Venture Fund Boss Touts Ties to Siloviki

The Kremlin and an Israeli investment fund on Sunday sought to distance themselves from Oleg Shvartsman, an unknown Russian fund manager who claimed in an interview that he was a key money manager for the siloviki clan.

In an interview with Kommersant newspaper published Friday, Shvartsman said his firm, FinansGroup, benefited from links with the presidential administration, as well as internal and external intelligence services, in owning and managing $3.2 billion worth of assets.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the article "fake" and said it had "nothing to do with the truth."

Shvartsman runs FinansGroup subsidiary Finans-Trust, a venture capital fund that has won an auction to receive budgetary support from the Russian Venture Company, a state fund created in August to support new startups.

It is cooperating with the Israeli-based Tamir Fishman Russia Venture Capital Fund on the deal.

In a series of surprisingly open statements to Kommersant, Shvartsman said he had official sanction to conduct a "velvet reprivatization" to win resources and industries that were originally sold off at knockdown prices during staged auctions in the 1990s.

Shvartsman's comments to Kommersant were published in the form of a question-and-answer interview conducted at an investment conference in Palo Alto, California, the newspaper said.

He sought to temper that view in a telephone interview on Sunday, saying he believed in such a "velvet revolution," but that he enjoyed no links with those in power.

"We have an interest in undoing the processes of the 1990s, when strategic state resources fell for crazy money into the hands of the oligarchic clan," Shvartsman said.

"We have no direct links to state officials, but I do consider 'the Party' to be the siloviki clan headed by Igor Ivanovich Sechin.

"We have company development ideas that can be interesting for Rosoboronexport or any other serious state company. We have not worked directly with people in the administration, but we want to work in the interests of the government," he said.

Shvartsman said the Tamir Fishman fund, headed by Eldad Tamir, had offered to buy out his 20 percent stake in the fund's Russian arm.

Tamir disassociated himself from Shvartsman on Friday, saying by telephone from Israel that "we're totally against what he said."

"He has no operational role in the fund," Tamir added.

The Tamir Fishman Russia Venture Capital Fund, which was set up by the Russia Venture Company, manages 2 billion rubles ($81.6 million) on behalf of private investors and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

On Sunday, Kommersant's publishers also appeared to distance themselves from the article.

Demyan Kudryavtsev, general director of the Kommersant publishing house, said Shvartsman was an adventurer who "created a certain legend for himself to make money," Newsru.com reported.