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Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska indicted for evading sanctions

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 9/29/2022 Shayna Jacobs
Oleg Deripaska, Russian billionaire, listens during a panel session on day three of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 4, 2021, in St. Petersburg. © Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg Oleg Deripaska, Russian billionaire, listens during a panel session on day three of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 4, 2021, in St. Petersburg.

NEW YORK — Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska has been indicted on a charge of sanctions evasion, part of an ongoing effort by the Justice Department to hold wealthy Russians with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin accountable for violating U.S. laws as Russia’s war in Ukraine rages on.

Deripaska’s indictment, unsealed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, names other defendants accused of participating in his efforts to skirt sanctions that were imposed on him in 2018, when he was slapped with economic penalties by the U.S. government for acting on behalf of a Russian official and for operating in Russia’s energy sector.

Federal prosecutors argue that Deripaska, 52, whose fortune was built on the international aluminum trade, skirted sanctions to conduct business in the United States by using intermediaries for transactions, including those related to a set of properties he indirectly owns, including a 23,000-square-foot Embassy Row mansion.

The oligarch allegedly used a naturalized U.S. citizen from New Jersey, Olga Shriki, to facilitate the $3 million sale of a music studio he owned in California. Shriki was in custody Thursday; Deripaska and the others, who do not live in the United States, remain at large.

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Deripaska’s 33-year-old girlfriend, Ekaterina Voronia, was charged with making false statements to officials when she traveled to the United States to give birth to their child in 2020. Shriki and Natalia Bardakova were charged with helping to facilitate the birth of the baby. Voronia allegedly traveled on a private jet, with Shriki coordinating “hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of U.S. medical care, housing, child care and other logistics” in the effort, according to a 31-page federal indictment.

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, a brutal conflict that has ravaged the country since February, generated renewed international scrutiny for wealthy Russians like Deripaska, who has accumulated billions as a confidant of the Russian leader and as an insider in his government.

While not directly engaging in the conflict, the Biden administration has provided weapons and supplies to the Ukrainian army. It also has turned its attention to enforcing sanctions, trying to boost pressure on Russian leader Vladimir Putin by targeting those in his inner circle and hurting them financially.

FBI Assistant Director Michael J. Driscoll said in a statement that once the sanctions against Deripaska were imposed, he “continued to circumvent those sanctions through an international network of enablers and facilitators.”

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Damian Williams added in a news release that sanctions enforcement “is a vital tool wielded by this Office and our law enforcement partners as we seek to deter Russian aggression.”

About a year ago, federal agents searched two homes connected to Deripaska — in Washington and in New York. A person with knowledge of the matter at the time told The Post that it was connected to a criminal investigation.

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A spokeswoman for Deripaska said then that the searches “were being carried out on the basis of two court orders, connected to U.S. sanctions.” She noted that the homes in question were not owned by Deripaska. The government has now alleged that they were really his.

In 2017, The Post reported that the Haft mansion on Embassy Row, one of the two homes searched, was acquired by a company incorporated in Delaware in the mid-2000s and that it was connected through documents and interviews to Deripaska.

The mansion, as well as properties in Manhattan, “were maintained on his behalf,” the indictment says.

It was not immediately clear if the spokeswoman, Larisa Belyaeva, still represents Deripaska. Belyaeva did not respond to a text message request for comment about the indictment Thursday afternoon.

Shriki was released on a $2 million bond partially secured by her Jersey City home.

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