A British man has been arrested in Spain for extradition to the US for allegedly helping an oligarch with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin evade sanctions.
The US Department of Justice (DoJ) said in a statement that 52-year-old Richard Masters was arrested by Spain’s Civil Guard last Friday, although his Russian-Swiss co-defendant Vladislav Osipov is still at large.
The pair are being charged separately, in charges unsealed by US District Court in the District of Columbia, for facilitating a settlement for oligarch Viktor Vekselberg linked to his $90 million (£73 million), 255-foot yacht Tango .
Mr Masters allegedly devised a scheme calling the yacht “the Fanta” to hide from banks the hundreds of thousands of pounds in US currency payments that ultimately favored Mr Vekselberg.
The DoJ said the pair are charged with conspiracy to defraud and commit crimes against the US, violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and money laundering.
The US imposed sanctions against Mr Vekselberg in April 2018 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and Washington strengthened the measures in March 2022 following Mr Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
The UK, Australia and Poland also joined Washington in March in seizing Mr. Vekselberg’s assets and imposing travel bans, while the DoJ seized Tango in Spain the following month.
The department alleges Mr Masters ran a yachting company in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, which he used to run Tango after the first sanctions were imposed in 2018.
It is alleged that Mr. Masters and Mr. Osipov used US corporations and the US financial system to mask Mr. Vekselberg’s involvement in the ship, while Mr. Osipov used a complex shell company structure to hide ownership.
US Attorney Matthew Graves said: “Facilitators of sanctions evasion enable the oligarchs who support Vladimir Putin’s regime to flout US law.
“The United States will not allow its financial institutions and individuals to be manipulated or defrauded for the purpose of benefiting those who support an illegal war.”
Director Andrew Adams of the department task force KleptoCapture said Masters had to face the “consequences” of his actions.
“The Ministry of Justice has been clear. Businesses and executives have a choice: they can participate in the global effort to eradicate corruption, sanctions violations and money laundering, and reap the benefits of speedy and full cooperation; or they may, as Osipov and Masters would have done, try to protect themselves and their customers behind a veil of fraud,” he said.
“These men have made their decisions and now face the consequences of a failed attempt to profit from, rather than oppose, a sophisticated, transnational criminal enterprise.”
The international partners of the Americans were thanked for keeping Masters.
Alvin Winston, FBI special agent, said: “The FBI will hold accountable those who aid Russian oligarchs in their efforts to hide assets and violate sanctions. We thank our international partners who assisted in the arrest of Richard Masters in Spain earlier today.”