Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska charged with violating U.S. sanctions

Andrey Rudakov

Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska has been indicted by a federal grand jury in New York for allegedly violating U.S. sanctions imposed against members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, authorities said Thursday.

Deripaska, a longtime associate of former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, is accused of using shell companies and conspiring with others to orchestrate a $3 million sale of a California music studio, send an Easter gift to an unidentified U.S. television host and deliver flowers to his girlfriend in 2020 while she was in the U.S. to give birth to his child.

Federal prosecutors said Deripaska funded hundreds of thousands of dollars in transactions so that his child would benefit from the U.S. health care system and gain U.S. citizenship. Prior to his girlfriend’s trip to the U.S. in 2020, Deripaska advised her on how to obtain a visa and told her to be “careful” ahead of an interview with U.S. immigration authorities, prosecutors said.

Deripaska’s associates attempted to help his girlfriend, Ekaterina Voronina, return to the U.S. sometime this year to give birth to the couple’s second child, but she was denied entry, according to the indictment.

Voronina had told immigration agents that the father of her first child and of the unborn baby was "Alec Deribasko," the indictment says. When asked if she knew Oleg Deripasko, she said he was just a friend, the indictment says.

Voronina had arrived in Los Angeles via a private jet, which cost $160,000 Euros (roughly $150,000) and was arranged through a Cypress-based charter company, the indictment says.

Deripaska also set up a shell company, Gracetown Inc., to retain three luxury properties in the U.S. — two in Manhattan and one in Washington — and used his associates to help him obtain U.S. goods and technology, according to the indictment.

Deripaska, 52, was charged with one count of conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions. His lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“The hypocrisy in seeking comfort and citizenship in the United States, while enjoying the fruits of a ruthless, anti-democratic regime, is striking," said Andrew Adams, head of the Justice Department’s KleptoCapture task force. “That Deripaska practiced that hypocrisy through lies and criminal sanctions evasion has made him a fugitive from the country he so desperately wished to exploit.”

Voronina and two of Deripaska’s alleged associates, Natalia Mikhaylovna Bardakova and Olga Shriki, were also charged in connection with the scheme.

Voronina, 33, who lives in Russia, was charged with making false statements.

Shriki, 42, who lives in New Jersey, was charged with one count of destruction of records in addition to one count of conspiring to violate sanctions. She was arrested Thursday. It was not clear if she had hired an attorney.

Bardakova, 45, who lives in Russia, was charged with making false statements to federal agents in addition to conspiring to violate sanctions.

Deripaska, an aluminum tycoon, was among two dozen Russian oligarchs and officials who were sanctioned by the Treasury Department in April 2018.

A news release announcing the sanctions said Deripaska has been investigated for money laundering and accused of “threatening the lives of business rivals, illegally wiretapping a government official, and taking part in extortion and racketeering.”

He sued the U.S. over the sanctions, but a federal court judge dismissed the case in June. Deripaska has appealed the ruling.

The charges were brought nearly a year after the FBI searched two homes belonging to Deripaska in Washington and New York.

NBC News reported in January 2018 that the Russian billionaire had been repeatedly denied a visa to enter the United States over his alleged ties to organized crime.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com