Russian Oligarch’s Property Manager Charged over Helping Violate U.S. Sanctions

Published: 13 October 2022

Oleg Deripaska WEFAluminum magnate and longtime ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin oligarch Oleg Deripaska was sanctioned by the U.S. in 2018. (Photo: Remy Steinegger/World Economic Forum, Flickr, License)

By Inci Sayki

A British businessman was arrested on U.S. charges of conspiring to evade sanctions imposed on a Russian oligarch, the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) said on Tuesday.

According to court documents, London-based businessman Graham Bonham-Carter worked for entities controlled by the Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska from 2003 and assisted the sanctioned industrialist by concealing the ownership of his high-value properties through a web of complex ownership structures.

Deripaska was blacklisted by the U.S. in 2018 for “having acted or purported to act on behalf of, directly or indirectly, a senior official of the Government of the Russian Federation, and for operating in the energy sector of the Russian Federation economy.”

According to the DoJ, since the oligarch’s designation, Bonham-Carter engaged in over US$1 million of illicit transactions to fund real estate properties in the U.S. for Deripaska.

Shortly after the U.S. imposed sanctions, the businessman set up a new company upon his boss’ instructions, named GBCM Limited, for managing Deripaska’s properties.

Prosecutors said that in 2021, Bonham-Carter wired payments exceeding a million dollars from a GBCM Limited bank account in Russia to a New York bank account for another company that manages Deripaska's residences in the U.S.

The property manager also tried to move the oligarch’s artwork based in the U.S. abroad through an auction house, where he attempted to conceal Deripaska’s ownership of the artwork.

Bonham-Carter was arrested in the U.K. in an action coordinated by the National Crime Agency’s (NCA) Combatting Kleptocracy Cell. The U.S. government will seek his extradition.

“Oligarchs seeking to evade sanctions rely on skilled professionals to help them hide their true ownership of assets and sustain their lifestyles,” said NCA Director General Steve Rodhouse. He added that such attempts to hide or move illicit wealth require a “collaborative international response.”

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Deripaska was also sanctioned by the U.K, Canada, Australia, and the EU.

According to the OCCRP Russian Asset Tracker, Deripaska’s assets exceed $5 billion in value. He has luxury properties across London, New York, and Europe; a superyacht owned by two-tiers of offshore companies; as well as real estate and an aircraft in Cyprus, where he obtained citizenship under the Mediterranean island’s controversial “golden passport” scheme. Nicosia, however, revoked his passport earlier this year.

Bonham-Carter faces three charges - conspiring to violate and evade U.S. sanctions in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), one count of violating IEEPA and one count of wire fraud. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.