Russian national Vladislav Osipov and United Kingdom national Richard Masters were charged in separate indictments unsealed on January 20, 2023, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia “with facilitating a sanctions evasion and money laundering scheme in relation to the ownership and operation of the M/Y Tango,” owned by sanctioned Viktor Vekselberg. The U.S. requested the Spanish government arrest Masters for extradition to the U.S., and Osipov’s arrest warrant remains outstanding.
The statement shares, “The defendants are charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States and to commit offenses against the United States, violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), and money laundering.”
“Today’s indictments and the arrest executed by Spanish law enforcement demonstrate the FBI’s continued focus on tracking down and holding accountable those who assist sanctioned Russian oligarchs,” FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate said in the U.S. Department of Justice statement. “The FBI, along with our international partners, will continue to aggressively investigate and pursue anyone who facilitates the corrupt practices of others, placing our institutions at risk.”
U.S. sanctions against Vekselberg were issued in April 2018, according to the indictment. Osipov and Masters facilitated the operation of the yacht through the use of U.S. companies and the U.S. financial system. Acting as the yacht’s property manager, Osipov “designed a complicated ownership structure of shell companies to hide Vekselberg’s ownership of the yacht, despite that Vekselberg designed the yacht, was the sole user, and was the ultimate beneficial owner.”
After the sanction in 2018, Masters’ yacht management company took over the management of Tango and used the false name of “the Fanta” for the yacht to hide payments from financial institutions. Both Osipov and Masters advised and enabled Tango employees to work with U.S. companies by using workarounds, including payments in other currencies and through third parties.
“As a result of this obfuscation, U.S. financial institutions processed hundreds of thousands of dollars of transactions for Tango that they otherwise would not have permitted had they known of Vekselberg’s involvement in the financial transaction,” according to the statement. “Further, these payments and Vekselberg’s involvement therein were not reported to the Department of the Treasury.”
On April 4, 2022, Spanish law enforcement executed a court order to freeze the yacht, which was at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice in March 2022 to assist with a seizure warrant that the vessel was “subject to forfeiture based on violations of U.S. bank fraud, money laundering, and sanctions statutes.”