Reuters Exclusive: American banker and Putin ally dealt in access and assets, emails reveal

15:03, 10 June 2019
World
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REUTERS

A senior American banker once secretly awarded a shareholding in powerful Moscow investment bank Renaissance Capital to one of Vladimir Putin’s closest friends and brokered meetings for the friend with top U.S. foreign policy officials a decade ago, emails show.

The American banker, Robert Foresman, currently vice chairman at UBS investment bank in New York, held a series of prominent roles in Moscow's financial world, Reuters said.

He headed Dresdner Bank's investment banking operations in Russia in the early 2000s, served as Renaissance Capital's vice chairman from 2006 to 2009, and then led Barclays Capital's Russia operation until 2016. Putin's friend, Matthias Warnig, sits on the boards of several Russian state-controlled firms.

A deeply religious conservative, the blue-eyed, curly-haired U.S. banker, has said it has always been his calling to be a peacemaker between the two nuclear superpowers.

Now, a cache of Renaissance Capital emails from 2007 to 2011 reveal new details about the close relationship Foresman cultivated within Putin's circle over the years and how he leveraged these ties to win deals. The emails, which were reviewed by Reuters, also shine a light on the part played by Western bankers in the heady days of Moscow's 2007 economic boom, when the Kremlin was moving to take over ever greater swathes of the Russian economy.

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The emails were exchanged among Renaissance Capital's top executives and between the bank and its clients and business associates before ownership of the bank changed hands in 2012. They have figured in a long-running legal battle over the controversial takeover by the Russian state of Mikhail Khodorkovsky's Yukos oil firm in the mid 2000s, and are reported here for the first time.

Foresman's relationship with the Kremlin was more complicated – and more mercantile – than that of peacemaker, these emails show. They offer insight into how Foresman and his colleagues sought to help the Kremlin pull off, and profit from, its dismantlement of Yukos at a time when analysts say Moscow was seeking international legitimacy for the politically-charged process. They also show how the American banker guided Warnig around Washington foreign policy circles during the Bush and Obama administrations.

In a statement to Reuters, Foresman said he considered it inappropriate to comment on matters that may relate to proceedings before the English court – a reference to a civil lawsuit in the UK – but he refuted any suggestion of wrongdoing. Renaissance Capital's new management declined to comment.

Foresman's Moscow connections gained fresh attention recently when the banker was named in special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. According to the report, Foresman was among the many influential people who reached out to Donald Trump when the future American leader's campaign was building momentum.

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