Leigh Sprague Stole $5 Million From The Russian Oligarchy and Lived To Tell About It

Leigh E. Sprague has 44 months left on a 50 month sentence in a U.S. Federal Prison. The Wisconsin native/former New York and international lawyer also owes $1.4 million in restitution. However, truth be told, his current situation is far better than some of the alternatives he was facing. In fact, he probably could not be luckier, at least for the time being. Considering what he did and who he did it to, Sprague could be in a much worse situation.

The What

From June of 2010 until late 2013, Sprague stole money from from one of the most prominent, powerful and influential men in Russia, a sum amounting to over $10,000,000, while working in Russia as the Head of Corporate Finance for one of the largest industrial companies in the world. Once it was discovered what he was doing, Sprague fled back to the United States leaving his wife and children behind. Upon his arrival, Sprague attempted to transfer $5,000,000 from a Swiss bank account in his employer´s name to an account in the States, then wire the money on to an account in Belize.

However, his plan was foiled when his former employer, with the help of representatives from Goldman Sachs, realized what he was attempting to do. Sprague was subsequently arrested, charged and eventually pled guilty in late 2013 to Title 18, Section 2314 of the United States Code: transporting stolen money in foreign commerce.

Considering who Sprague robbed, it is fair to wonder if his life will be in danger once he gets out.

The Who

While the sum of money is eye-popping, what made Sprague´s crime so brazen is who he stole the money from, Oleg Deripaska. One of the most influential men in the Russian Government, Deripaska is also one of the wealthiest men in the world. Deripaska is the founder and owner of Basic Element, a heavy metals company with $45 billion in assets in Russia, Asia, Europe, Australia and Central and South America. In 2012, Basic Element grossed $27 billion.

He is also the CEO of En+ Group which owns EuroSibEnergo, Russia´s highest producing, independently owned, power company. Deripaska is the CEO of United Company RUSAL, the world´s largest aluminum company as well. Deripaska is the chairman of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Advisory Council (ABAC). He is the V.P. of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs.

Deripaska: The Aesop Fable 

Deripaska is on countless other boards and affiliated with a variety of other business ventures around the world, but what makes the man most impressive is what he came from, virtually nothing. Deripaska was born in Nizhny Novgorod, a small town in the North Caucasus ten hours by train east of Moscow. He grew up working hard on his parents farm which consisted of some livestock, an open well and no plumbing. Simply, he was a peasant (1).

After excelling in preparatory school, he graduated with honors from Moscow State University with a degree in physics. However, Deripaska quickly realized there was little chance of accumulating wealth by working in his chosen field of study, so he made two decisions: begin trading metals and return to school to study economics.

In a single year, while also attending school, Deripaska came to own one-fifth of the Siberian Aluminum Factory´s stock. Also while studying, he became the general manager of the Sayanogorsk Smelter. Upon graduating, Deripaska became the CEO of the Sibirsky Aluminium Investment Industrial Group, the company that later evolved into Basic Element.

Deripaska: Smoke Usually Means…

While most of the facts about Deripaska´s past are buried, there are affiliations, associations and undertones that suggest the man is capable of bullying and intimidation at the least and — considering the company he keeps — much more if required.

During his time as the majority owner of Siberian Aluminum Factory, Deripaska was able to increase production, prevent worker strikes and, “crush the local mafia (2),” though it is unclear how he was able to do the ladder.

A 2007 article in the Standart News made it clear that Deripaska controlled former Minister of Strategic Planning of Israel, Avidor Lieberman which led to, “violent criticism from Eskin & Co,” that, “the Russian mafia’s poodle sells out Israel’s land” (3).

In 2010, when business associate and Israeli citizen Michael Cherney was indicted for laundering 4 million euros between 2001 and 2004, “Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska admitted to having connections with the Russian mafia” (4). Deripaska admitted knowing and paying Russian mafia bosses, though he insisted that the money was used to protect his business, not to launder money.

However, this was not the first time Deripaska was accused of business dealings with shady individuals. Deripaska is close friends with Montenegro Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic (5). Of Montenegro, it is said, “it is the one country [in the Balkans] that isn’t just bedevilled by corruption, it’s a kleptocracy.”

The When

When Leigh E. Sprague is released from prison — even though $8.5 of the $10,000,000 total was recovered — it will be interesting to see if he still has anything to answer for. While stealing from senior citizens and credulous investors is not taken lightly, most of the Enron, Worldcom, Tyco, HealthSouth, Freddie Mac, American Insurance, Lehman Brothers, Bernie Madoff, and Saytam executives that made millions by losing billions for others can rest assured that they will be safe having paid their debt to society.

On the other hand, most of the investors defrauded by those devils do not hang out with the likes of Vladimir Putin, Nat Rothchild, and Milo Djukanovic nor are they married to the daughter of the ex-Russian President´s Chairman of the Presidential Executive Office.

It is difficult to understand how Sprague has come to the conclusion that all has been forgiven and forgotten. Speaking of the hours before he fled Russia, Sprague wrote, “after he discovered my deception he sent his multitude of enforcers—attorneys as well as thugs—after me.”

On one hand, maybe time heals all wounds. On the other, maybe Deripaska thinks revenge is a dish best served cold.