NewsWorldU.S. charges Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska with violating sanctions

U.S. charges Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska with violating sanctions

U.S. prosecutors on Thursday unveiled criminal charges accusing the Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska of violating sanctions imposed after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Deripaska, the 54-year-old aluminium magnet, was among two dozen Russian oligarchs and government officials blacklisted by Washington in 2018 in reaction to Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election to help Donald Trump become president.

The U.S. Department of Justice said Deripaska violated sanctions by using the U.S. financial system to maintain three luxury properties, and employing a woman to buy a California music studio on his behalf.

Prosecutors said Deripaska also violated sanctions through efforts to have his girlfriend travel to the United States from Russia to bear his children.

“In the wake of Russia’s unjust and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, I promised the American people that the Justice Department would work to hold accountable those who break our laws and threaten our national security,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. “Today’s charges demonstrate we are keeping that promise.”

Erich Ferrari, a lawyer for Deripaska, declined to comment to Reuters.

Three women — Ekaterina Voronina, Natalia Bardakova and Olga Shriki — were also charged in the indictment against Deripaska. Their lawyers could not immediately be identified.

Shriki, a New Jersey resident, was arrested on Thursday morning, and released on $2 million bond after a brief afternoon appearance in Manhattan federal court. She did not enter a plea.

Olga Shriki Sits In Court
Olga Shriki Sits In Court

Moscow has called the Ukraine invasion a special military operation and has denied meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

Deripaska is worth $2.8 billion according to Forbes magazine and has also been sanctioned by the European Union and Britain.

In blacklisting Deripaska, the U.S. Treasury Department cited his allegedly having acted or purported to act on behalf of a senior Russian government official, and for operating in the energy sector.

Deripaska still owns part of Rusal through his stake in its parent En+ Group ENPLI.RTS. Washington has sanctioned both companies in the past, but no longer does.

‘HOORAY’

According to the indictment, Shriki arranged a $3.1 million sale of a Burbank, California, music studio in 2019 for Deripaska’s benefit.

It also said Shriki and Bardakova arranged in 2020 for Voronina to travel to the United States to give birth to Deripaska’s child, and that another trip was arranged this year so Voronina could give birth again.

The indictment described Voronina’s efforts to rent a home in Beverly Hills, California, and her telling Deripaska that she found one and was negotiating payment.

“Hooray,” Deripaska allegedly responded.

Deripaska, Shriki and Bardakova were charged with violating sanctions. Shriki was also charged with destroying evidence, while Bardakova and Voronina were charged with making false statements to U.S. investigators.

More than a decade before being sanctioned, Deripaska began doing business with Paul Manafort, Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman, who convinced him to invest in a private equity fund that would invest mainly in Russia and Ukraine.

Following FBI raids in October 2021 of Washington and New York properties linked to Deripaska’s family, Deripaska mocked the idea there was election interference.

“I cannot help but marvel at the utter stupidity on part of the American establishment who persist in spinning this story,” Deripaska posted on social media.

The FBI gave no details at the time about why the raids were conducted.

Manafort was convicted on fraud charges in 2018 and sentenced to 7-1/2 years in prison. Trump pardoned him in December 2020.

CYPRIOT CITIZENSHIP

Deripaska acquired Cypriot citizenship in 2017 under the now-defunct ‘Citizenship by Investment Programme’ that permitted investors to hold Cyprus passports, provided they made a specific amount of money investment and met several conditions.

Cyprus shut down the scheme in late 2020 following disclosures that fugitives from justice or politically connected persons benefited from the programme. An inquiry committee later found that more than half of the passports were wrongly issued.

Furthermore, in April 2022 the Cyprus government announced that it will be revoking the passports of some Russian oligarchs after the EU blacklisted them following the latter’s sanctions imposed on Russia due to the invasion of Ukraine.

According to reports, Deripaska was among the people whose passport was revoked.

(With information from Reuters)

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