US Justice Department indicts Russian media baron for sanction violations

‘It does not matter how far you sail your yacht,’ warns Attorney General Merrick Garland. ‘The Justice Department will use every available tool to find you, disrupt your plots, and hold you accountable’

Nathan Place
New York
Wednesday 06 April 2022 18:34 BST
DOJ unveils new measures to punish Russian oligarchs

The US Department of Justice has unveiled new steps it’s taken to cut off the flow of “dirty money” to Russia, including foiling a cybercrime plot and indicting a Russian oligarch for violating sanctions.

“Last month, I said we would leave no stone unturned in our efforts to investigate, arrest, and prosecute those whose criminal acts enable Russia to continue its unjust war in Ukraine,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said on Wednesday. “That is a promise we are keeping.”

The oligarch, Russian media mogul Konstantin Malofeyev, is accused of working around US sanctions stemming from Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea. Under those sanctions, Mr Malofeyev was barred from doing business with US citizens. But according to the DOJ, he did so anyway.

“As the indictment charges, the Treasury Department previously identified Malofeyev as one of the main sources of financing for Russians promoting separatism in Crimea, and for providing material support for the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic,” Mr Garland said. “After being sanctioned by the United States, Malofeyev attempted to evade the sanctions by using co-conspirators to surreptitiously acquire and run media outlets across Europe.”

In addition to the indictment, the DOJ has seized millions of dollars from “an account at a US financial institution” that were traced to Mr Malofeyev’s sanction violations, Mr Garland said.

The Department’s second announcement was that it had disabled a global cybercrime operation, called a “botnet,” that it said was controlled by a Russian intelligence agency.

“The Russian government has recently used similar infrastructure to attack Ukrainian targets,” Mr Garland said. “Fortunately, we were able to disrupt this botnet before it could be used.”

The attorney general also listed a number of other measures the DOJ had taken in collaboration with US allies, including shutting down a dark web marketplace and seizing an oligarch’s superyacht. DOJ officials say such actions help block illegal efforts to fund or aid the Russian government.

“Our message to those who continue to enable the Russian regime through their criminal conduct is this,” Mr Garland said, raising his voice. “It does not matter how far you sail your yacht. It does not matter how well you conceal your assets. It does not matter how cleverly you write your malware or hide your online activity. The Justice Department will use every available tool to find you, disrupt your plots, and hold you accountable.”

The war in Ukraine is now in its second month. The United Nations estimates that at least 1,417 Ukrainian civilians have died, including 121 children, since Russia invaded the country on 24 February.

In recent days, disturbing photos have emerged of dead civilians in Bucha and other towns around Kyiv, some of whom appeared to have been tortured or executed. On Wednesday, Mr Garland said the DOJ would work to prosecute those responsible for the atrocities.

“The world sees what is happening in Ukraine,” Mr Garland said. “The Justice Department sees what is happening in Ukraine. This department has a long history of helping to hold accountable those who perpetrate war crimes.”

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