Russian Oligarch and Associates Indicted on U.S. Sanctions Charges
WASHINGTON — One of the most prominent of Russia’s oligarchs, Oleg V. Deripaska, and two of his associates were charged with conspiring to violate sanctions imposed by the United States, including by arranging for his girlfriend to travel to America to give birth so that their children would have U.S. citizenship, federal prosecutors said on Thursday.
Mr. Deripaska’s girlfriend, Ekaterina Olegovna Voronina, entered the country in 2020 with assistance from the two associates and gave birth, making the oligarch’s child an American citizen, according to an indictment unsealed on Thursday in Federal District Court in Manhattan.
She tried to repeat the maneuver this year, but was turned away, the indictment said. She was charged with making false statements to authorities who interviewed her after she arrived in Los Angeles in June on a private jet paid for by Mr. Deripaska, claiming her parents — not Mr. Deripaska — paid for the jet and a rental home in Beverly Hills.
The associates are accused of conducting financial transactions for Mr. Deripaska in the United States, including arranging hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of care and housing for his baby and girlfriend in Los Angeles, and facilitating the sale of a music studio in Burbank, Calif., for more than $3 million.
Prosecutors said that the transactions violated sanctions imposed in 2018 against Mr. Deripaska and his mammoth aluminum empire for profiting from the “malign activities” of Russia around the world, including its annexation of Crimea in 2014.
In announcing the sanctions, the Trump administration cited accusations that Mr. Deripaska, who has ties to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, had participated in extortion, racketeering and bribery and that he had ordered the murder of a businessman.
People and businesses on sanctions lists are barred from engaging in financial transactions in the United States or using U.S. financial institutions.
Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement that the indictment of Mr. Deripaska “signals the United States’ ongoing support for the people of Ukraine in the face of continued Russian belligerence.”
Prosecutors also announced that they intend to initiate forfeiture proceedings for assets linked to Mr. Deripaska, including the proceeds of the sale of the music studio and homes in New York’s Greenwich Village and on Washington’s Embassy Row.
The indictment comes nearly a year after the F.B.I. searched the homes in New York and Washington, and more than six months after the Biden administration announced the creation of a Justice Department task force to seize the assets of billionaire oligarchs who have aided Mr. Putin in his invasion of Ukraine.
The head of the task force, Andrew C. Adams, criticized Mr. Deripaska in a statement on Thursday for “hypocrisy in seeking comfort and citizenship in the United States, while enjoying the fruits of a ruthless, anti-democratic regime.”
Over the years, Mr. Deripaska had employed an army of lobbyists, lawyers and consultants around the world to help him build and protect his empire or to try to maintain his access to the United States. At one point, his roster of advisers included Paul Manafort, who would go on to serve as Donald J. Trump’s campaign chairman in 2016 and who was convicted in 2018 of financial fraud and other crimes related to his work for Russia-aligned Ukrainian interests.
After the sanctions were levied against Mr. Deripaska in 2018, his companies launched an intensive lobbying and legal campaign that resulted in the companies — but not the oligarch himself — being granted sanctions relief by the United States under a deal that left his allies with majority ownership of his most important company, including transferring shares to a trust for his older children.
Mr. Deripaska later sued the U.S. government, demanding it lift sanctions against him, which he claimed were motivated by political animus against Russia. The lawsuit said the sanctions had led to “the wholesale devastation” of his “wealth, reputation and economic livelihood,” reducing his net worth by more than $7.5 billion, while pushing his remaining businesses “to the brink of collapse.”
The lawsuit was dismissed.
The lawyer who represented Mr. Deripaska in that case declined to comment on the charges unveiled Thursday. A spokeswoman for the oligarch did not respond to a message seeking comment.
Months after Mr. Deripaska filed the lawsuit, one of his employees in the United States in recent years, a naturalized American citizen named Olga Shriki, helped with the sale of a music studio owned by the oligarch for more than $3 million, then attempted to transfer the proceeds to an account in Russia linked to the oligarch, according to the indictment.
Ms. Shriki also purchased clothes and iPhones for Mr. Deripaska, which were transported to Russia by his girlfriend, as well as flower arrangements to be delivered to his “social contacts” in the United States and Canada, including “two Easter gift deliveries to a U.S. television host” and two flower deliveries to a former member of Canada’s parliament, according to prosecutors.
At one point, she was asked to obtain American Eagle-brand T-shirts in extra-large size for Mr. Deripaska. “Could you find them and urgently send them?” another Deripaska associate messaged Ms. Shriki, the indictment said.
She helped make arrangements for Mr. Deripaska’s girlfriend around the time of the birth of their first child in California, including renting a two-story penthouse apartment in Beverly Hills and arranging “at least five nannies and a housekeeper,” according to prosecutors. Ms. Shriki helped obtain a U.S. passport and birth certificate for the baby, the latter of which omitted the father’s name, spelling the child’s name “using a variation of Deripaska’s surname with a couple of the letters changed,” according to the indictment.
When Mr. Deripaska’s girlfriend reached out in April asking for assistance making similar arrangements for giving birth to another child in Los Angeles, Ms. Shriki responded that she was busy with other full-time work and instead instructed another Deripaska associate on how to make arrangements, according to the indictment.
In addition to the charge of conspiring to violate sanctions, Ms. Shriki was charged with obstruction of justice for deleting records sought by a grand jury.
Federal agents arrested Ms. Shriki around 6 a.m. Thursday morning at her home in Jersey City, N.J., where she lives with her husband, her two small children and her mother, people with knowledge of the matter said. Dressed in pinstriped pants and a dark green shirt, she appeared in federal court in Lower Manhattan later in the day before a magistrate judge, James L. Cott, and was released on a $2 million bond, partly secured by her home.
J. Bruce Maffeo, a lawyer for Ms. Shriki, declined to comment.
The other Deripaska associate, Natalia Mikhaylovna Bardakova, was charged with making false statements to F.B.I. agents who met her at the airport in Los Angeles in June as she waited for the arrival of Ms. Voronina, Mr. Deripaska’s girlfriend.
Ms. Bardakova, Ms. Voronina and Mr. Deripaska are Russian nationals. They have not been arrested and are considered fugitives, the U.S. attorney’s office said.
Kenneth P. Vogel reported from Washington. Benjamin Weiser reported from New York. William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting from New York.