Documents leaked to a German newspaper reveal that ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, nominated by President-elect Donald Trump to be the next Secretary of State, has been the quiet director of a U.S.-Russian oil firm registered in the Bahamas, one of the world's key tax havens.
According to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which received the documents from the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper in Germany, registration papers show "Tillerson was appointed in 1998 as a director of Exxon Neftegas, an ExxonMobil subsidiary involved in oil and gas operations in Russia."
The document is not new, though it was not reported on before Sunday, and is among more than 12 million leaked files that were provided anonymously to Süddeutsche Zeitung and then shared with ICIJ, resulting in the Panama Papers and Bahamas Leaks investigations.
The document highlights Tillerson’s business dealings with Russia, which have drawn new attention as he prepares to face confirmation hearings before the U.S. Senate. Under Tillerson’s leadership, Exxon Neftegas managed a major oil and gas project near the island of Sakhalin in Russia’s Far East. After Tillerson was promoted to CEO of ExxonMobil, the oil giant launched a partnership to search for new reserves in the Arctic with Rosneft, a Russian state-owned company.
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As Trump prepares for his presidential inauguration, the connections to Russia of people who will likely serve in his administration have come under scrutiny.
In 2013, Vladimir Putin awarded Tillerson with the Order of Friendship, a state decoration for foreigners whose work improves their countries’ relations with Moscow.
Though there is nothing technically "untoward" about Tillerson's involvement with this off-shore subsidiary, as the Guardian's reporting notes, the revelation "is likely to raise fresh questions over Tillerson’s relationship with Russia ahead of a potentially stormy confirmation hearing by the US senate foreign relations committee."
In response to the revelations, Duncan Meisel, an organizer with the climate action group 350.org, used his personal Twitter account to offer one explanation as to why Tillerson might be heads one of the world's most maligned oil companies while also running a Russian-affiliated subsidiary based in a notorious tax haven:
Rex Tillerson also runs a Russian oil company based in a Bahamas tax shelter. Because he's a supervillain. https://t.co/6vTKNXIpsJ
— Duncan Meisel (@duncanwrites) December 18, 2016