By Adrian Gatton and Robert Mendick
24 October 2008
Evening Standard (London)
BUSINESS secretary Lord Mandelson’s relationship with the Russian oligarch at the centre of the “yachtgate” scandal is detailed in secret government intelligence files, the Evening Standard can reveal.
A source has told the Standard that Lord Mandelson’s name features repeatedly in files held on Oleg Deripaska. The revelation will strengthen demands for Lord Mandelson to disclose all meetings and dealings with Mr Deripaska, Russia’s richest man.
The references to Lord Mandelson appear in files contained on a massive, covert joint intelligence database called Scope. Scope allows MI5, MI6, GCHQ and the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre to communicate with each other more quickly and securely than before. It enables the agencies to call up the latest intelligence within 15 minutes.
A source told the Standard: “Peter Mandelson appears in the Scope database. His name appears repeatedly in connection with the business dealings of Oleg Deripaska.”
There is no suggestion that there is a file specifically devoted to Lord Mandelson nor that he has acted improperly in meeting Mr Deripaska. UK intelligence agencies opened a file on Mr Deripaska following a series of claims over his alleged links to organised crime in Russia. US authorities are also said to be concerned about Mr Deripaska’s dealings.
The oligarch is banned from entering the US. At the request of the FBi in 2006, the US authorities revoked his visa and, despite lobbying, Mr Deripaska has failed to get it reinstated.
Mr Deripaska has never been convicted of any crime and denies all wrongdoing including any ties to organised crime. He insists his US ban is purely a bureaucratic error. Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker, who has tabled questions in the Commons asking if the British authorities were aware of US concerns when issuing Mr Deripaska a visa, said today: “There are now a series of questions that need answering over Lord Mandelson’s relationship with Mr Deripaska.”
It emerged today that Lord Mandelson and Mr Deripaska have known each other since at least 2004 – two years earlier than previously thought – when the two men were spotted dining in Moscow. Lord Mandelson had just been appointed a European Commissioner but had yet to take up the post. Lord Mandelson, appointed Business Secretary this month, has always insisted there was no conflict of interest in his friendship with Mr Deripaska. As European trade commissioner, he made decisions that may have had a direct impact on Mr Deripaska’s business dealings, mainly in aluminium in which he made his fortune.
This week hedge fund manager Nat Rothschild, a friend of both Lord Mandelson and Mr Deripaska, wrote a letter to The Times suggesting Tory shadow chancellor George Osborne had attempted to “solicit a donation” from the oligarch during a meeting on the Russian’s yacht, moored off Corfu.
The result was to turn attention to Mr Osborne’s dealings with Mr Deripaska. Mr Rothschild, the millionaire financier and scion of the Rothschild banking dynasty, has been working strategically since 2005 to help Mr Deripaska’s aluminium company Basic Element get a listing on a major stock exchange.
Mr Deripaska is convinced he is being smeared by Russian rivals. A source said: “There are a lot things flying around to blacken Mr Deripaska’s name. Claims about security service files cannot be proved one way or the other.”
No one at the business department was available for comment.
Follow-ups published here:
Mandelson named ‘repeatedly’ in spy files linking him to Russian oligarch Daily Mail 24 October 2008;
Lord Mandelson admits public were misled over relationship with Russian oligarch Daily Telegraph 25 October 2005