The Justice Department announced charges Friday against Russian and British businessmen accused of helping a Russian oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, hide his ownership of a luxury yacht in violation of US sanctions.
Vladislav Osipov, a dual Russian and Swiss national, and Richard Masters, a United Kingdom national, both face charges for conspiracy to defraud the United States and to commit offenses against the United States, violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, and money laundering.
The seizure, conducted by DOJ’s Task force KleptoCapture, is one of the most recent moves by the US to increase pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin and his closest allies over his war in Ukraine. It is one of several yacht seizures since the task force was established last March.
“Corporations and executives have a choice: They can participate in the global effort to uproot corruption, sanctions violations and money laundering and enjoy the benefits of prompt and fulsome cooperation; or they can, as Osipov and Masters are alleged to have done, attempt to shield themselves and their clients behind a veil of fraud,” Andrew Adams, the task force’s director said in a statement Friday.
Adams continued, “These men made their decisions, and now face the consequences of a failed attempt to profit through, rather than standing against, a sophisticated, transnational criminal enterprise.”
Masters, who ran a yacht management company in Spain, allegedly used a fake name for the yacht so that it would remain unnoticed by US institutions, allowing for what prosecutors say was “hundreds of thousands of dollars of transactions” for the yacht that otherwise would not have been permitted.
Masters and Osipov, according to the indictment, also helped equip the luxury yacht with new internet, technology, weather forecasting, computing systems, satellite television and teleconferencing software – all from products made in the US.
Osipov, who worked for Vekselberg, allegedly hid Vekselberg’s ownership of the $90 million yacht using shell companies and conspiring to avoid US sanctions.
Vekselberg’s yacht was seized by Spanish law enforcement in April at the request of US officials, based on alleged money laundering, violations of sanctions statutes and bank fraud. Federal agents also searched several homes in the US linked to Vekselberg – who has close ties to Putin — in September.
According to the Justice Department, Masters was arrested in Spain on Friday and will be extradited to the United States. Osipiv has not yet been arrested.