Two businessmen have been charged with orchestrating a money laundering scheme to protect Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, who has close ties to President Vladimir Putin, from having his $90 million yacht seized.
Vladislav Osipov, 51, a dual Russian and Swiss citizen, and British national Richard Masters, 52, are charged with sanctions evasion and money laundering related to their operation of the 255-foot luxury yacht Tango after Vekselberg was hit by sanctions.
Masters was arrested in Spain on Friday at the request of the Ministry of Justice. Osipov is still at large.
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“Sanctions evasion facilitators enable the oligarchs who support Vladimir Putin’s regime to evade US law,” said US Attorney Matthew Graves.
Both men are said to have used shell companies to allow Vekselberg’s ownership of the yacht. He was sanctioned in April 2018. US sanctions prohibit US companies such as banks from doing business with the 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 is said to have changed the yacht’s name to “the Fanta” to avoid sanction restrictions from banks.
As a result, US financial institutions processed hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of transactions for Tango that would otherwise not have been allowed if Vekselberg’s involvement had been made known.
In addition, Osipov and Masters induced yacht employees to continue doing business with U.S. companies and used a variety of schemes to avoid detection, such as payments in other currencies and through third parties, federal prosecutors said.
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“As a result of these arrangements, the working mechanisms of Tango, to include the Internet, technology, weather forecasting and computer systems, as well as the accessories of Tango, including satellite television, luxury goods and teleconferencing software. Products and services of American origin provided by American companies, in favor of Vekselberg,” said the Ministry of Justice.
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 been subject to US sanctions following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine almost a year ago.