
“We know you have concerns about Gennady,” Patton Boggs partner Laurence Harris wrote in a May email requesting a meeting with a US government official, Reuters reported. “We’d like to talk to you about this.”
Harris wrote in the email that he is representing Airfix Aviation, a Finnish luxury air travel company owned by Timchenko that is seeking financing from a US bank to purchase up to 11 aircraft from the American luxury aircraft maker Gulfstream Aerospace, a US official who spoke to the lobbyists was quoted by Reuters as saying.
Timchenko holds a Finnish passport.
Patton Boggs did not immediately respond to a request for comment from RIA Novosti on Wednesday. But the company confirmed to Reuters that it had held preliminary talks with US Export-Import Bank about a loan guarantee for one jet that Airfix has ordered from Gulfstream.
The firm also confirmed that its lobbyists had met on Timchenko’s behalf with officials from two US Senate offices and with a congressional policy advisor, Reuters reported.
The lobbying effort comes two years after a US subsidiary of Geneva-based Gunvor was served a subpoena by US federal prosecutors in connection with documents related to oil-trading activities, Bloomberg reported earlier this year, citing a Gunvor prospectus dated May 10.
Three employees of the Delaware-incorporated subsidiary, Castor Americas, were served with subpoenas, as was a Gunvor employee, Bloomberg reported. The US Department of Justice has not publicly commented on the investigation.
An information sheet prepared by Patton Boggs describes Timchenko as “a global investor who seeks to further invest in the United States – investments that could increase US exports and US jobs,” Reuters reported Wednesday.
“Mr. Timchenko has found himself at the receiving end of unfounded allegations that have triggered caution on his part in further investments in the United States,” the lobbyists added in the information sheet, according to Reuters, which said it had seen the document.
A US official said on condition of anonymity that Timchenko’s air company is seeking financing to purchase 11 Gulfstream jets, which range from $15.7 million to $64.5 million, Reuters reported.
Forbes Magazine in March estimated Timchenko’s fortune at $14.1 billion, placing him at No. 62 in the list of the world’s richest individuals and No. 8 among Russian billionaires.
Registered in Cyprus and with its headquarters in Geneva, Gunvor is the world’s fourth largest commodity trader and exports about 30 percent of Russia’s crude oil.
Both Timchenko and Putin have denied reports that the two are “friends” and that Gunvor, which Timchenko co-founded with Swedish businessman Torbjörn Törnqvist in 2000, has benefited from Kremlin connections.
Born in Soviet Armenia, Timchenko was educated in St. Petersburg, where he and Putin say they met during the twilight of the Soviet Union. Timchenko told the Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung in April that the two men met in 1989 or 1990, and that they were both involved with the same judo club.
Putin has publicly said that he has no business relationship with Timchenko.
“All his business projects are his own business,” Putin said in September 2011, when he was serving as Russia’s prime minister. “I have never interfered in it and have no such desire. I hope that he will not poke his nose into my business, either.”
In February of that year, a Moscow court awarded Timchenko 200,000 rubles ($6,780) in a libel suit against Kremlin critics Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov, who claimed the businessman’s wealth stemmed from his ties to Putin.