DOJ Charges Russian and British Businessmen for Facilitating Sanctions Evasion of Russian Oligarch’s $90 Million Yacht

DOJ is poised for a big year in the enforcement of Russian Sanctions and seizure of assets connected to Russian Oligarchs.  It has been nearly a year since the U.S., its allies and partners have unleashed robust sanctions against Russia in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  DOJ’s commitment to sanctions enforcement has been steady and will only increase.

In a recent case, DOJ announced the indictment of Vladislav Osipov, a Russian national, and Richard Masters, a United Kingdom national, in two separate cases for facilitating sanctions evasion and money laundering in relation to the ownership and operation of a $90 million, 255-foot luxury yacht owned by Viktor Vekselberg, a sanctioned Russian oligarch.  Masters was arrested in Spain and is undergoing extradition.  Osipov has not been apprehended.

Last year, DOJ’s KleptoCapture Task Force, DOJ seized the luxury yacht.  Both defendants used a variety of measures to mask ownership of the yacht and evade sanctions enforcement. Vekselberg was designated as a sanctioned individual in April 2018.  Osipov and Masters facilitated the operation of the yacht through the use of U.S. companies and the U.S. financial system.  Osipov was an employee of Vekselberg and served as a property manager of the yacht, and designed a complex ownership structure using shell companies to disguise Vekselberg’s ownership of the yacht.

Masters ran a yacht management company in Spain.  After Vekselberg’s designation, Master’s company took over the management of the yacht.  Masters assigned a false name to the yacht – “the Fanta” instead of “Tango” – in order to hide U.S. dollar payments for the benefit of Tango and Vekselberg.  As a result, U.S. financial institutions processed hundreds of thousands of dollars of transactions that would have otherwise been blocked.

Osipov and Masters advised and facilitated Tango employees to continue to conduct business with a number of U.S. companies by using several strategies to evade U.S. sanctions, including use of third parties and other country currencies.  As a result, Vekselberg was able to organize its internet, technology, weather forecasting and computer systems, as well as Tango’s satellite television, luxury goods and teleconferencing software, were all U.S.-origin products and services supplied by U.S. companies.

The facilitation efforts permitted Tango to operate as a luxury yacht with the full array and luxury goods supplied by U.S. companies through numerous transactions involving hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In April 2022, Spanish law enforcement, acting at the request of U.S. law enforcement, seized Tango for forfeiture purposes.

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