US authorities have charged Russian metals tycoon Oleg Deripaska and his associates for violating sanctions imposed by Washington.
The US Department of Justice on Thursday unsealed an indictment accusing Deripaska and two collaborators — US citizen Olga Shriki and Russian national Natalia Mikhaylovna Bardakova — with conspiring to violate US sanctions imposed on the oligarch and his private investment company Basic Element.
Ekaterina Olegovna Voronina, Deripaska’s girlfriend, was charged with making false statements to US authorities as she attempted to enter the country to give birth to the couple’s child.
“In the wake of Russia’s unjust and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, I promised the American people that the justice department would work to hold accountable those who break our laws and threaten our national security,” Merrick Garland, US attorney-general, said in a statement on Thursday. “Today’s charges demonstrate we are keeping that promise.”
Deripaska and 23 other Russian oligarchs and government officials in April 2018 faced the hardest measures imposed by the US in response to Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine’s Crimea and alleged meddling in the 2016 US election.
The tycoon at the time said the claims were baseless and sued the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the Treasury division overseeing US sanctions policy. A US district court judge dismissed the lawsuit last year.
US authorities allege that after the 2018 sanctions, Deripaska illegally used the country’s financial system to keep three luxury properties in the country. Shriki in 2019 helped arrange the sale of a California music studio owned by Deripaska via several shell companies that fetched more than $3mn, which she attempted to transfer into an account owned by one of the oligarch’s companies, the DoJ said.
“While serving the Russian state and energy sector, Oleg Deripaska sought to circumvent US sanctions through lies and deceit to cash in on and benefit from the American way of life,” Lisa Monaco, deputy US attorney-general, said in a statement.
“But shell companies and webs of lies will not shield Deripaska and his cronies from American law enforcement, nor will they protect others who support the Putin regime,” she said referring to Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin.
The two associates allegedly helped Voronina travel from Russia to the US in 2020 to deliver her child, who acquired US citizenship and whose last name was slightly tweaked to hide a link to the tycoon, according to the indictment. Shriki arranged payments of about $300,000 for childcare, medical care and other services in the US, the DoJ said.
The trio this year undertook a failed attempt to have Voronina return to the US for the birth of a second child, according to US authorities.
Between 2018 and 2020, Bardakova allegedly instructed Shriki to complete illicit transactions on Deripaska’s behalf, including delivering an Easter gift to a US television host and flowers to a former Canadian member of parliament.
The indictment comes after the FBI last year searched a Washington residence connected to Deripaska. A spokesperson for the tycoon at the time said agents were searching two houses in Washington and New York belonging to his relatives.
The charge of conspiring to violate and evade US sanctions faced by Deripaska and his two associates carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Shriki — who was arrested on Thursday — was also charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly deleting records of her involvement in the scheme after receiving a grand jury subpoena, for which the maximum penalty is 20 years in prison. Bardakova and Voronina are charged with making false statements to federal agents, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Deripaska did not immediately respond to a request for comment and a lawyer representing Shriki declined to comment. Bardakova and Voronina could not be reached for a response.
Additional reporting by Max Seddon