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 having his $90 million yacht seized.
Vladislav Osipov, 51, a dual Russian and Swiss citizen, and British citizen 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 sanctioned.
Masters was arrested in Spain on Friday at the request of the Justice Department. Osipov is still on the run.
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“Sanctions evasion enablers allow oligarchs who support the Vladimir Putin regime to circumvent US law,” said US Attorney Matthew Graves.
Both men allegedly used shell companies to allow Vekselberg to own the yacht. It was sanctioned in April 2018. US sanctions prohibit US companies, such as banks, from doing business with those 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 allegedly renamed the yacht “Fanta” to help avoid bank sanction restrictions.
As a result, US financial institutions processed hundreds of thousands of dollars in transactions for Tango that would not otherwise have been allowed if Vekselberg’s involvement had been disclosed.
In addition, Osipov and Masters kept the yacht employees doing business with US companies and used a number of solutions to avoid detection, including payments in other currencies and through third parties, federal prosecutors said.
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“As a result of these schemes, Tango’s working mechanisms, including its Internet, technology, weather forecast, and computer systems, as well as Tango’s trappings, including its satellite television, luxury goods, and teleconferencing software, were all Products and services of American origin supplied by American companies, for the benefit of Vekselberg,” the Department of Justice said.
The yacht was seized in April by Spanish authorities at the request of the Justice Department. Several luxury yachts owned by Russian oligarchs have been targeted by US sanctions following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine nearly a year ago.