The US Department of Justice has announced that it is acting in two separate federal cases to disrupt sanctions evasion and smuggling networks supporting the Russian regime. This action comes as today marks the one-year anniversary of Russia’s unprovoked, full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
In a civil forfeiture complaint filed by the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the government seeks the forfeiture of six real properties worth approximately $75 million that are allegedly the proceeds of sanctions violations and international money laundering transactions. The properties, located in New York, Southampton, and Fisher Island, are owned by Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.
The complaint alleges that between 2008 and 2017, Vekselberg, through a series of shell companies, acquired the six properties in the United States. The properties include a unit in 515 Park Avenue in New York City and several in Fisher Island, Florida, including 7002 Fisher Island Drive, Unit 7002 PH2.
The complaint asserts that Vekselberg violated US sanctions on Russia by transferring significant sums of money to a straw man, Vladimir Voronchenko, who was indicted last year on charges of evading US sanctions on Russia.
In the second case, the US Department of Justice unsealed a five-count indictment against Ilya Balakaev, a Russian national, for violating US export and sanctions laws. Balakaev, who is currently a fugitive, is charged with various offenses related to a years-long scheme to illegally smuggle sensitive devices used in counterintelligence operations from the US to Russia for the benefit of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB), the principal intelligence and security agency of the Russian government.
The cases were coordinated through the Justice Department’s Task Force KleptoCapture, an interagency law enforcement task force dedicated to enforcing the sweeping sanctions, export controls, and economic countermeasures that the US, along with its foreign allies and partners, has imposed in response to Russia’s unprovoked military invasion of Ukraine.