WASHINGTON, November 25 (RIA Novosti) – An online petition asking the United States to overturn a travel ban on a Russian crooner with alleged mob ties has gathered more than 100,000 signatures, crossing the threshold required to receive a response from the White House.
The petition at the White House online initiative “We the People” had garnered 101,332 signatures as of Monday morning and called on Washington to removed popular Russian singer Grigory Lepsveridze, better known by the stage name Grigory Leps, from a US Treasury Department blacklist he was placed on last month.
The White House promises to respond “in a timely fashion” to any petition on the website that collects more than 100,000 signatures within 30 days of being published. The petition by Leps supporters crossed that threshold with a week to spare before the deadline.
The Treasury Department accused Leps of couriering money on behalf of purported organized crime figure Vladislav Leontyev and for alleged involvement “in various criminal activities, including narcotics trafficking.”
“This act caused a huge public indignation in Russia,” the petition states in slightly ungrammatical English, adding that the Treasury Department should provide evidence of Leps’ criminal ties “or lift sanctions and tender an apology.”
The Treasury Department accuses Leps of links to what it calls “the Brothers’ Circle, a Eurasian crime syndicate” allegedly comprising leading figures from Eurasian criminal groups chiefly based in the countries of the former Soviet Union, but which operate globally.
A total of 28 people and entities have now been blacklisted by Washington for links with the Brothers’ Circle, which is one of five purported transnational criminal organizations outlawed in the United States.
Leps, whose representatives and friends have called the allegations absurd, is a multi-award-winning Russian singer. The Russian version of Forbes magazine put his 2013 income at $15 million.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov last month said Leps is Russia’s “favorite singer” and that the crooner has been a “trusted” representative of President Vladimir Putin.