Federal agents have raided two New York properties linked to a Russian billionaire oligarch under US sanctions facing a criminal investigation into alleged bank fraud.
According to WNBC-TV, agents from the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) participated in Thursday’s raids on a Park Avenue penthouse in Manhattan and a sprawling Hamptons estate associated with Viktor Vekselberg.
A close ally of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, Vekselberg is worth an estimated $14.4 billion and is the powerful head of the Moscow-based Renova Group, a conglomerate with interests in metals, mining, technology and other companies.
He is among Russian oligarchs under US sanctions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, and also faces a Justice Department probe for possible violations of US bank fraud laws, court filings show.
In April, Spanish officials seized Vekselberg’s $99 million 225-foot superyacht Tango at a shipyard on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca on the basis of a US warrant.
Agents from the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) participated in Thursday’s raids of a penthouse on Manhattan’s Park Avenue (above) and the Hamptons’ estate associated with Viktor Vekselberg
Photos of the Manhattan search show agents in FBI and HSI raid jackets entering the 515 Park Avenue property and removing boxes of materials
Thursday’s raids are believed to be related to an ongoing federal investigation into possible violations of bank fraud, money laundering and sanctions rules
Agents remove a box labeled “Evidence” from the Park Avenue apartment building
Vekselberg (right), a close ally of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, is worth an estimated $14.4 billion and is the powerful head of Moscow-based Renova Group
Thursday’s raids are believed to be related to an ongoing federal investigation into possible violations of bank fraud, money laundering and sanctions rules.
However, no criminal charges have yet been filed against Vekselberg.
Videos and photos of the Manhattan search show agents in FBI and HSI raid jackets entering the 515 Park Avenue property and removing boxes of materials.
Also searched was a 9,200-square-foot, nine-bedroom mansion in Southampton that was last sold in 2008 for $11.4 million.
WNBC reported that a related search was underway at a property on Fisher Island in Miami.
HSI is the primary investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security tasked with investigating cross-border crimes related to international trade, travel, and finance.
In April, Spanish officials seized Vekselberg’s $99 million 225-foot superyacht Tango at a shipyard on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca on the basis of a US warrant
Police stand inside the fenced compound of a home associated with Viktor Vekselberg in Southampton on Long Island in New York on Thursday, September 1, 2022
The 9,200-square-foot, nine-bedroom mansion in Southampton (above), which last sold for $11.4 million in 2008, was also searched Thursday
Federal agents search the home of sanctioned Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg at 515 Park Avenue on Thursday
HSI and FBI New York field officials did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment from DailyMail.com Thursday afternoon
HSI is the primary investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security tasked with investigating cross-border crimes related to international trade, travel, and finance
The FBI’s New York field office did not immediately respond Thursday afternoon seeking comment from DailyMail.com. An HSI spokeswoman declined to comment.
Vekselberg is under full lockdown sanctions in the United States, where all of his assets are being frozen and confiscated.
The properties searched on Thursday are not believed to have been immediately seized.
Although they are reportedly linked to Vekselberg, their true ownership was not immediately clear.
A spokesman for Vekselberg was not immediately available for comment.
Vekselberg is not on the list of people subject to European Union sanctions against Russia.
However, he was first hit with US sanctions in 2018 for alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.
Vekselberg was also added to a list of members of Putin’s inner circle targeted in retaliation for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year.
Vekselberg was first hit with US sanctions in 2018 for alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election
The FBI and Spanish authorities seized a megayacht owned by oligarch Viktor Vekselberg earlier this year amid calls for further tightening of sanctions against Russia
A US federal agent and two Spanish Civil Guards board the yacht named Tango in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, in April
The seizure of his superyacht off Spain in April marked the first major US crackdown on Russian oligarch assets in the Ukraine war.
According to the seizure order, Vekselberg is accused of conspiring with others to commit bank fraud by “structuring transactions on the Tango in a way that concealed Vekselberg’s ownership interest in the ship,” thereby luring US banks into illicit transactions to process.
The warrant also cites previous lawsuits against Renova’s founders, including Vekselberg, dating back to 2001, accusing him of involvement in a “widespread racketeering and money-laundering scheme.”
US Attorney General Merrick Garland praised the yacht seizure in a video statement, saying: “Today, for the first time, our task force is seizing an asset belonging to a sanctioned individual with close ties to the Russian regime. It won’t be the last.’
“Together with our international partners, we will do everything we can to hold accountable any person whose criminal acts enable the Russian government to continue its unjust war.”
It was one of several seizures conducted by the Justice Department’s “KleptoCapture” task force since then.
The unit’s name is a pun on the word “kleptocracy,” referring to the rule of a corrupt elite who use their power to plunder wealth.
The task force includes prosecutors, investigators, and analysts from multiple federal agencies, including the FBI and HSI.
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11170475/Feds-raid-Park-Avenue-penthouse-Hamptons-estate-linked-Russian-oligarch-Viktor-Vekselberg.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 The Fed raids the Park Avenue penthouse and Hamptons estate associated with Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg