Will Russian tanks soon roll off the production line with German special alloys more easily and more resiliently? Will the Russian fighter jets soon be more agile and have a longer range thanks to German patents?
If the Federal Ministry of Economics gives the green light for an inconspicuous takeover – then: yes!
Because two of the most influential Russian oligarchs with their company Rusal (10 billion euros in sales, number 2 worldwide in aluminum) are reaching for the aluminum works Rheinfelden (Baden-Württemberg, 240 employees, 177 million euros in sales, 70 patents), a German medium-sized company, the market leader among other things in aluminum alloys for industry (cars) and armaments.
The oligarchs: Oleg Deripaska and Viktor Wechselberg. Both are considered close to the Kremlin and are on US sanctions lists, their US assets are frozen! And both are doing well in Europe.
► Breaking: Rusal, in which the Kremlin-affiliated oligarch Roman Abramowitsch was involved until 2003, is one of THE suppliers for the Russian arms industry. Experts fear that strategically important German know-how could be used for the Russian arms industry in the future.
Because the Rheinfelden aluminum works, which are in the insolvency proceedings, specialize in precisely this: lightweight aluminum components that are as hard as steel and weight-reduced armor. According to reports, Washington is also worried about the takeover of the German specialist company with its armaments expertise to the Kremlin oligarchs.
The Federal Ministry of Economics is examining the takeover, which was sealed in mid-February, but does not want to comment on the ongoing proceedings.
There is a lot to explain.
Oligarch Deripaska (who bought Stalin’s favorite dacha) is not just anyone: the US suspects him of being part of a money laundering system run by the Russian President and the Kremlin secret service. He was involved in a sex affair with political ties in Russia and is suspected of having been part of Russian interference in the 2016 US election.
Money flowed from Deripaska to Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manaford (convicted of tax evasion and bank fraud). In 2017 he bought a Cyprus passport and became an EU citizen.
Because of Deripaska’s proximity to the Kremlin, Rusal was also temporarily under US sanctions – until Deripaska formally separated from the majority in Rusal. Deripaska himself remained on the sanctions list – because of his companies’ involvement in the annexation of Crimea, support for Syria dictator Assad, cyber crime and the possible influence on Western democracies.
And co-owner Wechselberg has also been on the US sanctions list since 2018. He has become one of the most important investors in Switzerland (lives in the tax haven of Zug). Nevertheless, he was denied an account and assets (almost 2 billion Swiss francs) were frozen.
But so far none of this has been an obstacle to securing the Rheinfelden aluminum works, which are strategically important for Moscow, in the triangle of Germany, Switzerland and France.