-- DAVOS — No one throws a party quite like an oligarch.
Oleg Deripaska, whose dealings with key figures in the ongoing probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election are under scrutiny, hosted an extravagant party on Friday night at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, featuring boats of caviar, magnum bottles of Dom Perignon and a performance by Grammy winner Enrique Iglesias.
Hours after President Donald Trump finished up his two-day powwow with the global elite and took off for Washington, many conference participants headed over to a Swiss chalet booked by the billionaire aluminum tycoon, who is considered by many to be a member of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. Hedge-funders, oil barons and corporate leaders gathered just a short walk from the main stage where Trump delivered a speech about his “America First” policy earlier in the day.
Deripaska, 49, is one of the richest men in the world. His relationship with Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort has been a point of interest in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian agents during the 2016 presidential election.
According to the Washington Post, Manafort sent an email to a former employee two weeks before Trump won the Republican nomination asking him to pass an offer of “private briefings” on the election to Deripaska. The email has been turned over to Mueller as evidence.
Both Deripaska and Manafort have denied any wrongdoing. Earlier this month, a firm owned by Deripaska filed suit against Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates alleging that they stole nearly $19 million from Deripaska.
The U.S. State Department revoked Deripaska’a visa in 2005 because of alleged ties to organized crime, according to the Wall Street Journal, and Deripaska is reported to be so closely aligned with Putin that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov lobbied the U.S. in 2016 to reinstate him.
“I’m not allowed in your country,” Deripaska told ABC News at the event, after declining an interview.
Deripaska’s party at Davos has become a must-have ticket at the annual forum, where the after-parties often overshadow the talks. This year’s theme was "Creating a shared future in a fractured world." Many attendees lined up at the door for a bash celebrating Russia’s promise, despite that country’s economic malaise.
Like many other promotional events at the forum, Deripaska’s party started with tributes to his aluminum company, Basic Element, and affiliated charities. Screens lining the walls showed slideshows of elephants for an Africa-based wildlife charity. On the center-stage, scenic images of Russia mixed with videos of workers operating machinery inside of his aluminum plant.
Doors opened at 8 p.m., and the party picked up as a troupe of Cossack dancers, dressed in traditional Russian garb, sang folk music.
Unlike the other staid cocktail receptions hosted by major banks like JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs, Deripaska’s packed event evolved into a nightclub scene, with the warm up act to Iglesias – a Russian pop singer – taking the stage. The party pulsed deep into the night and early morning hours, a clash of cultures on full display.
In prior years, luminaries like former British prime minister Tony Blair have attended, but the biggest name spotted in the throng this year was buttoned-up Wall Street Journal editor Gerry Baker.
“I was worried about being spotted here,” Baker said. “Russia is so taboo.”
Other notable guests included British financier Nat Rothschild, British politician Peter Mandelsohn, WPP CEO Sir Martin Stuart Sorrell, Gazprom executive Sergey Vakulenko and Pamona CEO Michael Granoff.
In the back of the chalet, grey-haired men in suits lounged on black leather couches separated from the dance floor by a velvet rope. Beautiful young women in pencil skirts and button-down shirts lined the dance floor.
Three security guards flanked Deripaska, monitoring the receiving line aimed at him. The music was blaring but Deripaska spoke softly while guests leaned in for a word. There didn’t appear to be much “collusion” here, at least. Trump was already jetting home, and if any members of his entourage did attend, they managed to escape notice.
The guests crowded the stage for Iglesias, who briefly acknowledged Deripaska. He finished his act at midnight with a “Spasibo” – Russian for “thank you.”
The vodka flowed. Deripaska drank. He danced. He pumped his fist.
Nearby, outside, protesters held up signs reading “Gangster’s paradise.”