U.S. says associate of Russian oligarch Vekselberg charged over sanctions evasion

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors charged a Russian citizen who was also a U.S. resident with facilitating a sanctions evasion and money laundering scheme in relation to billionaire Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, in an indictment unsealed in federal court on Tuesday, the Justice Department said.

Vladimir Voronchenko, 70, of Moscow, was accused of participating in a scheme to make payments totaling over $4 million to maintain four U.S. properties that were owned by Vekselberg, the Justice Department said in a statement.

Voronchenko, who resided at various times in New York, Florida, and Russia, held himself out as a successful businessman, art collector, art dealer, and close friend and business associate of Vekselberg, according to allegations in the indictment.

Washington imposed sanctions on Vekselberg in 2018 over alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, and in 2022 over his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The Kremlin denies interfering in the election and calls its actions in Ukraine a "special military operation."

Last month, the U.S. government said it charged two businessmen, one Russian and one British, with facilitating a sanctions evasion and money laundering scheme in relation to a $90 million yacht of Vekselberg.

Voronchenko was also charged with contempt of court in connection with his flight from the United States following receipt of a grand jury subpoena requiring his personal appearance and testimony, the Justice Department added.

In May 2022, federal agents served Voronchenko with a grand jury subpoena, which called for his personal appearance for testimony. About nine days later, Voronchenko took a flight from Miami, Florida to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and then went to Moscow, prosecutors said.

The Justice Department added that Voronchenko failed to appear before the grand jury and has not returned to the United States.

Voronchenko could not immediately be reached for comment.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh and Katharine Jackson in Washington; Editing by Chris Reese and David Gregorio)

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