Two charged with evading US sanctions to help Russian oligarch protect $90 million yacht

Two businessmen have been accused of setting up 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 Russian and Swiss citizen, and British citizen Richard Masters, 52, are charged with sanctions evasion and money laundering in connection with their operation of the 75-meter luxury yacht “Tango” after Vekselberg was hit with sanctions .

Masters was arrested in Spain on Friday at the request of the Ministry of Justice. Osipov remains at large.

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Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg

Russian businessman Viktor Vekselberg attends a plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, Sept. 5, 2019. Two businessmen have been charged with evading U.S. sanctions in an attempt to prevent his yacht, “Tango,” from both (Reuters / Reuters Photos)

“Facilitators of sanctions evasion enable oligarchs who support Vladimir Putin’s regime to flout US law,” said US attorney Matthew Graves.

Both men allegedly used shell companies to facilitate Vekselberg’s ownership of the yacht. He 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 Spain’s Palma de Mallorca and allegedly took over management from Tango, the Justice Department said. He reportedly changed the name of the yacht to “the Fanta” to help avoid sanctions from banks.

As a result, U.S. financial institutions processed hundreds of thousands of dollars in transactions for Tango that otherwise would not have been allowed had Vekselberg’s involvement been disclosed.

In addition, Osipov and Masters allowed yacht employees to continue doing business with U.S. companies and used a range of workarounds to avoid detection, such as payments in other currencies and through third parties, federal prosecutors said.

Russian oligarch hunt

The yacht named “Tango”, owned by Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, is seen at the Palma de Mallorca Yacht Club on the Spanish island of Mallorca, Spain. (Reuters / Reuters Photos)

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“As a result of these plans, Tango’s operating mechanisms, including its Internet, technology, weather forecasting, and computer systems, as well as Tango’s attributes, including its satellite television, luxury goods, and teleconferencing software, were all U.S.-originated products and services provided by U.S. companies for the benefit of Vekselberg,” said the Ministry of Justice.

The yacht was seized by Spanish authorities in April at the request of the Ministry of Justice. Several luxury yachts owned by Russian oligarchs have been the subject of US sanctions following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine nearly a year ago.

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