Mon, 30 Jan 2023

US Charges Ukrainian 'Russian Agent' With Money Laundering

Voice of America
08 Dec 2022, 10:05 GMT+10

washington - A Ukrainian politician and businessman accused of spying for Russia and seeking to sway the 2020 U.S. presidential election has been charged with money laundering and other crimes in connection with his secret purchase of two Beverly Hills condominiums, the Justice Department announced on Wednesday.

Andrii Derkach, a Ukrainian member of parliament who was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2020 for his efforts to spread disinformation about U.S. officials ahead of the presidential election, is accused of using shell corporations to hide his 2013 purchase of the two properties for more than $3 million, according to an eight-count indictment unsealed on Wednesday.

Derkach, 55, was allegedly 'an active Russian agent for over a decade, maintaining close connections with the Russian Intelligence Services,' and 'waged a covert influence campaign' to undermine the 2020 presidential election, the Treasury Department said in 2020.

Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Derkach attends a meeting with then-U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani in Kyiv, in this undated photo obtained from social media. Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Derkach attends a meeting with then-U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani in Kyiv, in this undated photo obtained from social media.

As part of his effort, Derkach allegedly fed disinformation to Rudy Giuliani, who was then-President Donald Trump's personal lawyer and was collecting dirt on his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden.

The Treasury Department later imposed sanctions against seven individuals and four entities that it said were 'part of a Russia-linked foreign influence network associated with' Derkach.

'Since at least 2019, Derkach and his associates have leveraged U.S. media, U.S.-based social media platforms, and influential U.S. persons to spread misleading and unsubstantiated allegations that current and former U.S. officials engaged in corruption, money laundering, and unlawful political influence in Ukraine,' the Treasury Department said.

The Ukrainian businessman, who remains at large, faces charges of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Acts (IEEPA), bank fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, and four counts of money laundering. If convicted, he faces up to 30 years in prison.

'The conduct of this Kremlin asset, who was sanctioned for trying to poison our democracy, has shown he is ready, willing and capable of exploiting our banking system in order to advance his illicit goals,' U.S. Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement. 'The U.S. will not be a safe haven where criminals, oligarchs or sanctioned entities can hide their ill-gotten gains or influence our elections.'

In addition to the criminal indictment, federal prosecutors filed a lawsuit seeking forfeiture of Derkach's two condos.

The charges and forfeiture action against Derkach represent the first use of criminal and forfeiture powers targeting the concealment of ownership by senior foreign political officials, passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2021, the Justice Department said.

'Attempting to enjoy the safety, security and freedoms of an open society, while secretly working to undermine that very society, is a hypocrisy that runs through every sanctions charge announced by the task force,' said Andrew Adams, head of Task Force KleptoCapture. 'It is a particularly egregious hypocrisy in the case of Andrii Derkach - sanctioned for attempts to undermine American democracy, while corruptly seeking to benefit from its protections.'

The interagency task force was launched in March to enforce the sweeping sanctions, export restrictions and economic countermeasures that the United States has imposed in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

According to the indictment, Derkach and an unnamed co-conspirator concocted a plan in 2013 to purchase two condos in Beverly Hills - one for use by the duo and the other by Derkach's children - while hiding Derkach's interest in the transactions from U.S. financial institutions.

Following his designation by the Treasury Department, Derkach sought to evade U.S. sanctions. The day after he was sanctioned by the Treasury Department, according to the indictment, Derkach wrote on Facebook that the 'decision was drawn up on a piece of paper by several congressman' [sic] 'of [a U.S. political party] and inspired by representatives of the State Department.'

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