Two businessmen are accused of masterminding a money laundering scheme to protect Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, who has close ties to President Vladimir Putinfrom the seizure of his $90 million yacht.
Vladislav Osipov, 51, who holds dual Russian and Swiss citizenship, and British national Richard Masters, 52, were charged with evading sanctions and money laundering in connection with the operation of the 255-foot luxury yacht Tango after Vekselberg came under sanctions.
Masters was arrested in Spain on Friday at the request of the Department of Justice. Osipov is still at large.
“The sanctions evasion facilitators enable oligarchs who support Vladimir Putin’s regime to flout US law,” US Attorney Matthew Graves said.
Both men allegedly used shell companies to allow Vekselberg ownership of the yacht. He was sanctioned in April 2018. US sanctions prevent US companies such as banks from doing business with those sanctioned entities.
Masters ran a yacht management company in Palma de Mallorca, Spain and is alleged to have taken over Tango, Department of Justice He said. It is alleged that he changed the name of the yacht to “Fanta” to help avoid the restrictions of sanctions from the banks.
As a result, US financial institutions processed hundreds of thousands of dollars in transactions for Tango that could not have been authorized if Vekselberg’s involvement had been made public.
In addition, Osipov and Masters had yachtsmen continue to do business with American companies and used a series of solutions to avoid detection, such as Payments in other currencies and through third parties, federal prosecutors said.
“As a result of these schemes, Tango’s operating mechanisms, to include the Internet, technology, weather forecasting, and computing systems, as well as Tango’s trappings, including satellite television, luxury goods, and teleconferencing software, are all American-origin products and services provided by American companies for Vekselberg.”
The Spanish authorities confiscated the yacht in April at the request of the Ministry of Justice. Many luxury yachts owned by Russian oligarchs have been subject to US sanctions after Moscow Ukraine invasion Almost a year ago.
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