Two charged with aiding Russian billionaire evade superyacht sanctions
Two men have been charged by the US Department of Justice with helping Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, owner of the 255ft (78m) MY Tango superyacht, evade sanctions and run a money laundering scheme.
The yacht was previously seized in Mallorca, Spain at the request of the US on April 4th last year.
According to the indictment, Russian national Vladislav Osipov and Briton, Richard Masters continued to operate Tango on behalf of Vekselberg, who was sanctioned by the US in 2018.
Despite the sanctions, the accused allegedly operated the vessel using US companies and financial systems, attempting to hide Vekselberg’s involvement. Masters has been arrested by Spanish authorities and is awaiting extradition to the US. A warrant for the arrest of Osipov has also been issued.
“Today’s indictments and the arrest executed by Spanish law enforcement demonstrate the FBI’s continued focus on tracking down and holding accountable those who assist sanctioned Russian oligarchs,” said Paul Abbate, deputy director, FBI on Friday (January 20th)
After Vekselberg was sanctioned in April 2018, Masters, who ran yacht management company Master Yachts in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, allegedly took over the management of Tango and conspired with Osipov and others to evade the US sanctions.
Masters is alleged to have changed the vessel’s name to Fanta to hide payments in US dollars linked to Tango and ultimately the benefit of sanctioned Vekselberg. US institutions are said to have processed hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Russian oligarch as a result.
Osipov allegedly designed an ownership structure of shell companies to hide Vekselberg’s ownership of the yacht, after he designed the vessel, was its sole user and ultimate beneficial owner. The pair is also accused of enabling Tango’s crew and other employees to continue business with US companies using other currencies and third-parties.
“Facilitators of sanctions evasion enable the oligarchs supporting Vladimir Putin’s regime to flout US law,” said Matthew Graves, attorney for the District of Columbia. “The United States will not allow its financial institutions and persons to be manipulated or defrauded for the purposes of benefitting those supporting an illegal war.”
This case has been led by FBI and the US Justice Department’s KleptoCapture Task Force, aimed at enforcing US sanctions abroad.