On January 20, 2023, the US District Court for the District of Columbia unsealed separate indictments charging Russian national Vladislav Osipov and UK national Richard Masters for their roles in a sanctions evasion and money laundering scheme related to the ownership and operation of Tango, a $90 million luxury motor yacht owned by Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian oligarch subject to US sanctions. According to the US Department of Justice, the two businessmen are charged with conspiracy to defraud the US and to commit offenses against the US, violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (“IEEPA”), and money laundering. The DOJ reports that Spanish law enforcement provisionally arrested Masters for the purpose of extradition pursuant to a request by the US. The DOJ also reports that an arrest warrant against Osipov is outstanding.
According to the indictment, Osipov, an employee of Vekselberg who served as a property manager for Tango, faciliated the scheme by designing a complex ownership structure in order to mask Vekelsberg’s ownership of Tango. Federal prosecutors also allege that Masters, who ran a yacht management company in Spain and took over the management of Tango in 2018, devised a fraudulent scheme to refer to the yacht as “Fanta” instead of Tango in order to conceal US dollar payments linked to Vekselberg and Tango. This subterfuge resulted in the processing of transactions worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, in violation of US sanctions and money laundering laws. The schemes enabled Tango to operate with a full array of services and luxury goods from US companies, including internet and technology services, satellite television as well as various transactions with US financial institutions for Vekselberg’s benefit.
On April 4, 2022, Spanish authorities seized Tango pursuant to a seizure warrant issued by the US District Court for the District of Columbia based on allegations that the vessel was subject to forfeiture for violating US bank fraud, money laundering, and sanctions statutes.