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Helena Bonham Carter’s cousin indicted for allegedly helping Russian oligarch evade sanctions

MarketWatch logo MarketWatch 10/11/2022 Lukas I. Alpert
© natalia kolesnikova/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
FINANCIAL CRIME

A UK property manager who is a relative of Oscar-nominated actress Helena Bonham Carter, has been indicted in the U.S. for allegedly helping Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska evade sanctions.

Graham Bonham-Carter, 62, secretly moved millions of dollars to the U.S. on behalf of the Russian metals magnate to help maintain several American luxury properties he owns, federal prosecutors said.

Bonham-Carter, who is Helena Bonham Carter’s second cousin and a member of a prominent aristocratic family in the U.K., is also accused of attempting to move millions of dollars of art owned by Deripaska out of the U.S. by obscuring to whom it belonged, investigators said.

Deripaska, 52, owns a majority stake in United Co. Rusal PLC, one of the world’s largest aluminum producers, and has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Deripaska was placed on the U.S. sanctions list in 2018 along with the conglomerate he controls, Basic Element Ltd. That barred him from doing any transactions in the U.S.

“Bonham-Carter allegedly hid Deripaska’s money and assets from federal authorities, and continued to do so even after Deripaska was sanctioned by the U.S.,” said Michael Driscoll of the FBI. “With each new action we take, we shine a light on the vast network of individuals willing to work with Russian oligarchs who brazenly break our laws and abuse our financial systems.” 

Attempts to reach Bonham-Carter weren’t immediately successful. It was not immediately clear if he had retained a lawyer. A message sent to a representative for Deripaska wasn’t immediately returned. A message left with a representative for Helena Bonham Carter wasn’t immediately returned.

Last month, Deripaska and several people who worked for him in the United States, were indicted for allegedly evading U.S. sanctions through hidden financial transactions to maintain his U.S. properties, as well as sending people flowers and arranging for his girlfriend to give birth to his child in America.

Bonham-Carter was arrested Tuesday in the United Kingdom and was released on conditional bail following a hearing in Westminster Magistrate’s Court. He is accused of managing properties for Deripaska in England and across Europe dating back to 2003, including a £50 million mansion in London’s Belgrave Square. Bonham-Carter continued to work for Deripaska even after he was sanctioned in 2018, prosecutors said.

In several alleged emails that were included in the indictment, Bonham-Carter referred to Deripaska as his “boss” and discussed how the sanctions had made it difficult for him to do his job.

“Banks keep shutting me down because of my affiliation to my boss Oleg Deripaska,” Bonham-Carter allegedly wrote in a 2021 email. “I have even been advised not to go to the USA where Oleg still has personal sanctions as the authorities will undoubtedly pull me to one side and the questioning could be hours or even days!!”

According to the indictment, Bonham-Carter created a company, GBCM Ltd., in order to conduct over a million dollars in transactions on behalf of Deripaska to help fund the maintenance of his real estate properties in the U.S. 

He also is alleged to have attempted to transfer artwork purchased by Deripaska in New York to London by covering up who actually owned the pieces. 

In March, U.K. authorities seized two bank accounts controlled by Bonham-Carter due to his alleged connections to Deripaska.

Bonham-Carter had previously worked as the director of palaces for the King and Queen of Jordan. Born in Zimbabwe, Bonham-Carter experienced tragedy in 2008 when his wife, mother, step-father and nephew were killed in a car crash while on Safari in Botswana.

Bonham-Carter is charged with three counts of conspiring to violate and evade U.S. sanctions, and one count of wire fraud. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

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