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US announces charges against Russian businessmen and their facilitators in a message to Putin

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department announced a series of arrests and indictments Thursday against Russian businessmen and their facilitators in five separate federal cases that span New York, Florida, Georgia and the District of Columbia.

The action was timed to coincide with the two-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began Feb. 24, 2022.

Charges were unsealed in New York against sanctioned Russian banker Andrei Kostin and two of his U.S.-based facilitators. The facilitators, Vadim Wolfson and Gannon Bond, were arrested Thursday.

Kostin is the longtime president of VTB Bank, a state-owned bank and Russia’s second largest. He is charged with engaging in a scheme to evade sanctions and launder money to support two superyachts. Kostin and the two facilitators are also accused of trying to evade sanctions related to a luxury home in Aspen, Colorado.

Michael Khoo, a co-director of the department’s Task Force KleptoCapture, said on a call with reporters that the announcement was meant to send a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin that “we’re not going away” and “we can play the long game as well” so long as the war continues.

The KleptoCapture task force enforces the economic restrictions within the U.S. imposed on Russia and its billionaires.

The Justice Department says over the past two years it has secured court orders for the restraint, seizure, and forfeiture of nearly $700 million in assets and has charged more than 70 people with violating sanctions and export controls.

“The Justice Department is more committed than ever to cutting off the flow of illegal funds that are fueling Putin’s war and to holding accountable those who continue to enable it,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in a statement.

“That is why today we are announcing several additional enforcement actions that the Justice Department has taken to bring prosecutions against and seize assets of sanctioned enablers of the Kremlin and Russian military.”

Also Thursday, an indictment was unsealed in Washington, D.C., charging Vladislav Osipov with bank fraud connected to operating a 255-foot luxury yacht owned by sanctioned Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. Osipov, a Russian national, lives in Switzerland.

The indictment identifies the superyacht as the Tango, the first belonging to a sanctioned Russian with close ties to the Kremlin to be seized at the request of the U.S. government following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In Florida, Serhiy Kurchenko, a sanctioned pro-Russian Ukrainian metals magnate, was indicted for trying to evade sanctions, among other charges. Also in Florida, a civil forfeiture complaint was filed against two luxury condos in Bal Harbour owned by sanctioned Russian businessman Viktor Perevalov, the co-owner of a Russia-based construction company.

And in Georgia, Feliks Medvedev pleaded guilty earlier this month to helping launder over $150 million through bank accounts he controls. Medvedev, a Russian citizen, lives in Buford, Georgia.

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