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Justice Dept. Charges Russian Oligarch With Violating Sanctions

WASHINGTON — The Justice Division mentioned on Wednesday that it had charged a Russian oligarch with violating U.S. sanctions and unveiled further measures supposed to counter Russian cash laundering and disrupt on-line legal networks in an effort to implement monetary penalties on Moscow.

The strikes got here as the US has ratcheted up strain on the Kremlin and a number of the wealthiest Russians in gentle of rising proof of atrocities in Ukraine and as Lawyer Normal Merrick B. Garland mentioned the US was serving to its European companions examine potential conflict crimes.

The oligarch, Konstantin Malofeev, 47, is extensively thought-about considered one of Russia’s most influential enterprise moguls — he’s mentioned to have deep ties to President Vladimir V. Putin — and is among the many extra distinguished conservatives within the nation’s Kremlin-allied elite. (The indictment renders his surname as Malofeyev.)

The actions demonstrated the attain of a activity pressure created final month to search out and seize the belongings of rich Russians who violate U.S. sanctions on Russia, and the penalties appeared meant to implement the far-reaching financial sanctions that the US has imposed together with European allies.

“The Justice Division will use each out there software to search out you, disrupt your plots and maintain you accountable,” Mr. Garland mentioned, including that officers had moved “to prosecute legal Russian exercise.” He pointed to the seizure this week of a $90 million yacht owned by Viktor F. Vekselberg, who was beforehand focused with sanctions over Russian interference within the 2016 presidential election.

Mr. Garland mentioned regulation enforcement was additionally pursuing Mr. Malofeev for illegally transferring cash in violation of sanctions.

The legal fees towards Mr. Malofeev, which have been unsealed in Federal District Court docket in Manhattan, comply with an indictment filed there in March towards a former Fox Information worker, John Hanick. Mr. Hanick, an American citizen, is accused of working for the oligarch from 2013 to 2017, and was arrested in February in London.

Justice Division officers mentioned in a press release on Wednesday that the costs towards Mr. Malofeev have been in connection along with his hiring of Mr. Hanick “to work for him in working tv networks in Russia and Greece and making an attempt to accumulate a tv community in Bulgaria.”

The U.S. Treasury Division, in imposing sanctions on Mr. Malofeev in December 2014, known as him “one of many fundamental sources of financing for Russians selling separatism in Crimea.”

Damian Williams, the U.S. lawyer for the Southern District of New York, mentioned in a press release on Wednesday that the sanctions barred Mr. Malofeev from paying or receiving companies from Americans, or from conducting transactions along with his property in the US.

“He systematically flouted these restrictions for years,” Mr. Williams mentioned.

Mr. Malofeev, who’s believed to be in Russia, stays at giant, the Justice Division mentioned. Mr. Garland mentioned the division had seized “thousands and thousands of {dollars}” from a U.S. monetary establishment which might be believed to hint again to Mr. Malofeev.

The Justice Division additionally mentioned it was taking steps to counter nefarious exercise on-line, together with disrupting a bot community organized by the Russian authorities’s army intelligence company.

Mr. Garland additionally announced the seizure of Hydra Market, a Russian-language darknet market that processed gross sales of medicine, solid passports and different paperwork, and stolen monetary knowledge. The division mentioned that it believed the market accounted for 80 p.c of cryptocurrency transactions on the darkish internet, and that roughly $5.2 billion in bitcoin and different cryptocurrencies had been seized with assist from German authorities.

The announcement got here in tandem with new sanctions imposed by the US and its allies on Wednesday focusing on a few of Russia’s largest banks.

Zach Montague reported from Washington, and Benjamin Weiser from New York.

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