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US charges first Russian oligarch for sanctions violations since Ukraine invasion

U.S. authorities have accused Kremlin-linked businessman Konstantin Malupiev of violating U.S. sanctions in the first criminal proceeding against an oligarch since the start of the conflict in Ukraine.

Malupiev, a Russian investor and founder of the pro-Putin media empire, is accused of violating sanctions imposed in response to the 2014 Crimean annexation by Moscow by hiring a U.S. citizen to run his own television networks and attempting to acquire a network in Bulgaria.

According to the suspect, the couple and others also conspired to illegally transfer a $ 10 million investment that Malupiev made at a bank in Texas to a business associate in Greece in 2015, in violation of the same package of sanctions.

The investment money, which was converted by the Texas Bank in 2016 into cash held by an account with another U.S. lender, was seized by U.S. authorities.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said Wednesday: “Our message to those who continue to allow the Russian regime through their criminal behavior is this: It does not matter how far you sail on your yacht. It does not matter how well you hide your assets. . . The Department of Justice will use every tool available to find you. . . And hold you accountable. “

In a telephone interview with the Financial Times, Malupiev – who faces two charges with a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison each – called the lawsuit against him “comical.”

“Since 2014, I have had no assets in the West,” he said, arguing that the transfer from the bank in Texas to the Greek business partner took place eight years ago, just before Western sanctions fell on him.

However, the Justice Department claims that a 2015 agreement seeking to transfer ownership of the shell company used to invest in a bank in Texas to a Greek associate was fraudulently filed in July 2014, to make it appear to have occurred before the imposition of U.S. sanctions. .

“Nothing has happened with it in the last eight years. It’s a very old material,” Malupiev said. “It looks like a [Garland] Trying to take political credit for [his predecessors’] Working.”

In recent weeks, the Ministry of Justice has signaled its willingness to take tougher measures against evasive Russians Sanctions. Last month it set up a special task force to enforce restrictions relating to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The accusations against Malupiev come as mounting evidence of war crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine, provoked international condemnation and led to an escalation of Western sanctions against Moscow.

In recent days, the U.S. has announced other enforcement actions against Russians. On Wednesday, the FBI said it had disrupted a network of bots built by the Russian government’s military intelligence agency before it could be deployed.

“We are not going to wait until our investigations are over to act,” said Christopher Ray, the FBI director.

On Tuesday, authorities in Germany and the United States collaborated in taking over Hydra Market, the world’s largest dark internet market, and its $ 25 million cryptocurrency wallets, the Justice Department said. Said the Ministry of Justice, which also declared criminal charges against a Russian resident who allegedly ran the platform servers.

The Hydra response, which has since disintegrated, could not be obtained.

At the request of the Ministry of Justice, the Spanish authorities seized on Monday a A 255-foot yacht At least $ 90 million worth of Russian oligarch Victor Wexelberg, who was sanctioned by the United States in 2018 in connection with Russia’s invasion of Crimea. U.S. authorities have argued that the seizure was caused as a result of violations of bank fraud, money laundering and sanctions.

Wexelberg did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

US charges first Russian oligarch for sanctions violations since Ukraine invasion Source link US charges first Russian oligarch for sanctions violations since Ukraine invasion

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