The government of Ukraine asked the US to sanction Pavel Fuks, an oligarch who paid Rudy Giuliani's company $300,000.
The request came over a year ago. So far, the US has done nothing. Fuks is reportedly living in London and appears to own property in Miami.
US inaction reflects a lack of coordination between allies over sanctions strategy, experts say.
In July 2022, the Ukrainian government sent a letter to the US Embassy in Kyiv with a simple request: Please impose economic sanctions on Pavel Fuks.
Fuks, a Ukrainian oligarch with close ties to Moscow, was linked to "corrupt economic practices, transnational crime, and adverse foreign influence," according to the letter. Ukraine sanctioned him in 2021, and now it was asking its most important ally to do the same.
But more than a year on, the US has not taken any public action on the request. Fuks, who also has close ties to former president Donald Trump and disgraced attorney Rudy Giuliani, remains free to transact business and own assets in the United States. He is now reported to be living the high life in the United Kingdom, where he is a permanent resident.
Insider reviewed a document with the sanctions request from Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and confirmed it with three officials, two American and one Ukrainian.
Shannon Shevlin, a Justice Department spokesperson, confirmed that the US has not sanctioned Fuks. She declined to respond to questions about the Ukrainian government's request.
Kateryna Roshuk, a spokesperson for Fuks, disputed the allegations made by the Ukrainian government's letter. "It is not true," she wrote, that Fuks is tied to organized crime and the Russian state security services.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to a request for comment.
Fuks' reported net worth of $270 million does not place him among the top ranks of oligarchs, many of whom have fortunes in the billions. And while Fuks made his money in Moscow finance and real estate, his current relationship with the Kremlin looks to be strained. Russia, too, has imposed financial sanctions on him, and a Moscow court has charged him in absentia with embezzlement. (Fuks' spokesperson disputed media reports of the embezzlement charge and claimed that Fuks was prosecuted for making pro-Ukraine statements.)
Still, Fuks' critics allege that he maintains ties to both Russian organized crime and the Kremlin's global spy network. Russia's security forces tasked Fuks with arranging for swastikas to be painted in his longtime stronghold of Kharkiv to help create a pretext for the 2022 invasion, according to allegations published by Rolling Stone. And contacts between Fuks and Russia's intelligence network have been the subject of reports circulated within the US intelligence community, Insider has learned.
Fuks' spokesperson disputed the Rolling Stone report, and provided a statement from Fuks saying that it "has nothing to do with reality" and "contains a huge amount of untrue, far-fetched facts that are damaging to my honor and dignity."
The Ukrainian government, meanwhile, has accused Fuks of furthering Russia's economic grip on the country's east. In May, it announced an investigation into Fuks for fraud and tax evasion.
It's not clear why the US has declined to act on Ukraine's request. But one former US official contacted by Insider said that Fuks' profile appears to meet the test for sanctions, and described the failure to sanction him as a "gross oversight."
"Pavel Fuks is the subject of multiple investigations," said the former official, whose identity is known to Insider but who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject matter. "He has been working for Russian intelligence and against U.S. interests and those of U.S. allies. His associates such as Ihor Kolomoisky and Andrii Telizhenko have already been sanctioned in the US. He should be sanctioned due to his role as a Russian asset and his affiliation with other sanctioned persons. It baffles me why this has not yet happened, and it is a gross oversight in my view."
Kolomoisky is a Ukrainian politician, and Telizhenko is a former Ukrainian diplomat. Both men were sanctioned by the US in 2021; Kolomoisky for "using his political influence and official power for his personal benefit" and Telizhenko for his alleged role in attempting to influence the 2020 US presidential election with misinformation. Telizhenko has reportedly worked as a consultant for both Fuks and Kolomoisky.
Olga Lautman, a fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, agreed with the assessment that Fuks has ties to Russian intelligence and organized crime. As a Moscow developer in post-Soviet Russia, she said, he wouldn't have been able to achieve his level of success without the help of both.
"It's the same thing with all the oligarchs," she said. "You give a cut of your revenue to the state security services in order to operate. And whatever information you happen to collect along the way, you hand it over."
If the reports of Fuks' Kremlin ties are true, they should be especially troubling in light of his long-term relationship with former President Donald Trump and his inner circle. Fuks has claimed that he met with Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump in 2006 in Moscow to pitch them on building a Trump-branded tower. That account was backed up by Felix Sater, a former Trump adviser, who told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he had "numerous" discussions about the possible deal in Moscow and New York.
The Moscow Trump Tower deal ultimately fell through, reportedly because Trump wanted $20 million, twice as much as Fuks was willing to pay. But that wasn't the end of Fuks' interest in Trump. In 2017, he traveled to Washington for Trump's inaugural after paying an associate $200,000 for high-level access to the festivities. (He wound up suing for a refund after the trip fell short of his expectations.)
Then, in 2018, Fuks paid Rudy Giuliani's company $300,000, ostensibly to consult on security measures for Kharkiv, one of the most corrupt cities in Ukraine, where Fuks wielded considerable influence over the mayor. But in an interview, Fuks described Giuliani's role as being that of a "lobbyist" for Kharkiv and Ukraine, and the payment coincides with Giuliani's efforts in Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe and Hunter Biden, and to pressure Ukrainian officials into opening an investigation. Two Giuliani associates involved with that effort were indicted for violating campaign finance laws.
Giuliani himself has not been charged for the work he did in Ukraine while serving, unpaid, as Trump's personal lawyer. But a whistleblower disclosure by Johnathan Buma, an FBI special agent, alleges that Giuliani's clout inside the Trump White House afforded him some measure of protection while he was under scrutiny by US prosecutors.
Much attention has been paid to fissures within the NATO-Ukraine coalition over weaponry and the Western controls placed on Russia's arms imports and oil exports. But the approaches that members of the alliance have taken to imposing economic sanctions on individuals have been wildly divergent as well. Fuks is one of hundreds of people who have been sanctioned by the Ukrainian government but are still able to do business in the US, according to an online database maintained by the Ukrainian government. A property associated with his family in Miami, valued at upwards of $10 million, remains in the hands of the same Cyprus-based shell company that purchased it in 2007.
Today, Fuks is reportedly living in London, where he was granted a special "golden visa" as a high-net-worth investor. Despite the United Kingdom's military and financial support for the Ukraine war effort, London has remained a haven for high-dollar oligarchs closest to Putin. Even some of those who have been sanctioned in the UK maintain lavish lifestyles, with authorities allowing some to spend more than $1 million each year on personal expenses.
"It's a problem that Western governments don't do much to coordinate their personal sanctions," Anders Aslund, a Swedish economist and expert on Russian oligarchs, told Insider. "The US sanctions very few big businessmen. The EU sanctions many more. Ukraine sanctions an enormous number. And if everyone has sanctioned you and you can't go anywhere else, you go to Dubai."
Read the original article on Insider