Tue, 29 Nov 2022

US Charges Russian Oligarch Deripaska with Sanctions Evasion

Voice of America
30 Sep 2022, 10:36 GMT+10

WASHINGTON - The Justice Department on Thursday unsealed an indictment charging Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska and three associates with violating U.S. sanctions.

The indictment grew out of Task Force KleptoCapture, an interagency law enforcement group formed in the wake of Russia's Feb. 24 invasion to enforce the sweeping economic sanctions, export restrictions and other measures the United States and its Western allies imposed on Moscow.

'In the wake of Russia's unjust and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, I promised the American people that the Justice Department would work to hold accountable those who break our laws and threaten our national security. Today's charges demonstrate we are keeping that promise,' U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

Along with Deripaska, 52, the indictment charged two other Russian nationals - Natalia Mikhaylovna Bardakova, 45, and Ekaterina Olegovna Voronina, 33 - as well as Olga Shriki, 42, a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Bardakova and Shriki face charges of flouting sanctions imposed on Deripaska and one of Deripaska's companies, Basic Element Limited.

Shriki, who was arrested Thursday morning, is also charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly deleting electronic records related to her role in Deripaska's alleged sanctions evasion scheme after receiving a grand jury subpoena to produce the records.

Voronina is accused of making false statements to agents of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security when she sought to enter the United States to give birth to Deripaska's child, according to the Justice Department.

The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned Deripaska and several other Russian oligarchs and entities in 2018 in response to Russia's interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, as well as other malign global activities.

As part of the sanctions, the Russian oligarchs' assets were frozen, and U.S. nationals were barred from doing business with them.

In the wake of the Treasury Department's action, however, Deripaska conspired with others 'to evade and to violate those sanctions in various ways and over the course of several years,' the Justice Department said in a statement.

Through a company known as Gracetown Inc., the Russian billionaire allegedly used the U.S. financial system to maintain three luxury properties in the United States, the indictment alleges.

According to the document, Deripaska allegedly hired Shriki and Bardakova to use U.S. banks to conduct hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of services on his behalf.

In 2019, Shriki allegedly helped Deripaska sell a California music studio he had owned through a series of shell companies, according to the indictment.

Deripaska then allegedly tried to transfer the more than $3 million in proceeds from the sale through a California shell company to an account in Russia, the indictment alleges.

In a statement, FBI Director Christopher Wray said the indictment 'reflects the FBI's commitment to use all of the tools at our disposal to aggressively pursue those who attempt to evade the United States' economic countermeasures against the Russian government.'

'We will continue to aggressively prosecute those who violate measures imposed to protect the national security and foreign policy of the United States, especially in this time of Russia's unprovoked aggression toward Ukraine,' Wray said.

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