Two businessmen have been accused of orchestrating a money laundering scheme to protect Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, who has close ties to President Vladimir Putin, from the seizure of his $90million yacht .
Vladislav Osipov, 51, a dual Russian and Swiss citizen, and British citizen Richard Masters, 52, are charged with evading sanctions and money laundering related to their operation of the 255ft luxury yacht ‘Tango’ after that Vekselberg was hit with sanctions.
Masters was arrested Friday in Spain at the request of the Ministry of Justice. Osipov is still on the run.
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“Sanctions-busting enablers allow oligarchs supporting Vladimir Putin’s regime to flout US law,” US Attorney Matthew Graves said.
Both men allegedly used shell companies to allow Vekselberg to become the owner of the yacht. It was sanctioned in April 2018. US sanctions prohibit US companies such as banks from doing business with these sanctioned entities.
Masters ran a yacht management company in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, and allegedly took over management of Tango, the Justice Department said. He reportedly changed the yacht’s name to “le Fanta” to help avoid bank sanctions.
As a result, American financial institutions processed hundreds of thousands of dollars in transactions for Tango that otherwise would not have been authorized if Vekselberg’s involvement had come to light.
In addition, Osipov and Masters ensured that the yachts’ employees continued to do business with American companies and used a series of workarounds to avoid detection, such as payments in other currencies and through the third-party intermediary, federal prosecutors said.
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“As a result of these schemes, Tango’s working mechanisms, including its Internet, technology, weather forecasting and computer systems, as well as Tango’s trappings, including its satellite TV, luxury goods and its teleconferencing software, were all Products and Services of American Origin Provided by American Companies, for the benefit of Vekselberg,” the Justice Department said.
The yacht was seized in April by Spanish authorities at the request of the Ministry of Justice. Several luxury yachts owned by Russian oligarchs have faced US sanctions following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine nearly a year ago.