US unseals criminal charges against Russian tycoon

Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska may face up to 20 years in US jail over “sanctions evasion”

The US Department of Justice on Thursday announced charges against Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, for violating the sanctions Washington imposed against Moscow over its actions in Ukraine. The indictment names three other defendants, including the tycoon’s alleged “girlfriend.” 

Deripaska has been charged with “one count of conspiring to violate and evade US sanctions,” the DOJ statement said, adding that the tycoon might face “a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.”

The owner of the Basic Element Ltd – one of the largest diversified industrial groups in Russia – was put on a US sanctions blacklist for acting on behalf of Russian government officials and “operating in the energy sector of the Russian Federation economy.” The DOJ claims he employed two people, including a US resident, to evade these restrictions.

“As today’s charges reveal… Oleg Deripaska sought to circumvent US sanctions through lies and deceit to cash in on and benefit from the American way of life,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco.

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The US authorities claimed that Deripaska “illegally utilized the US financial system to maintain and retain three luxury properties in the United States,” using a series of shell companies and services of a US resident identified as Olga Shriki and a Russian named Natalya Bardakova.

Shriki and Bardakova were also accused of obtaining unspecified “US goods and technology” for the tycoon, and allegedly helping a Russian citizen identified by the DOJ as Deripaska’s “girlfriend” Ekaterina Voronina to travel to the US in 2020, to supposedly give birth to their child.

Both Bardakova and Shriki were charged with “conspiring to violate and evade US sanctions.” Shriki is further charged with one count of destruction of records, since she allegedly deleted all electronic evidence of her participation in Deripaska’s schemes after receiving a grand jury subpoena. Bardakova and Voronina have been charged with making false statements to federal agents as well.

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© AFP / Ronny Hartmann
EU seeks to criminalize sanctions evasion

The US also plans to seize from Deripaska the “proceeds of his offense,” including his US properties and the profits from the sale of a $3 million music studio in California.

Deripaska himself has not commented on the charges so far.  News of his indictment comes amid unprecedented tensions between Washington and Moscow over the conflict in Ukraine. The US has been supporting Kiev since the 2014 coup, and doubled down after the start of the Russian military operation in Ukraine in February, imposing even stricter sanctions against numerous Russian officials and businessmen.

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