Russia is believed to have attempted to influence the U.S. presidential elections by disseminating ads over social networking sites. However, it seems that the Russian influence is not just limited to ads on Facebook and Twitter. The Guardian, citing leaked documents, claims that two powerful corporate houses in Russia funded investments in both social networks.
DST Global funded by Russian companies
According to The Guardian, two state-owned Russian companies, Gazprom and VTB Bank, funded investments in Facebook and Twitter through Russian-born tech personality Yuri Milner’s investment company, DST Global. Milner previously held a significant stake in Facebook and Twitter, making him one of the most powerful businessmen in the world. Although those stakes were sold several years ago, Milner continues to invest in various other large technology companies, the media outlet reports.
The Guardian adds that Milner even holds a stake in a real estate project that was founded and partially owned by Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and a White House adviser. When Kushner was brought onboard with the Trump administration, he reportedly did not disclose any holdings in the project.
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Even though the leaked papers do not indicate that the Kremlin had any control over Twitter or Facebook or received any insider information about the companies after holding the positions, the disclosure does demonstrate that Russia has been interested in the affairs of the United States.
Alexander Vershbow, U.S. ambassador to Russia under George W. Bush and to NATO under Bill Clinton, told The Guardian that Russian state institutions had been deployed by President Putin regularly for political gains. According to Vershbow, the latest findings could intensify the debate over how Moscow may be disrupting U.S. democracy and public debate, according to the media outlet
“There clearly was a wider plan, despite Putin’s protestations to the contrary,” he said.
Facebook released a statement clarifying that DST Global was a passive investor and does not have any voting rights or a board seat. Further, the statement made it clear that the investment was made eight years ago, and DST Global had sold its holdings five years ago when Facebook went public, according to Recode.
Twitter says it reviewed all its investors before it went public “as a matter of policy.”
Paradise Papers leak reveals secrets of rich and powerful
The revelation comes after over 13.4 million leaked documents called the Paradise Papers were reviewed by the Guardian, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and other media outlets. These leaked documents suggest that more than 120 politicians and even the Duchy of Lancaster, which provides income to Queen Elizabeth, have been making secret deals around the globe with big business houses. The Paradise Papers are bitter evidence of how the rich and powerful are locking in their wealth with the help of offshore accounts. German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which is the same publication behind the Panama Papers, was the first to get the documents.
The Paradise Papers also referenced Apple, alleging that the iPhone maker is seeking a new tax shelter around Europe and the Caribbean. In a leaked email, Apple lawyers are allegedly seen inquiring about if moving to one of six tax havens would allow its Irish subsidiary to “conduct management activities … without being subject to taxation in these jurisdictions.”