US authorities have accused Kremlin-linked businessman Konstantin Malupiev of violating US sanctions in the first criminal case against an oligarch since the start of the conflict in Ukraine.
Malupiev, a Russian investor and founder of the pro-Putin media empire, is accused of violating sanctions imposed in response to Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea by hiring a US citizen to run his own television networks and attempting to acquire a network in Bulgaria.
According to the suspect, the couple and others also conspired to illegally transfer a $10 million investment Malupiev made in a Texas bank to a business partner in Greece in 2015, in violation of the same sanctions package.
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The investment money, which Texas Bank converted to cash in an account with another US lender in 2016, was seized by US authorities.
US Attorney General Merrick Garland said on Wednesday: “Our message to those who continue to enable the Russian regime through their criminal behavior is this: It doesn’t matter how far you sail on your yacht. It doesn’t matter how well you hide your assets. . . The Justice Department will use every tool available to find him. . . And hold you accountable. “
In a telephone interview with the Financial Times, Malupiev, who faces two charges with a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison each, called the lawsuit against him “comical.”