The Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg was questioned by authorities recently in relation to Mueller’s Russia probe.
According to Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti, Michael Cohen received $500,000 from a Russian oligarch. Avenatti hinted that part of the $500,000 was used to reimburse Cohen for the hush money that he gave Daniels.
The Russian oligarch in question is billionaire Viktor Vekselberg. Vekselberg was questioned by investigators as he left a private plane on May 4. His electronics were searched, and the man was also questioned. The investigators worked for Mueller and was conducting research surrounding the Russia probe, detailed Yahoo News.
Avenatti’s report said that Vekselberg and his cousin Intrater “routed eight payments to Mr. Cohen through a company called Columbus Nova LLC…beginning in January 2017 and continuing until at least August 2017.”
Cohen said that the $130,000 that was used to pay off Stormy Daniels came from a home equity line that he accessed personally. But Avenatti is not so sure, saying that Cohen received funds from the Russian businessman “within approximately 75 days of the payment to Ms. Clifford.”
The company that paid Cohen, Columbus Nova, has more than $2 billion in assets and is a private equity firm.
Vekselberg is worth an estimated $13.5 billion and amassed his wealth by working in the gas and aluminum industries. He’s known to be close to President Vladamir Putin but has denied any claims that his business dealings have ever been tied to the Russian government. Vekselberg attended Trump’s inauguration using a ticket given to him by his cousin, Andrew Intrater. Intrater donated to Trump’s inauguration fund. Vekselberg was also seen at a dinner in 2015 with Putin and former national security advisor Michael Flynn.
Intrater and Vekselberg also have a history of investing in U.S. technology and media, detailed The Daily Beast. Also, Columbus Nova the company has invested in Gawker Media, a record label for Lyor Cohen from Def Jam, and Rhapsody, the music streaming service.
Additionally, Vekselberg owns 26.2 percent of Rusal, an aluminum producer. Although Vekselberg was sanctioned by the U.S. government in April, the U.S. Treasury Department has given people until October to detangle themselves from their relations with Rusal. The reasoning? “Given the impact on our partners and allies, we are…extending the maintenance and wind-down period while we consider RUSAL’s petition.”
Regardless of Avenatti’s report, investigators may have already discovered Cohen’s payment from the Russian oligarch already, as they have been combing through his bank records to find more information about the payout he made to Daniels.
Some believe that this is yet another example of how Cohen is possibly guilty of bank and wire fraud, and could cooperate with authorities to bring down Trump and his presidency. Others, like Trump, are more hopeful, saying that Cohen is loyal and would never betray Trump.
CNBC and NBC said that they have not substantiated Avenatti’s claims.
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