Russian billionaire Vekselberg’s yacht helpers charged in US sanction scheme

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Two businessmen were charged by US authorities with helping operate Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg’s yacht in violation of sanctions imposed four years ago.

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Vekselberg’s $90 million, 255-foot luxury yacht called Tango was seized by Spain at the behest of the US in April, marking a high-profile victory for the Justice Department’s KleptoCapture unit, a new group formed to track down the assets of sanctioned Russian oligarchs and others close to President Vladimir Putin.

Russian national Vladislav Osipov, 51, and Richard Masters, 52, a UK national, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Washington, the department said Friday in a statement. They’re accused of facilitating a scheme of sanctions evasion and money laundering.

Masters was arrested by authorities in Spain on Friday at the request of the US and a warrant for Osipov remains outstanding, the department said.

Vekselberg, who’s chairman of Renova Management AG, has been sanctioned by the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control since 2018, but international efforts to seize assets held by wealthy Russians tied to Putin have increased since the country’s invasion of Ukraine last February.

Prosecutors said Osipov and Masters facilitated the operation of the yacht despite the 2018 sanctions, using US companies and the financial system to hide Vekselberg’s involvement.

Ospiov, an employee of Vekselberg, designed a “complicated ownership structure” of shell companies to mask his boss’s ownership, the US said, while Masters ran a yacht management company in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, that took over management of the boat and conspired with others to evade sanctions — including using a fake name for the boat, the “Fanta.”

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