Politics

U.S. charges Russian oligarch with Ukraine-related sanction violations

Key Points
  • The Justice Department announced the first known criminal charge against a Russian oligarch related to the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine in 2014.
  • The U.S. accuses Konstantin Malofeyev of violating sanctions.
  • Russia's 2014 illegal annexation of Crimea, a peninsula on the Black Sea, sparked international uproar and triggered sanctions against Moscow.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announces a federal investigation of the City of Phoenix and the Phoenix Police Department during a news conference at the Department of Justice on August 05, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Kevin Dietsch | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department on Wednesday announced the first known criminal charge against a Russian oligarch related to the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine in 2014.

The indictment unsealed in the Southern District of New York accuses Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev of conspiring to violate and violating U.S. sanctions. Malofeyev, 47, was designated by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, in December 2014 following Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea.

Russia's invasion of Crimea, a peninsula on the Black Sea, sparked international uproar and triggered sanctions against the Kremlin. Shortly after the annexation, a war broke out in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russian-backed separatists.

Russia launched a full-scale invasion of its neighbor in February and has committed atrocities that sparked a wave of new sanctions from the U.S. and its allies.

Konstantin Malofeev, chairman of the board of directors of the Tsargrad media group, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Moscow, Russia September 16, 2021.
Tatyana Makeyeva | Reuters

The FBI said Malofeyev played "a leading role in supporting Russia's 2014 invasion of eastern Ukraine" and "recently described Russia's 2022 military invasion of Ukraine as a holy war."

Malofeyev is at large but is believed to be in Russia, according to U.S. authorities.

"These are the first criminal charges brought by the Department of Justice against a Russian oligarch since Russia invaded Ukraine," Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said during a press briefing at the Justice Department.

Since the U.S. sanctioned Malofeyev, he is "alleged to have flagrantly and repeatedly violated the sanctions imposed on him while attempting to establish media companies across Europe," Monaco said, adding the media companies would help to spread pro-Kremlin misinformation.

"Mr. Malofeyev further violated U.S. sanctions in a scheme to transfer shares he owned in a Texas bank to a business associate in 2015," she said, adding that U.S. authorities seized that multimillion-dollar investment.

Each of the two charges in the indictment carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

The Russian embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request to comment on the charges.

Last month, the DOJ charged an American citizen with violations of U.S. sanctions and for making false statements regarding his connection to Malofeyev.

U.S. authorities allege in the indictment that Malofeyev hired Jack Hanick in 2013 to work on a Russian cable television news network. Hanick was later dispatched to Greece and Bulgaria on behalf of Malofeyev to assist in media projects, according to federal prosecutors.

Hanick, who most recently resided in London, faces a sanctions charge that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a false statements charge that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

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