FBI Probe Into Russian Poker Pro Prompts In-Fighting Among Elon Musk’s Inner Circle

  • The FBI had concerns about the possibility of foreign influence in the Musk Foundation
  • Kurganov is reportedly no longer working with the charity, losing the role in May
  • Musk’s trusted adviser Jared Birchall supposedly pushed for Kurganov’s removal
  • Poker pro Kurganov got to know Musk through the billionaire’s ex-girlfriend Grimes
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According to reports, an FBI probe has caused Elon Musk to remove Russian-born poker pro Igor Kurganov from his major role in his charitable foundation. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Removed from the role

A Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) probe into a Russian-born poker professional has triggered fighting among Tesla-owner Elon Musk’s inner circle.

possible foreign influence in the US-based organization

According to a Wall Street Journal article published on Saturday, Igor Kurganov faced an investigation by the FBI due to his notable role in Elon Musk’s charity. The position gave Kurganov control of a significant sum of donations and authorities had concerns about possible foreign influence in the US-based organization.

One of Musk’s leading financial advisers and the official operator of the Musk Foundation, Jared Birchall, eventually called for Kurganov to be removed in May. According to the WSJ, Musk granted the request. A Musk Foundation spokesperson has since confirmed that Kurganov is no longer working there and that no funds were directed towards effective altruism projects.

Concerns over an investigation

According to the Wall Street Journal report, Birchall pushed for the removal of Kurganov after an FBI agent started asking questions about the 34-year-old Russian. The agent wanted answers regarding the quick rise of Kurganov in Musk’s inner circle. Birchall had concerns of a possible wider investigation into the matter.

Despite the investigation, the FBI has not made any allegations of wrongdoing against the poker pro.

Birchall formerly worked at major investment banks Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley before teaming up with Musk. He is the legal head of the Musk Foundation and has played a key role in Musk’s team since 2016. As well as managing the charity, he also looks after the family investment office and is the CEO of Musk’s Neuralink startup.

Kurganov’s interesting life

Kurganov moved to Germany from Russia when he was four years old and began to see success in the professional poker space during his 20s. He reportedly has won about $18m through his poker-playing exploits. He began to move away from the gambling scene in recent years, changing his focus to philanthropy.

Kurganov is a co-founder of Raising for Effective Giving, a group that looks to get the most out of charitable donations through its effective altruism approach.

Kurganov became a day-to-day decision maker

The former poker pro met the world’s wealthiest man through his girlfriend Liv Boeree, who is friends with former Musk girlfriend Grimes. Musk gave him a position within his charity, initially vetting requests for grants. Before long, Kurganov became a day-to-day decision maker, overseeing $5.7bn worth of Tesla shares that Musk had committed to the foundation.