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Washington blocks more than $1 bn in Russian oligarch’s US assets

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Crew members at the Honolulu harbor prepare to dock the yacht Amadea of sanctioned Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov, seized by the Fiji government at the request of the United States, on June 16, 2022
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The United States on Thursday blocked a US-based company worth more than $1 billion linked to Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov, saying the ally of President Vladimir Putin used it to funnel and invest shadowy funds.

The Treasury Department said that Kerimov, a billionaire active in Russian politics, secretly managed the Delaware-based Heritage Trust which put its money into a number of large public companies.

Heritage Trust, set up in 2017, brought money into the United States through shell companies and under-the-radar foundations established in Europe, Treasury Department officials said. 

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen vowed that the United States would keep taking action “even as Russian elites hide behind proxies and complex legal arrangements.” 

The United States will “actively implement the multilaterally coordinated sanctions imposed on those who fund and benefit from Russia’s war against Ukraine,” she said in a statement. 

The action comes weeks after Fiji handed to the United States a $300 million superyacht linked to Kerimov, who has been under US sanctions since 2018 over alleged money laundering and his role in the Russian government. 

The United States and European nations have stepped up a crackdown on Russian oligarchs following Putin’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, which triggered a slew of Western sanctions. 

Kerimov, originally from the Russian republic of Dagestan in the Caucasus, rose to become one of the world’s richest people after the fall of the Soviet Union. 

His family controls major gold producer Polyus. The Group of Seven industrial democracies on Sunday agreed on a ban on gold exports from Russia. 

The Bloomberg Billionaires Index ranked him as the world’s 190th richest person in late 2021 with a worth of $11.8 billion.

Kerimov triggered an international incident in 2017 when he was arrested by French authorities upon flying to Nice, over allegations of tax fraud and the suspicious purchases of five luxury villas. 

Russia summoned a French envoy to protest and the charges were eventually dismissed but French prosecutors reopened an investigation in 2019. 

BBC News in April said it had seen leaked documents showing Kerimov’s elaborate efforts to hide his wealth, which allegedly included putting a Swiss tattoo artist in charge of a company that transferred more than $300 million.

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Elon Musk fires back at Twitter in court battle

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Court rules require Elon Musk to provide a public version of his 'confidential' counter claims against Twitter as the court battle over holding him to the terms of the $44 bn buyout deal heads for trial in October.
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Elon Musk on Friday filed claims against Twitter as he fights back against the tech firm’s lawsuit demanding he be held to his $44 billion buyout deal.

Musk’s counter-suit was submitted along with a legal defense against Twitter’s claim that the billionaire is contractually bound to complete the deal he inked in April to buy Twitter, the Chancery Court in the state of Delaware said in a notice.

The 164-page filing was submitted as being “confidential,” meaning the documents were not accessible by the public, the notice indicated.

Rules of the court, however, require Musk to submit a public version of the filing with trade secrets or other sensitive information redacted.

A judge has ordered a five-day trial over Twitter’s lawsuit against Musk to begin on October 17.

The Tesla boss wooed Twitter’s board with a $54.20 per-share offer, but then in July announced he was “terminating” their agreement on accusations the firm misled him regarding its tally of fake and spam accounts.

Twitter, whose stock price closed at $41.61 on Friday, has stuck by its estimates regarding accounts run by software “bots” rather than people, and argued that Musk is contriving excuses to back out of the contract.

The social media platform has urged shareholders to endorse the deal, setting a vote on the merger for September 13.

“We are committed to closing the merger on the price and terms agreed upon with Mr. Musk,” Twitter chief executive Parag Agrawal and board chairman Bret Taylor said in a copy of a letter to investors.

Billions of dollars are at stake, but so is the future of Twitter, which Musk has said should allow any legal speech — an absolutist position that has sparked fears the network could be used to incite violence.

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Musk, Twitter get Oct. 17 trial in buyout fight

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Twitter is due to face off with Tesla boss Elon Musk on October 17 in the US state of Delaware in a buyout trial
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Twitter’s lawsuit to force Elon Musk to complete his $44 billion buyout bid is set to go to trial on October 17, a US judge has ordered, in a case with major stakes for both sides.

The trial is due to open in a court in the eastern state of Delaware and is set to last five days to decide whether Musk can walk away from the deal.

The Tesla boss wooed Twitter’s board with a $54.20 per-share offer, but then in July announced he was “terminating” their agreement on accusations the firm misled him regarding its tally of fake and spam accounts.

Twitter has countered by saying Musk already agreed to the deal and can’t back out now.

An order from the judge handling the case, Kathaleen McCormick, lays out an expedited schedule to resolve a fight that has left Twitter in limbo.

She reminds both sides that they “shall cooperate in good faith” on matters like handing over information to each other, a key topic that can result in delays. 

Billions of dollars are at stake, but so is the future of Twitter, which Musk has said should allow any legal speech — an absolutist position that has sparked fears the network could be used to incite violence.

Twitter blamed disappointing results last week on “headwinds,” including the uncertainty imposed on the company by Musk’s chaotic buyout bid.

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What’s with the slowdown in Canada’s tech ecosystems this year?

Canadian venture funding cooled in Q2 2022, but Alberta is still seeing record-level funding.

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As BetaKit reported at the end of 2021, that year was “undoubtedly a landmark year” for Canada’s tech scene. The sector broke an all-time venture capital funding record previously set in 2019, with firms raising a staggering $11.8 billion in Q3 alone.

So what’s with the slowdown this year?

BetaKit is reporting that the BC, Waterloo Region, and Toronto tech sectors are all showing signs of cooling in Q2, as tracked by briefed.in

On the west coast, BC’s venture funding and deal volume dropped to a six-quarter low, with startups raising $204.3 million collectively — a decrease of 62% compared to Q1 2022. Toronto saw a 69% drop from Q1 — a fairly dramatic drop after the banner year that was 2021.

Waterloo is a bit of a different story. While the region did see its lowest quarter for deal volume in three years, there was still an increase in investment over Q1. That said, most of this (96% according to BetaKit) was from one $537.7 million Series G extension closed by Faire, a retail startup. 

The one Canadian ecosystem that’s still flying high? Alberta. In Q2, companies raised $268.6 million through 12 deals – a 31% increase quarter-over-quarter, BetaKit reports. It remains to be seen if they’ll be hit with the same cooling as other ecosystems. 

Speaking to BetaKit, Golden Ventures partner Ameet Shah explained “if 2021 was the party, then 2022 stands to be a sobering experience for founders, employees, and investors alike.”

What contributed to this slowdown? Unsurprisingly, stock market slumps, the cryptocurrency rollercoaster, inflation, and overseas conflict all play factors in the current volatility. After the booming decade of the 2010s, this year seems to be an overall bust for the global tech sector, including Silicon Valley, with repeated announcements of layoffs. 

According to global labor trends aggregator Layoffs.fyi, 140,388 workers lost tech jobs since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as reported by BNN Bloomberg.

The Canadian tech sector is also facing layoffs — including the news that Shopify is letting go of approximately 10% of its workforce. Back in June, Wealthsimple laid off 13% of its staff.

As Deena Shakir, a partner at Silicon Valley-based VC firm Lux Capital explained to CBC News at June’s Collision Conference, “right now everyone who is innovating and/or investing in tech or in startups is trying to understand what exactly is happening in this moment.”

“We’re the topic of conversation at every partner meeting, and every lunch and coffee.”

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