Two Charged in $150 Million Scheme to Violate U.S. Sanctions

Published: 24 April 2023

U.S. Department of Justice headquarters August 12 2006The U.S. Justice Department has announced charges against two men who allegedly did $150 million worth of business with sanctioned oligarch Sergey Kurchenko. (Photo: Coolcaesar, Wikimedia, License)

By Henry Pope

An American businessman and a Belarusian national have been arrested in Florida for allegedly violating U.S. sanctions that were levied against oligarch Sergey Kurchenko by purchasing upwards of US$150 million worth of steelmaking materials from him.

Sergey Karpushkin, 46, of Miami, a citizen of Belarus, was arrested and indicted a week after his co-conspirator, John C. Unsalan, 41, was indicted on related charges.

According to court documents, Kurchenko was blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury in 2015 for misappropriating Ukrainian state assets. Since the outbreak of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last February, American authorities have directed their full attention towards punishing those who have enabled Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war.

“The Justice Department is relentlessly pursuing those who seek to evade sanctions imposed against the Russian regime and whose crimes enable the regime to continue its unjust, illegal war in Ukraine,” said U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland.

Karpushkin and Unsalan stand accused of engaging in a multi-year scheme to knowingly violate U.S. sanctions against Kurchenko by purchasing steelmaking materials from him and his companies Gaz-Alyans, OOO, and ZAO Vneshtorgservis.

The two companies were blacklisted in 2018 for supporting separatist forces in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

“For over three years, the defendant pursued personal profit at the expense of our national security by unlawfully transacting with sanctioned entities that were propping up puppet governments in Russian-occupied Ukraine,” said Garland of Unsalan.

In addition to sanctions violations, Karpushkin and Unsalan are each facing ten counts of international money laundering; each count carries with it a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

The investigation was carried out through the Justice Department’s KleptoCapture task force, which is dedicated to enforcing sanctions and levying economic countermeasures against those who stand to gain from Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.