The Panama Papers

Revealed: A Trump PAC founder and a Republican congressman are connected to a Russian operation to drop the Magnitsky sanctions.

Putin’s laundered billions, Trump and the GOP.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Orange County in Southern California is the terrain of limousine liberals but the images of surfers and socialites in beach towns like Laguna and Newport you see on TV belie the reality of this region. With a sprawling military industrial complex and a large libertarian community, Orange County has bucked the trend of California’s otherwise very left-leaning politics. It is, in fact, one of the most conservative districts in the country.

Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) has represented the area since 1989, the last four years from his home base of Huntington Beach in the 48th district. It’s an open secret there and inside the beltway, Rohrabacher is “Vladimir Putin’s man” in Congress.

“I think Putin pays Rohrabacher and Trump,” House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told his colleagues in a leaked private conversation obtained by the Washington Post, adding after the laughter: “Swear to God.”

Revealed: How sanctions, Russian money and the GOP are connected.
Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) is known as “Putin’s man in Moscow”. He was part of a Russian operation against the Magnitsky sanctions.

Rohrabacher has known Putin for decades

Rohrabacher has been friends with Putin since the early 90’s when he famously lost a drunken arm-wrestling match with the then deputy mayor of St. Petersburg who was visiting Washington.

Five years ago, the FBI warned Rohrabacher he was being targeted by the Kremlin as an agent of influence. The congressman rebuffed the warning but his legislative record appears to back up concerns he’s somehow compromised.

Rohrabacher sided with Russia when Moscow invaded Georgia and opposed U.S. support of Ukraine. In September, he called the White House to push for a pardon of Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, who released the hacked DNC emails last year.

But nothing gets Putin and Rohrabacher’s back up more than the Magnitsky Act. The 2012 sanctions bill was enacted in response to the prison murder of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who had exposed a scheme by Putin and his oligarchs to embezzle $230 million stolen from taxpayers.

Revealed: How sanctions, Russian money and the GOP are connected.
Putin’s strike team on Magnitsky: Russian lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin (left) who may have ties to Russian intelligence and lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya (right).

Vladimir Putin launched an all out effort to end Magnitsky Sanctions with Rohrabacher and a web of Russian operatives.

Since then, Putin has waged a diplomatic war to get the sanctions dropped. First, he banned U.S adoption of Russian children. He then put together a strike team – lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and former intelligence officer Rinat Akhmetshin – to work on getting the sanctions lifted and he reached out to his old friend Dana Rohrabacher.

In 2014, Rohrabacher and his assistant Paul Behrends took a secret three-day trip to Moscow. In the months following their return colleagues noticed a softening of their position on Russia.“I don’t know why,” a colleague told Politico. “I know that he and Dana have traveled to Moscow, but how he got turned around on this issue, I have no idea.”  Behrends also became the chief congressional contact for Veselnitskaya and Akhmetshin (he has since been fired from his post on the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee).

A year later, a whistle-blower leaked a full registry of off-shore companies known as the Panama Papers which exposed the corrupt dealings of world leaders from Argentina, Brazil, Iceland, South Africa, Qatar, UAE and Russia.

The papers exposed Putin’s theft of $2 billion stolen from Russians and transferred into offshore companies registered to his friends. The Magnitsky Act means those assets could be frozen. Putin is enraged by the sanctions because they hit his own personal fortune held in these offshore holdings.

Revealed: How sanctions, Russian money and the GOP are connected.
Yuri Vanetik, a mysterious Soviet-born funder and Republican official posts selfies with Republican leaders on social media. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Former House Speaker John Boehner, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Rudy Giuliani (left to right).

Yuri Vanetik, a mysterious Soviet-born funder connects the anti-Magnitsky effort to Donald Trump. 

The other connective tissue between Rohrabacher and Russia’s efforts to end the Magnitsky sanctions is Yuri Vanetik, a self-proclaimed financier and Republican official. Vanetik is a Rohrabacher donor and lives in California but was still somehow appointed the National Finance Co-Chair of the New York GOP in March..

Vanetik was born in Soviet Ukraine in 1970 and claims his family fled to the U.S. to avoid “political persecution”. This is striking because his father Anatoly was a major political and business figure in the Soviet Union working directly with the Russian Oil Ministry even after the fall of the USSR. In 2014, Yuri penned an op-ed calling for the U.S. to drop sanctions against Russia.

He claims a career in law but we couldn’t find any records of him being admitted to the bar in California, although he was licensed in Pennsylvania. He’s been embroiled in two lawsuits for allegedly defrauding investors in of Valueluck and Private Equity Management Group.

In February last year, Vanetik and several business leaders started the “Great America PAC” to help elect Trump. The PAC was well-funded with $26 million and was willing to accept donations from anyone, no matter how legal.

An undercover investigation by the Telegraph exposed PAC officials accepting a donation offer from reporters posing as Chinese donors, in exchange for implied promises from the new administration (video below).

Vanetik also has financial ties to both Russia and Trump properties. In 2007, Vanetik bought a unit at the Trump Ocean Tower in Panama City. Trump Towers are viewed as a vehicle for Russians to launder money with Trump skimming off the top by charging overblown “management fees”. In 2011, Vanetik invested in Terra Resources, a U.K. based company with plans to develop Russian oil fields.

Revealed: How sanctions, Russian money and the GOP are connected.
Yuri Vanetik posts a photo from an April 2016 Berlin dinner with an anti-Magnitsky film director Andrei Nekrasov (middle left) and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (middle right).

Rohrabacher and Vanetik traveled to Europe to meet an anti-Magnitsky filmmaker and a Russian operative. They also received a “confidential” briefing from the Kremlin. 

Rohrabacher and Vanetik traveled to Berlin together in April and posted an Instagram photo of their dinner with anti-Magnitsky documentarian Andrei Nekrasov.

During the same trip to Berlin, Rohrabacher met Putin lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin in a hotel lobby. When asked about Akmetshin’s possible ties to Russian intelligence agencies, Rohrabacher told CNN: “I would certainly not rule that out.”

Rohrabacher and Behrends also traveled to Moscow as part of a congressional delegation where they received a “confidential” Russian document alleging the world was wrong about Magnitsky. The Kremlin also gave the Republican duo access to the above mentioned Russian documentary about Magnitsky. The document and film claimed human rights activist and Magnitsky sanctions champion Bill Browder lied about Putin’s money laundering.

Weeks later, Akhmetshin and a colleague showed up unannounced at Rohrabacher’s congressional office. “They said they were lobbying on behalf of a Russian company called Prevezon and asked us to delay the Global Magnitsky Act or at least remove Magnitsky from the name,” a congressional staffer told the Daily Beast.

On June 9, Akhmetshin and Veselnitskaya visited Trump Tower where they met Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner for a meeting arranged to hand over dirt on Hillary Clinton to the Trump Campaign.

A few days later, Rohrabacher attempted to stage a “show trial” of Bill Browder in the form of a congressional hearing. “During the hearing, Rohrabacher had planned to confront Browder with a feature-length pro-Kremlin propaganda movie that viciously attacks him—as well as at least two witnesses linked to the Russian authorities, including lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya,” according to the Daily Beast.

When senior Republicans caught wind of the plan, the hearing was cancelled. Browder instead later testified in front of a full committee. The treasury and state departments are now implementing the sanctions.

Vladimir Putin’s extraordinary efforts to get the Magnitsky sanctions dropped using a web of Russian and Republican operatives, and their vocal opposition to the Panama Papers, raises a tantalizing question: Just how much looted Russian cash is stashed in the shell companies detailed in the Panama Papers and is it connected to Veselnitskaya, Akhmetsin, Vanetik and Rohrabacher themselves?

This post was written with valuable research from concerned citizens who are working to expose this issue.

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