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Monday
Nov062017

Trump's commerce secretary denies knowing of financial links to Russian oligarchs

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has denied having any knowledge of Russian President's Vladimir Putin's family connection to a Russian chemical company to which Ross reportedly has significant business ties, according to a statement provided to ABC News by the Department of Commerce.

Ross is one of a number of wealthy individuals and corporations whose use of offshore tax havens is detailed in the "Paradise Papers, a trove of documents obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and other media organizations.

According to The New York Times, who also obtained the 13.4 million documents, Ross owns part of a shipping company called Navigator Holdings that earns millions of dollars each year doing business with Russian energy giant Sibur, whose owners include Putin’s son-in-law.

The Guardian, who also obtained the papers, reported a 2013 deal valued at $226 million over 10 years between Navigator Holdings and Sibur to ship natural gas out of Russia.

Gennady Timchenko, a Russian oligarch with close links to Putin and another top owner of Sibur, has been under U.S. sanctions since 2014, according to the Times.

Ross's financial disclosure report filed with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics indicate Ross's investment in Navigator Holdings is valued between $2 million and $10 million.

There is no evidence of illegality in any of their dealings, according to the Times, but Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Ct., accused Ross of misleading him, the Senate Commerce Committee and the American people in a statement.

Blumenthal also called for an investigation into Ross's financial ties to the Russian energy company and its ownership.

The statement from the Department of Commerce said Ross "was not involved with Navigator’s negotiations to engage in business with Sibur, a publicly traded company, which was not under sanction at the time and is not currently. Moreover, Secretary Ross has never met the Sibur shareholders referenced in this story and, until now, did not know of their relationship."

The statement added: "The secretary recuses himself from matters focused on transoceanic shipping vessels, but has been supportive of the administration’s sanctions against Russian and other entities."

A department spokesperson did not respond when asked if the secretary planned to relinquish his investments.

ABC News has not reviewed the reported documents dubbed the "Paradise Papers" and cannot verify their authenticity.

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