By Lukas I. Alpert
Aluminum tycoon Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with close ties to Vladimir Putin, has been indicted for allegedly evading U.S. sanctions through hidden financial transactions, including sending people flowers and arranging for his girlfriend to give birth to his child in America.
Deripaska, 52, who owns a majority stake in United Co. Rusal PLC /zigman2/quotes/204335089/delayed HK:486 +2.26% , one of the world’s largest aluminum producers, was placed on the U.S. sanctions list in 2018 along with the conglomerate he controls, Basic Element Ltd. That barred him from doing any business in the U.S.
The sanctions were tightened earlier this year, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, after Rusal was removed in January 2019 from the sanctions list by the Treasury Department under then-President Donald Trump .
“Shell companies and webs of lies will not shield Deripaska and his cronies from American law enforcement, nor will they protect others who support the Putin regime,” said Deputy U.S. Attorney General Lisa Monaco.
Deripaska has been among Russia’s wealthiest men for decades, amassing his fortune beginning in the 1990s. He has long had close ties to Putin and been investigated around the world for money laundering, extortion and racketeering. He has denied the allegations.
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Federal prosecutors said that despite the sanctions, Deripaska continued since 2018 to engage in financial transactions in America, using a corporate entity known as Gracetown Inc. to obscure his ownership of three luxury homes in the U.S. worth tens of millions of dollars and to facilitate the sale of a California recording studio for $3 million.
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Deripaska is also accused of paying over $300,000 to send his girlfriend, Yekaterina Voronina, 33, to the U.S. in 2020, in order for her to give birth to their child, who then was granted American citizenship, court papers said.
In 2022, Voronina attempted to return to the U.S. for the birth of their second child, but was stopped by immigration officials and sent back to Istanbul, Turkey, from which she had flown.
Prosecutors say that a Deripaska employee, Natalia Bardakova, 45, helped arrange for many of his financial transactions in the U.S. Among them was directing Olga Shriki, 42, a naturalized U.S. citizen living in New Jersey, to make purchases on Deripaska’s behalf, including sending flowers and Easter baskets to his social contacts in America and Canada.
The recipients included an unnamed U.S. television-show host; a former member of Canada’s parliament; and Deripaska’s girlfriend, while she was in America to give birth.
Prosecutors say Shriki, Bardakova and Voronina conspired to conceal the name of the child’s true father, Deripaska, going so far as to change, slightly, the spelling of in the Latin alphabet the child’s last name.
Deripaska, Bardakova and Shriki are charged with conspiring to evade U.S. sanctions, for which they face up to 20 years in prison if convicted. Shriki is also charged with destroying communications she had with Deripaska and Bardakova when federal investigators began asking questions. Voronina is charged with lying to federal agents when she arrived in the U.S. in 2020, telling them she was there for tourism, rather than to give birth.
A representative for Deripaska didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment. Bardakova and Voronina, who live in Russia, couldn’t immediately be reached, and it wasn’t immediately clear if they had retained lawyers in the U.S. It also wasn’t clear if Shriki had retained a lawyer. A phone number listed in her name rang unanswered.