The commerce secretary, Wilbur L. Ross Jr., indicated on Monday that he would probably sell his stake in a shipping company with business ties to Russian President Vladimir V. Putin’s inner circle, amid fallout from publication of a vast leak of offshore files that documented the connection.
Mr. Ross retained an investment in the shipper, Navigator Holdings, even as he sold off numerous other holdings to join the Trump administration, information that did not emerge publicly during his confirmation proceedings.
Among Navigator’s biggest clients is Sibur, a Russian energy firm whose owners include Gennady Timchenko, an oligarch who is a friend of Mr. Putin’s and is subject to United States sanctions, and Kirill Shamalov, Mr. Putin’s son-in-law. Navigator earns millions of dollars a year chartering ships to Sibur.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Mr. Ross said that he would “probably not” keep his Navigator investment, but that it did not pose a conflict of interest. He also defended Navigator’s business dealings with Sibur, saying there was “nothing whatsoever wrong with it.”
Navigator was not listed in an ethics agreement Mr. Ross submitted in January that described the investments he intended to keep after joining the Trump administration. It had appeared in an earlier lengthy filing showing his assets as of December 2016, but the subsequent ethics agreement laying out his future holdings only named the partnerships that he used to retain his Navigator stake, not their underlying assets.
The connection between the partnerships and Mr. Ross’s continuing investment in Navigator was made by journalists investigating a leak of records from Appleby, a law firm based in Bermuda that counted Mr. Ross among its top clients. The Appleby records were obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and other media organizations, including The New York Times.
News of Mr. Ross’s Navigator ties prompted Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat on the commerce committee, to assert that Mr. Ross had misled senators during his confirmation hearing by not making clear he had the investment. He called Mr. Ross’s financial disclosures “a Russian nesting doll, with blatant conflicts of interest carefully hidden within seemingly innocuous holding companies.”
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