Russia is now facing international sanctions, and its allies are no exception. The US accused Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg and seized his yacht.
Russian Oligarch Accused of Bank Fraud, Money Laundering
Viktor Vekselberg is a billionaire, businessman, and Russian oligarch. He’s the president and owner of Renova Group, a Russian cartel. At the same time, he’s also one of Putin’s closest allies facing sanctions.
Vekselberg was born in Ukraine and the founder of the Renova Group. He was among the Russian oligarchs sanctioned in 2018 by former US President Donald Trump.
“Today marks our taskforce’s first seizure of an asset belonging to a sanctioned individual with close ties to the Russian regime. It will not be the last. Together, with our international partners, we will do everything possible to hold accountable any individual whose criminal acts enable the Russian government to continue its unjust war.” said Garland.
In 2018, the Treasury Department sanctioned Vekselberg related to US sanctions exacted on Russia for uniting Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Prior to Russia’s Ukraine invasion on February 24th, both countries have arguments and misunderstandings. Russia wanted to acquire Crimea while Ukraine might join NATO. Seizing Vekselberg’s superyacht is one of the punishments that global governments want to give for Russia’s invasion of Crimea and Ukraine.
According to Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco, the current action is proof that Russian oligarchs can’t baulk sanctions to a life of extravagance while Ukrainians suffer. The Department of Justice fulfils the dedication to hold liable those who reinforce the Russian government with their criminal activities.
Superyacht Tango, Seized
The US charged him with bank fraud while Spanish authorities seized his luxurious vessel, Tango. His boat is a motor superyacht built in 2011 valued at $90 million and measures 250 feet long. It’s the latest asset to be seized from a Russian oligarch following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The US and its confederates tried to pressurise Russia’s aristocrats as part of their endeavour to penalize Moscow for attacking Ukraine.
An FBI representative signed the warrant to seize the yacht due to accusations that Vekselberg organised to perpetrate bank fraud and money laundering. The bureau indicted him of using these approaches to mask his possession of Tango. The confiscation is according to the warrant filed by the FBI at a US District Court. Moreover, the authorities are also aiming at his private jet.
The Justice Department shared footage showing Spanish law enforcement and FBI agents
boarding the superyacht. In a video message, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said he would aim to have the Tango hooked as the payoff of a crime.
According to the warrant, “Vekselberg caused payments for the TANGO to be run through various shell companies in order to prevent U.S. financial institutions from accurately executing their KYC [Know Your Customer] controls and in order to avoid the filing of SARs [Suspicious Activity Reports] related to his financial transactions.”
The supposed strategy links to a network of unrecognised firms that have a financial interest in Vekselberg’s Tango. A majority of these small organisations connect to the Russian billionaire.
Task Force REPO
Vekselberg’s Tango is the first vessel that the US seized from an oligarch since US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and US Attorney General Merrick Garland organised a task force. They called it REPO or Russian Elites, Proxies and Oligarch in short. It’s a bid to enforce sanctions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
Aside from the yacht, the FBI agents also sequestered computers and documents to analyse and confirm the real identity of the owner.
The US Justice Department likewise initiated a sanctions enforcement task force called KleptoCapture. Similar to REPO, it aims to impose financial restrictions in the US compelled on Russia and its billionaire. The said task group will collaborate with the US Treasury, the FBI, and other federal agencies.
KleptoCapture will also go after financial institutions and entities that have backed Russian oligarchs transfer money to evade sanctions.
TV Producer Who Works for Russian Oligarch Also Faces Sanctions
Vekselberg isn’t only the Putin ally that deals with US sanctions. Last month, TV producer Jack Hanick faced arrest after being tried in New York’s U.S. District Court by a grand jury. He violated the sanctions of December 2014 imposed on Konstantin Malofeyev.
Hanick apparently collaborated with Malofeyev from 2013 to 2017. The Russian businessman planned to establish a new Russian cable TV news network and news network in Greece.
According to the prosecutors, Hanick reportedly went to Bulgaria to negotiate another news outlet for Malofeyev. At the same time, the scheme conceals the Russian’s identity in the acquisition.
Last year, the FBI interviewed Hanick, who made false statements regarding the involvement of Malofeyev. He denied that the Russian businessman had nothing to do with his Bulgarian trip. Also, he repudiated that he didn’t know that Malofeyev has a connection to the Bulgarian TV network acquisition.
Image Source: Jürg Vollmer/Maiakinfo/WikimediaCommons (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)