Brexit “Bad Boy” Arron Banks’ partner Jim Mellon invested in Russian diamond company Alrosa in 2016…

Jim Mellon’s company Regent Pacific was also involved in a 2012 deal with Andrei Pannikov, a former KGB spy expelled from Sweden in 1988, who was also the reported co-founder of Lukoil which Cambridge Analytica pitched to in 2014.

Photo courtesy of Kim Alaniz via flickr

Stories seem to break daily about the number of meetings Brexit funder Arron Banks and the Leave.EU campaign had with Russia’s ambassador to the UK, Alexander Yakovenko. In a scoop from Carole Cadwalladr and Peter Jukes in The Observer this weekend, the number of meetings the Leave.EU campaign had with the Russian ambassador is now up to eleven. The last reported number of meetings had been seven. And for two years, Arron Banks claimed “his only contact with the Russian government consisted of one ‘boozy lunch’ with the Russian ambassador.”

In November 2015 when the Leave.EU campaign, largely funded by Arron Banks, officially launched, Russia’s ambassador to the UK, Alexander Yakovenko, introduced Siman Povarenkin to Arron Banks to discuss possible gold deals.

In addition to gold deals, the New York Times reported that Povarenkin offered Arron Banks a deal with Russian diamond company Alrosa. Although Banks said he did not pursue the deal, a few weeks after the June 2016 Brexit vote, Banks’ business partner Jim Mellon invested in Alrosa through his company Charlemagne Capital.

The Guardian reported that the 2016 Alrosa deal followed an earlier, 2013 deal, Jim Mellon’s company Charlemagne Capital participated in with Alrosa. New reporting reveals that Charlemagne was part of a consortium of companies organized in 2013 by the Russian Direct Investment Fund run by Kirill Dmitriev.

Arron Banks and Jim Mellon

Late last year investigative journalist James Patrick reported on Arron Banks’ link to Jim Mellon. Patrick foreshadowed recent news stories by questioning whether the millions Banks had used to fund Brexit, had come from loans from Mellon, who was “personally estimated to be worth £850 million” and “who made ‘spectacular amounts’ of money in Russia during the 1990s.”

Back in 2000 Jim Mellon had a reputation as a vulture — an article from the South China Morning Post described how Jim Mellon had been called “a pirate, a vulture, and a buccaneer. Britain’s Sir Chips Keswick declared him ‘gratuitously rude’, and his local detractors claim he’s unprincipled.”

In the 1990s his company Regent Pacific Group invested heavily in Eastern Europe and in Russia, and then in 2000 they turned their attention to investing in South Korea and in hi-tech companies in Asia. Despite various ups and downs, Mellon’s fortune is now estimated to be $1 billion.

Arron Banks and Jim Mellon have been business partners for a decade since they bought Manx Financial Group together, where Mellon is the chairman and, as of June 2018, Banks is the largest shareholder — owning 29% of the shares.

Manx Financial owns several subsidiaries including Conister Bank based in the Isle of Man, where Arron Banks is also the majority shareholder.

Mellon reportedly introduced Arron Banks to Nigel Farage and donated between £50,000 to £100,000 to support Brexit. However, as a resident of the Isle of Man which is not part of the UK, Mellon was not eligible to vote for the Brexit referendum. Arron Banks was the largest Brexit funder, and reportedly gave £12 million in cash, loans and services to pro-Brexit causes.

Not only do Banks and Mellon have a long business partnership and share pro-Brexit views, in an interesting coincidence, Jim Mellon was described in the early 1990s as one of the “Bad Boys of Emerging Markets,” a nickname that would later appear in a slight variation in the title of Arron Banks 2016 book “The Bad Boys of Brexit.”

Jim Mellon, Alrosa, Russian Direct Investment Fund

The New York Times reported that in January 2016 Arron Banks was involved in discussions about a deal with Russian diamond company Alrosa. An investment adviser working for Banks wrote to Russian businessman Siman Povarenkin that Banks’ team had “not forgotten about your Alrosa project.” Arron Banks denied pursuing the deal.

However, three weeks after the Brexit vote in 2017, it turned out that Arron Banks’ partner Jim Mellon had invested in Alrosa through his company, Charlemagne Capital.

The Observer reported “that investment followed an earlier one Charlemagne made in Alrosa in October 2013, when the Russian government sold 16% in the firm, more than half of which was bought by US institutions.”

New research reveals that when Jim Mellon’s company Charlemagne Capital participated in the 2013 Alrosa IPO, they did so as part of a consortium that was organized by the Russian Direct Investment Fund, run by Kirill Dmitriev.

The 2013 Alrosa IPO sold a 16% stake in the company for $1.3 billion. The Russian Direct Investment Fund’s 2013 annual report stated that the:

“RDIF has attracted a number of leading foreign investors including Templeton, East Capital, Union Investments, Capital International and Charlemagne into a consortium to invest in the IPO of ALROSA.”

The RDIF CEO Kirill Dmitriev has been covered widely in news stories related to the Mueller investigation, which is looking into a January 2017 meeting Erik Prince had in the Seychelles with Dmitriev.

In testimony to the House Intelligence Committee Erik Prince claimed he only learned about Dmitriev after he arrived in the Seychelles and they had a short encounter over a beer. However Prince’s testimony was called into question when George Nader, who had once consulted for Prince’s company Blackwater, told investigators he had met Prince a week before the Seychelles meeting and provided information on Dmitriev. Nader, who went to the Seychelles, said the meeting with Dmitriev was to discuss foreign policy and to establish a line of communication between the Russian government and the incoming Trump administration.

While Kirill Dmitriev met with Erik Prince, there is no evidence to-date that he or the Russian Direct Investment Fund had any other connection to the Trump campaign. However, it’s interesting to note that many of the names and deals mentioned in the RDIF’s 2013 annual report when Arron Bank’s partner Jim Mellon participated in the Alrosa deal, are names that have come up in reporting on the Trump-Russia story.

Other deals mentioned in the RDIF 2013 annual report included a co-investment fund established by the RDIF and the Abu Dhabi investment company Mubadala, a $5 billion investment from Abu Dhabi’s Department of Finance into RDIF infrastructure projects, and a joint investment by RDIF and Deutsch Bank in Rostelecom.

In //” target=”_blank” style=”color: rgb(65, 110, 210); max-width: 100%;” class=””>this article I reported on the many overlaps between the United Arab Emirates, which set up several investment deals with the RDIF in 2013, and Trump associates, including Erik Prince, who lived in the UAE and had done business there, George Nader who was a senior UAE advisor, and Elliott Broidy who has also done large business deals with the UAE.

The RDIF’s 2013 International Advisory Board also included Steven Schwarzman, the Chairman of Blackstone Group and a donor and close advisor to Trump and Leon Black, the Chairman of Apollo Global Management which made large loans to Jared Kushner’s family business.

Charlemagne Capital’s 2016 Post-Brexit Alrosa deal

After participating in the 2013 Alrosa IPO consortium organized by the RDIF, Jim Mellon’s company Charlemagne Capital participated in Alrosa’s 2016 deal. The July 2016 Alrosa offering of approximately $800 million was significant because it was the largest major privatization deal Russia had done in almost four years, and since sanctions had been imposed after Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

Sources close to the 2016 Alrosa deal said Oppenheimer Funds (part of Lazard Ltd), Mubadala Development Company, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and Charlemagne Capital took part in the offering. There were likely many additional investors, but it appears that Mellon’s Charlemagne Capital once again participated with several UAE investors as it had in 2013.

The Observer reported about the 2016 deal that Mellon’s representatives said “said he learned of the Alrosa deal from a journalist only last week and that, although he founded Charlemagne Capital and, at the time, owned 19% of it, he was a non-executive director, had no role in investment decisions and no knowledge of the acquisition.”

This is quite a remarkable statement from Mellon considering that Charlemagne had invested in Alrosa in 2013, and had been part of a consortium with the RDIF. The 2016 RDIF annual report notes that they were again actively involved in organizing investors in the 2016 privatization of the 10.9% stake in Alrosa, although they do not mention specific company names. It seems highly unusual that as the founder of Charlemagne, Mellon would not have known his company was involved in a second 2016 Alrosa deal, which happened to be the largest privatization deal in Russia in many years.

Regent Pacific 2012 deal with Andrei Pannikov

In addition to Alrosa, Jim Mellon invested in another deal alongside a Russian businessman from 2012 through 2016, which he also claimed to know nothing about.

A June 2018 story in The Sunday Times described how Jim Mellon’s company Regent Pacific — which he founded in 1990 and where he serves as the Non-Executive Chairman — had invested in a deal in 2012 with Russian businessman Andrei Pannikov.

Andrei Pannikov had co-founded Bayfield Energy Holdings, which was later renamed Trinity Exploration and Production. In 2013 Pannikov was the largest shareholder and owned 17.79%, and Jim Mellon’s Regent Pacific Group Limited owned 3.73% of the company. Jim Mellon’s Regent Pacific and Andrei Pannikov were both listed as shareholders of Trinity Exploration and Production in the 2016 annual report, but neither was listed in the 2017 annual report, indicating they may have both sold their shares in the company.

Mellon told The Sunday Times “that he had ‘no idea’ how the deal had come about and had ‘never met Andrei Pannikov’.”

Andrei Pannikov was a former KGB officer who was expelled from Sweden in 1988 for trying to recruit westerners for espionage. In addition to many other business ventures, Pannikov reportedly co-founded Lukoil, however there are few references to his work with Lukoil or reports of when he departed.

Lukoil has appeared recently in the Trump-Russia story, when it was reported that in 2014 Cambridge Analytica gave several briefings to the Moscow firm, which is now on the sanctions list. Alexander Nix, the CEO of Cambridge Analytica, was involved in discussions with Lukoil, and told colleagues that materials were being shared at the most senior levels with the CEO of Lukoil.

There is no evidence that Cambridge Analytica pursued any business deals with Lukoil. And there is no apparent connection between Cambridge Analytica’s Lukoil discussions and the co-investment made by Jim Mellon’s company Regent Pacific with Andrei Pannikov, who had reportedly co-founded Lukoil.

However, it is notable how certain people and companies reappear, perhaps coincidentally, in the Trump-Russia story.

There is also no evidence that Jim Mellon’s business partner Arron Banks had any involvement in the 2013 or 2016 Alrosa deals, or in the 2012 Regent Pacific investment with Andrei Pannikov.

However, many questions remain about Jim Mellon and Arron Banks close business ties, whether any of Mellon’s funds fed into Banks’ Brexit financing, and about both of their known and newly emerging connections to Russia.

Given Arron Banks track record of describing up to eleven encounters with the Russian ambassador to the UK as a single boozy lunch, and Jim Mellon’s denial that he was aware of the 2012 Pannikov deal or the 2016 Alrosa deal, it seems like there is growing evidence that these “Bad Boys” both have another thing in common — bad memories.

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