Associate of sanctioned Russian oligarch indicted in money laundering scheme

A Russian national was indicted for helping an oligarch evade U.S. sanctions by financing multimillion-dollar properties in Manhattan, the Hamptons and Florida — the latest sign that prosecutors have ties to the Kremlin. They continue to put pressure on wealthy businessmen.

Vladimir Voronchenko, an art dealer and childhood friend of sanctioned Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, was indicted by a grand jury on charges of violating U.S. sanctions, international money laundering, conspiracy, and contempt of court. Couldn’t comply. Voronchenko left the United States in May after receiving a subpoena for his testimony and remains at large.

Prosecutors are seeking to seize Vekselberg’s $75 million worth of properties, including two Park Avenue apartments, his home in Southampton, New York, and a penthouse on Florida’s Fisher Island.

The criminal charges come as prosecutors take several steps to target Vekselberg, the founder and chairman of the board of directors of Russian aluminum and energy conglomerate Renova Group. Vekselberg was sanctioned by the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control in 2018 in response to “alarming activity around the world”.

Vekselberg has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

In April, the 255-foot luxury yacht Tango, owned by a Russian billionaire, was seized by Spanish law enforcement at the request of U.S. authorities. The case is the first seizure by a newly formed U.S. task force dedicated to cracking down on violators of sanctions in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

A month later, Voronchenko was arraigned before a grand jury at one of Vekselberg’s properties on Fisher Island, according to the indictment.

In September, federal agents searched two New York properties owned by Vekselberg. According to the report, two large safes and other items were removed from the apartment building on Park Avenue. His other property in Southampton was also searched.

Last month, federal prosecutors announced charges against two businessmen that they facilitated evasion of sanctions by taking over the management of Vekselberg’s yacht once approved by the billionaire.

After Vekselberg was sanctioned and US entities barred from doing business with him, the men allegedly used a false name to hide from financial institutions that the payments were for Tango. They also allegedly used working arrangements with US companies that allowed yachts to continue operating by gaining access to weather forecasting equipment, computing systems and luxury services.

Prosecutors allege that Voronchenko, who stayed at Vekselberg properties, violated the sanctions by transferring $4 million to cover maintenance fees, taxes and insurance premiums for the properties after Vekselberg approved them. Voronchenko allegedly made the payments through a shell company called Smile Holding Limited.

He allegedly breached the ban by attempting to sell the Southampton property and the Park Avenue apartments without obtaining a licence.

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