US Indicts Swiss-Based Russian And Imposes Wave Of Sanctions

(MENAFN- Swissinfo) The US Treasury Department plans to impose more than 500 new sanctions on Russia and its war machine, while a separate indictment by the State Department has called for information on a Russian national with an address in Switzerland.

This content was published on February 23, 2024 - 11:50 5 minutes AP

The sanctions represent the largest single tranche of penalties since Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. They come on the heels of a series of new arrests and indictments announced by the Justice Department on Thursday that target Russian businessmen, including the head of Russia's second-largest bank, and their middlemen in five separate federal cases.

The Biden administration is seeking to demonstrate its unwavering support for Ukraine, even though Republican lawmakers allied with former President Donald Trump are blocking vital additional US military aid.

The White House had promised major sanctions in response to the death last week of Russian President Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic, opposition leader Alexei Navalny, in an Arctic penal colony. Biden said Thursday after meeting with Navalny's wife and daughter that the sanctions would be“against Putin, who is responsible for his death.”

+ Read more: Neutrality trumps Navalny in measured Swiss response to Russia

The planned sanctions were previewed by two administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity before their release on Friday. Additional sanctions are expected from the State Department as well.

Thousands of sanctions have already been imposed on Russian officials, businessmen, banks, companies and entire industries since the start of the war.

Out of the Justice Department, the cases announced Thursday include charges unsealed in New York against sanctioned Russian banker Andrei Kostin and“two of his US-based facilitators.” The facilitators, Vadim Wolfson and Gannon Bond, were arrested Thursday.

Kostin, the longtime president of state-owned VTB Bank, is charged with engaging in a scheme to evade sanctions and launder money to support two superyachts. He, along with the two others, is also accused of trying to evade sanctions by concealing his ownership of a home in Aspen, Colorado. The indictment says Wolfson and Bond arranged to sell the house and provide Kostin with about $12 million from the sale.

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 US 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 (CHF617 million) in assets and has charged more than 70 people with violating sanctions and export controls.

+ Read more: despite criticism, Swiss say they are model enforcers of sanctions

The US has been able to transfer more than $5 million of seized Russian assets to Europe in support of Ukraine's defense, US officials said Thursday. But the process of justifying each confiscation of alleged illicit assets in court is a painstaking one by law, playing out over years.

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

The US and other allies of Ukraine had hoped to cripple and isolate Russia's economy with a succession of sanctions targeting its financial sector and sources of revenue, including oil sales. But Putin has worked with Iran and others to blunt the impact of the international sanctions, so that the International Monetary Fund reports Russia's economy growing at an unexpectedly healthy pace.

Swiss connection

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 State Department has offered a reward of up to $1 million for information leading to his arrest or conviction.

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 US government following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

From January 2023: Swiss-Russian man charged over yacht fraud case

In Florida, Serhiy Kurchenko, a sanctioned pro-Russian Ukrainian metals magnate, was indicted for trying to evade sanctions that prevent him from doing business in the United States. He and Kostin are believed to be in Moscow and thus unlikely to face US justice.

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 that was sanctioned for building a highway in Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula that Russia seized in 2014.

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

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