Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) – a sovereign wealth fund created by the Russian government to attract investors to Russia – reportedly has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and his family.
He was a relatively unknown figure outside the business world before revelations arose about a meeting with members of the UAE’s ruling elite and mercenary billionaire Erik Prince in Seychelles in January 2017, just before President Donald Trump assumed office.
George Nader, a convicted child molester and adviser to the UAE’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan – often called MBZ – who attended the Seychelles gathering, has reportedly testified to a grand jury that Dmitriev met Prince in Seychelles.
The testimony came in relation to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between Trump’s election campaign team and Russian officials.
UAE investment with the RDIF
The UAE’s sovereign investment fund, Mubadala Development Company, is headed by bin Zayed and has invested alongside the Russian fund since as early as 2013.
Mubadala and RDIF jointly invested $2bn – $1bn each – in an initiative “to pursue opportunities in Russia”, focusing on “long-term investment opportunities”, Mubadala’s website says.
Abu Dhabi’s Department of Finance committed to investing a further $5bn in Russian infrastructure in partnership with the RDIF in 2013. Dmitriev and bin Zayed met to sign a memorandum of understanding in September of that year.
Following the billion-dollar co-investments, Dmitriev became a frequent visitor to the United Arab Emirates, reports say.
Dmitriev and Russian President Vladimir Putin are reportedly linked through business relationships.
Dmitriev’s wife, Natalia Popova is the deputy director of technology firm Innopraktika, which is headed by Putin’s youngster daughter, Katerina Tikhonova. Dmitriev is a member of the firm’s board.
News outlets previously quoted sources as saying that Dmitriev used his wife’s alleged personal connections to Tikhonova to advance his career.
In a statement to Al Jazeera, the RDIF said Dmitriev was a “leading private equity professional” at the time of his appointment as head of the Russian sovereign investment fund.
The RDIF also said Popova and Tikhonova were “not acquainted” when Dmitriev was appointed.
Prince, founder of controversial private military firm Blackwater, has admitted meeting Dmitriev for a drink in Seychelles in testimony to the US Congress (PDF) but denied it was in any official capacity.
The former Navy SEAL said he donated money to the Trump campaign and informally offered advice on US policy in the Middle East.
Prince told a congressional inquiry he and Dmitriev met on the recommendation of the UAE’s officials, but mostly discussed private business investments for about 30 minutes over a beer.
“They said, ‘Oh, there’s this Russian guy that’s also here to see us. Might be useful for you to meet him,'” Prince recounted the Emiratis telling him.
The conversation with Dmitriev focused on “trade matters” and possible US-Russian cooperation to defeat “Islamic terrorism”, he added.
Other articles in this series
Mueller’s Web: The UAE-Trump Connection, an Al Jazeera interactive displaying connections between major players related to Trump and the UAE.