Facebook and Twitter both count Russian government-linked business among their former investors.
The revelation, confirmed in documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), shows that two Russian firms, both linked to the Kremlin, made “major” investments in the social media companies through a well-known tech fund.
In both cases, the Russian firms divested their holdings in the two companies shortly after each company’s respective initial public offerings. The ICIJ report also notes that “there is no indication” Kremlin interests wielded any influence inside the two companies, nor did they receive any inside info as a result of their investments.
The $191 million Twitter investment in 2011 came by way of DST Global, which received the money from the Kremlin’s majority-owned VTB Bank. Notable here is DST’s billionaire founder, Yuri Milner, who — along with other partners — saw big returns when they divested shortly after Twitter’s IPO.
Milner’s name may be familiar to some of you regular Mashable readers. The Russian billionaire has an investment interest in space travel, and has in the past teamed up with physicist Stephen Hawking to fund an interstellar journey and a search for extra-terrestrial life.
DST Global also owned a piece of the aforementioned Facebook investment, alongside a subsidiary of the Russian energy firm Gazprom. Much like VTB Bank, the Russian government owns a majority stake in Gazprom.
The ICIJ report notes that Milner’s investments in Facebook and Twitter were previously known, but the connection to Vladamir Putin’s administration is new information. Both social media companies claim they “had properly reviewed Milner’s investments.”
It’s important to note that these investments were sold off years ago, before Russia’s secretive efforts to undermine the 2016 U.S. election were in place. Still, it’s a surprise now to learn that Putin had indirect business interests in two social media companies that played key roles in Russia’s efforts to disrupt the election.
These revelations are especially noteworthy now, just days after Facebook and Twitter, along with Google, testified before Congress on the subject of 2016 election tampering.
The new ICIJ report is just a small piece of a large-scale investigation, dubbed the “Paradise Papers.” The new investigative effort explores offshore investments on the global stage, following the international journalism network’s look at global corruption in 2016’s “Panama Papers.”