A Briton has been arrested and charged with helping a Russian oligarch evade sanctions imposed over his close ties to Vladimir Putin.
Richard Masters, 52, and his Russian-Swiss co-defendant Vladislav Osipov, 51, reportedly tried to hide Viktor Vekselberg’s connection to his 75-meter yacht Tango.
The couple, who ran a yachting business in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, managed Tango for Vekselberg.
But the US imposed sanctions on Vekselberg in April 2018 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and tightened measures against him last March after he invaded Ukraine.
Britain, Australia and Poland joined Washington in seizing Vekselberg’s assets and imposing travel bans that same month.
The US Department of Justice has accused Masters and Osipov of continuing to manage Tango despite these sanctions.
The pair reportedly plotted to hide who owned the $90 million (£73 million) yacht, including changing her name to ‘The Fanta’.
It is also alleged that Masters and Osipov used the US financial system to develop a complex structure of fake companies to hide ownership.
The plan also allegedly helped hide from the banks the hundreds of thousands of pounds in payments Vekselberg received.
The US seized Tango last April and charged Masters and Osipov with conspiracy to commit fraud and crimes against the US, violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and money laundering.
Masters was arrested last Friday by the Spanish Guardia Civil, but Osipov is still a fugitive.
U.S. attorney Matthew Graves said: “Silence circumvention instigators enable oligarchs who support Vladimir Putin’s regime to flout U.S. laws.
“The United States will not allow its financial institutions and individuals to be manipulated or defrauded for the benefit of those who support an illegal war.”
Andrew Adams, Division Task Force KleptoCapture leader, said: “Companies and leaders have a choice: they can join the global effort to eradicate corruption, sanctions violations and money laundering and reap the benefits of prompt and complete cooperation; or they could try, as Osipov and Masters would have done, to protect themselves and their customers behind a veil of fraud.
“These men have made their choices and now face the consequences of a failed attempt to profit from a vast, transnational criminal enterprise rather than fight back.”