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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Deripaska Reveals U.S. Trips, Silent on Visa Row

Tycoon Oleg Deripaska visited the United States twice this year, his spokesman said on Friday, declining to add if the oligarch had solved a U.S. visa dispute that had long annoyed top Russian officials.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that Deripaska met U.S. bankers during the trip ahead of a planned share sale of his firm RusAl, the world's top aluminum firm.

The spokesman for Deripaska said the magnate, once Russia's richest man and now the most indebted oligarch, went to the United States on business trips.

"Mr. Deripaska did visit the United States twice this year for business meetings. Mr. Deripaska has no travel restrictions to any country including the U.S.," he said.

He declined to comment on a report in the Wall Street Journal that claimed Deripaska's U.S. trips came under a secret arrangement with the FBI, whereby he was allowed to meet U.S. businessmen but also met FBI investigators.

U.S. officials have not explained why Deripaska had his visa revoked in 2007 and declined to comment on media reports that the FBI was probing Deripaska's business interest as part of investigations into money laundering and organized crime.

Deripaska has not faced any charges. He has denied any wrongdoing and blamed unnamed business rivals for orchestrating a campaign against him in the United States.

The U.S embassy in Moscow declined to comment and directed inquiries to U.S. State Department, which was not immediately available for comments.

Deripaska, whose fortune had been estimated at over $30 billion before the financial crisis wiped out most of this wealth, has said he would never do business in the United States and even had Prime Minister Vladimir Putin calling on Washington to explain its refusal to grant the visa.

The visa was revoked at a time when Russia-U.S. political relations were at a low point, complicating the task of resolving Deripaska's visa issues.

Deripaska built much of his empire during Russia's "aluminum wars" of the 1990s when he won control of some of the country's biggest smelters.

This year, Moscow and Washington said they aim to reset political ties, and President Barack Obama visited Moscow in July when he met Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev.

Deripaska has repeatedly denied media reports that he had acquired a major stake in U.S. carmaker GM.

His car producer GAZ is seeking a role as an industrial partner for GM's former unit, Germany's Opel, if a Russian-Canadian consortium of Magna and Sberbank is allowed to buy Opel.

Deripaska is also seeking to float the shares of RusAl in an initial public offering this or next year, and the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that he met top executives of Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs during his U.S. trips.