August 20, 2018
Central Mass. in brief

Oxford manufacturing CEO listed for possible Russian sanctions

Photo | File
Valentin Gapontsev was able to move his name from Forbes' Russian billionaires list to its American billionaires list, but he still is listed by the U.S. Treasury as a Russian oligarch.

IPG Photonics' Chairman and CEO Valentin Gapontsev, a Worcester resident and an American citizen, has been listed as a Russian oligarch and operative by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

The Treasury, at the behest of Congress, compiled a list of Russian political operatives and oligarchs in January. Included on the oligarch list at No. 27 out of 96 wealthy Russians is Gapontsev, who founded the Oxford laser manufacturer in 1990.

The list is required by the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017 that imposed sanctions on Iran, North Korea and Russia. The law requires the Treasury to submit a report on the effects of imposing sanctions on Kremlin-linked entities and Russian businesses in the U.S.

In an Aug. 3 Washington Post story, the Russia-educated Gapontsev said he doesn't belong on that list, which is identical to a Forbes magazine list of Russian billionaires the financial publication released in March 2017.

A spokesman for IPG Photonics denied WBJ's request for comment for this story.

Gapontsev, a dual citizen, persuaded Forbes to move him to the list of American billionaires, according to the Washington Post.

According to his Forbes profile, Gapontsev's net worth is $2.2 billion. He owns about $1.25 billion in shares of his company, which took in $1.4 billion in 2017 revenue.

Congress is taking steps toward blacklisting people on the oligarchs list from entering the U.S. and their assets could be frozen if they played a role in election interference, the Post reported.

In April, New Hampshire Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Sheldon Whitehouse sent letters to eight major American and European financial institutions requesting details on actions taken following the publication of the oligarchs list.

The senators asked the banks whether they conducted any reviews of accounts, loans or other services performed for anyone on the list.

"Given their wealth and relationship to the Russian state, many oligarchs in Russia either wield or are susceptible to considerable political influence," the senators wrote.

It's unclear what relationship, if any, Gapontsev has with Russian officials, but he did tell the Washington Post former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev asked him to move IPG Photonics to a suburb of Moscow, but the billionaire kept his company headquartered in Oxford.

At least three members of Congress have appeared to come to Gapontsev's aide. The Massachusetts delegation of James McGovern, Richard Neal and Katherine Clark penned Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin asking if Gapontsev's name will be taken off the list.

The lawmakers pointed to Gapontsev now being listed by Forbes as an American billionaire rather than his native Russia.

"Does the Treasury Department intend to correct or update it publicly posted … list of Russian oligarchs as its source material changes, namely the Forbes listing of global billionaires?" the representatives asked.

As of Aug. 14, the Treasury had not responded to the letter, according to McGovern's office.

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