US Authorities Indict Putin’s Pal Deripaska
U.S. authorities unsealed Thursday an indictment against Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, his girlfriend and three other people for “violating new U.S. sanctions imposed earlier this year in response to Russia’s unprovoked military invasion of Ukraine.”
The aluminum mogul has been a longstanding ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and one of the few oligarchs Putin allegedly keeps meeting with on a regular basis. Deripaska is also believed to have laundered loads of Putin’s money.
The Justice Department announced the unsealing of the indictment against Deripaska and three other persons, including an American citizen.
“According to court documents, Oleg Vladimirovich Deripaska, aka Oleg Mukhamedshin; and Natalia Mikhaylovna Bardakova, aka Natalya Mikhaylovna Bardakova, both citizens of the Russian Federation, and Olga Shriki, a New Jersey resident and naturalized U.S. citizen, are charged with conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions imposed on Deripaska and one of Deripaska’s corporate entities – Basic Element Limited,” the Justice Department said in a statement.
The fourth indicted is Deripaska’s girlfriend, Ekaterina Olegovna Voronina, aka Ekaterina Lobanova, a Russian citizen.
According to the indictment, Bardakova and Shriki helped Deripaska circumvent the sanctions in various ways, including helping Voronina deliver his child in the U.S. so it would get citizenship. Shriki was arrested on Thursday.
The Department reminds that Deripaska, the owner and controller of Basic Element, a private investment and management company for Deripaska’s various business interests, was subjected to economic sanctions on April 6, 2018, according to which he was sanctioned “in connection with its finding that the actions of the Government of the Russian Federation with respect to Ukraine constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”
Following his designation, Deripaska and his associates worked to dodge and breach those sanctions.
“Deripaska, through the corporate entity Gracetown Inc., illegally utilized the U.S. financial system to maintain and retain three luxury properties in the U.S. and further employed Olga Shriki and Natalia Mikhaylovna Bardakova to utilize U.S. financial institutions to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of services for his benefit in the U.S.,” according to the Justice Department.
For example in 2019, Shriki supervised the sale of a US$3 million music studio in California that Deripaska owned through corporate shell companies that concealed his ownership.
Following the sale of the studio, Shriki attempted to transfer over $3 million in earnings to a Russia-based account owned by another Deripaska business using one of these shell companies – Ocean Studios California LLC, read the statement.
Shriki is also charged with obstructing justice for allegedly deleting electronic information linked to her involvement in Deripaska’s sanctions evasion plan after receiving a grand jury subpoena mandating the submission of such records.
Bardakova is charged with one count of giving false statements to FBI investigators, while Deripaska’s girlfriend, Ekaterina Voronina, is charged with making false statements to U.S. Department of Homeland Security agents while attempting to enter the country to give birth to Deripaska’s first child in 2020. Bardakova and Shriki allegedly helped Voronova enter the U.S. at the time.
Furthermore, following the child’s birth, Shriki, Bardakova, and Voronina colluded to hide the name of the child’s father – Deripaska, even going so far as to slightly alter the spelling of the child’s last name.
They also tried to help Voronina enter the U.S. again this year and give birth to their second child, but the attempt was thwarted, and Voronina was denied entry and returned immediately to Istanbul, through which she had flown from Russia to the U.S., according to the Justice Department.
If she manages to return to the U.S., Voronina may face five years imprisonment for making false statements to federal agents, while Deripaska, Bardakova and Shriki, are charged with one count of “conspiring to violate and evade U.S. sanctions, in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act,” which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Destruction of records may add another 20 years to Shriki, while Bardakova is facing additional five years in jail for giving false statements, according to the Justice Department.
“The indictment also provides notice of the United States’ intention to forfeit from Deripaska the proceeds of his offense, including the U.S. properties and the proceeds from the sale of the music studio,” read the statement.
Deputy Attorney General, Lisa O. Monaco, stressed that Oleg Deripaska attempted to avoid U.S. sanctions by deception and falsehoods in order to profit from the American way of life, while serving the Russian state and energy sectors.
“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.
The indictment of Deripaska and his accomplices, according to FBI Director Christopher Wray, illustrates the bureau’s resolve to aggressively prosecute anyone who seeks to dodge the U.S. economic sanctions against the Russian government, “especially in this time of Russia’s unprovoked aggression toward Ukraine.”