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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

American Banker On Visa Blacklist


An article should have said that the previous time officials revoked Boris Jordan' visa was in May 1996.

and that Boris Jordan is 31 years old.

U.S. investment banker Boris Jordan has been blackballed from Russia and placed on a so-called "alert list" of "undesirables," a Foreign Ministry official confirmed Tuesday.

The young-gun investment banker has been a champion of foreign investment in Russia since he arrived in 1992. Jordan recently took over as head of the Moscow-based MFK Bank, which will merge January with the Renaissance Capital Group investment bank he founded in 1995.

It is unclear why his visa was revoked. Passport control officials took away his visa once before, in August 1996, but he was able to get a new visa several weeks later. That case was never fully explained.

Analysts speculated that the latest incident might have been an indirect attack on Jordan's business and political allies, including Uneximbank President Vladimir Potanin and First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais.

A passport control employee at Sheremetyevo Airport seized the 37-year-old banker's documents last Friday as he departed for London. Jordan is still in Britain awaiting approval for a visa from the Russian Embassy.

It's not clear how long Jordan has been on the so-called undesirables list or how long he will be barred from Russia. Interfax quoted a Foreign Ministry source as saying such a ban could last from less than a year to five years, depending on the individual case.

Reuters also quoted a ministry spokesman saying such incidents could be connected to police investigations. "Based on materials passed to us by law-enforcement agencies, we have the right to revoke the visa," the spokesman said.

When Jordan lost his visa in 1996, Renaissance was locked in a highly publicized dispute with the management of the Novolipetsk Metallurgy Factory. Both MFK and Renaissance hold stakes in the enterprise and have been battling for board seats along with a group of foreign shareholders who control more than 40 percent of company stock.

Renaissance's fate now is closely linked to that of Potanin and Chubais, both of whom face fierce accusations from other Russian bankers that the government favored Potanin's Uneximbank in recent sell-offs of coveted state enterprises.

Uneximbank and Renaissance in July led the winning consortium in a controversial tender for 25 percent of the telecommunications holding company Svyazinvest. Though government agencies deemed the sale fair, bidders who lost cried foul, and accused the government of showing favoritism to Potanin, a former first deputy prime minister.

This time around, "state interests" are reportedly behind the decision to yank Jordan's visa, Interfax reported.

"This decision came from the responsible Russian state organs and which are concerned with business in Russia and Jordan's activities," said a spokesman in the Foreign Ministry press office, who declined to be identified.

He said Jordan "was not the first or the last" person to be included on the alert list, although he would not give other names, instances or reasons why a person would be included on this list. He also confirmed that the decision "did not come from this ministry."

"One of the routine checks at the airport is to look at the names on the visa against those who aren't supposed to come into the country," said a Renaissance spokesman. "Clearly if the Interfax story is correct, then this is not a technical problem but an active barring."

"We tend to view the event as a misunderstanding," Interfax quoted MFK spokesman Oleg Sapozhnikov as saying. "However, the final assessment will depend on how promptly Russian agencies issue a new visa. We hope the incident will not influence negatively the investment climate in Russia or slow down the flow of private capital into the country's economy."

Political analysts noted that rival media and banking moguls have been publicly slamming Potanin and Chubais this week, and suggested that Jordan may have been caught up in a battle between his allies and other tycoons such as LogoVAZ boss Boris Berezovsky and MOST Group head Vladimir Gusinsky.

"This new force is in fact an anti-Chubais and anti-Potanin coalition," said Sergei Markov, director of the Association of Political Consulting Centers. "Even this week this struggle continues. NTV [owned by Gusinsky] and ORT [partly owned by Berezovsky] spent a lot of time this week using very strong words attacking Chubais and Potanin."

"It's also possible Boris Jordan may have very tentative relations with Russian security," Markov said.

"The last time [in 1996] when Jordan was stopped, somebody told security, 'Don't touch him.' This time, Chubais and Potanin's rivals may see those influential forces are on the defensive."

Others said the insider politics that led to the blacklisting of Jordan could have larger implications for foreign investor sentiment towards Russia.

"It obviously speaks to a politics of an old time, of Soviet times, and in the era of liberalization and opening markets, one of the greatest impediments to that is people moving across borders," said one Western economist who asked not to be identified.

Renaissance officials were careful to avoid labeling Jordan's visa revocation as corporate warfare. But "this enters the realm of a third party acting out their own interests through their influence with various government bureaucracies," a Renaissance spokesman said.

"It's extremely damaging to Russia's image in the foreign investment community when these kind of innuendos are employed," he added.