British man arrested in Spain for allegedly helping a Russian oligarch evade sanctions | Spain

A Briton wanted by US authorities for allegedly helping a Russian oligarch avoid sanctions over his £90m (£73m) superyacht has been arrested in Spain.

The Briton, named by the US Department of Justice as Richard Masters, 52, is accused of facilitating a sanctions-avoidance and money-laundering scheme involving Tango, a 255-foot luxury yacht belonging to Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian oligarch under US sanctions who is an associate of Vladimir Putin .

Another businessman, Vladislav Osipov, 51, a Russian citizen, has also been charged in the US but remains at large.

Vekselberg, the founder of a Russian energy conglomerate, has been targeted by US sanctions since 2018.

Spain’s civil police said a British national was arrested at Madrid’s Barajas airport in a joint operation with the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations. The US has asked Spain to arrest Masters in order to extradite him.

“The arrested British national is the owner and administrator of a trading company based in Majorca that offers maintenance and administration services for boats,” the Guardia Civil said.

“Among his clients is a Russian citizen who is prohibited from doing business in American markets and with American financial companies.” The yacht in question was used by the aforementioned Russian citizen and his family.

Police added that the suspect and his company are believed to have earned as much as €800,000 (£707,000) for looking after the oligarch’s yacht.

“After Vekselberg was sanctioned in April 2018, Masters’ company took over management of Tang and conspired with others to avoid US sanctions,” the US Department of Justice said in a statement.

“According to the indictment, among other things, Masters devised a scheme to use a false name for the yacht, ‘Fanta,’ to conceal from financial institutions that the US dollar payments ultimately benefited Tang and Vekselberg.” “

As a result, the statement added, US financial institutions processed “hundreds of thousands of dollars in transactions” related to Tang that would not have been permitted had they known of Vekselberg’s involvement.

Matthew Graves, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, where the charges were brought, said those trying to circumvent sanctions against oligarchs who support Putin’s regime are violating U.S. law.

“The United States will not allow its financial institutions and individuals to be manipulated or defrauded to benefit those who support an illegal war,” he added.

Andrew Adams, director of the Department of Justice’s KleptoCapture task force, said Masters had to face “consequences” for his actions.

“Corporations and executives have a choice,” he said. “They can participate in global efforts to eradicate corruption, sanctions violations and money laundering and enjoy the benefits of rapid and successful cooperation; or they may, as Osipov and Masters allegedly did, try to cover themselves and their clients with a veil of deception.”

Adams added: “These men made their decisions and now face the consequences of a failed attempt to profit from a sophisticated, transnational criminal enterprise, rather than standing up to it.”

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