A Briton wanted by US authorities for allegedly helping a Russian oligarch evade sanctions linked to his $90m (£73m) superyacht has been arrested in Spain.
The Briton, named by the US Department of Justice as Richard Masters, 52, has been accused of facilitating a sanctions evasion and money laundering scheme involving Tango, a 255-meter luxury yacht feet belonging to Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian oligarch under US sanctions who is an associate of Vladimir Putin.
Another businessman, Vladislav Osipov, 51, a Russian national, has also been charged in the United States but remains free.
Vekselberg, the founder of a Russian energy conglomerate, has been the target of US sanctions since 2018.
Spanish police Guardia Civil said a British national was arrested at Madrid’s Barajas airport in a joint operation with the FBI and Homeland Security Investigation. The United States had asked Spain to arrest Masters for extradition.
“The arrested British citizen is the owner and director of a commercial company based in Mallorca which offers maintenance and administration services to boats,” the Guardia Civil said.
“Among his clients is a Russian citizen who was banned from operating in US markets and with US financial firms. The yacht in question was used by the aforementioned Russian citizen and his family.
The force added that the suspect and his company would have earned up to €800,000 (£707,000) to look after the oligarch’s yacht.
“After Vekselberg was sanctioned in April 2018, Masters’ company took over management of Tango and conspired with others to evade 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, ‘the Fanta’, in order to conceal from financial institutions that the U.S. dollar payments were ultimately for Tango’s benefit. and Vekselberg.”
As a result, the statement added, US financial institutions processed “hundreds of thousands of dollars in transactions” relating to Tango that would not have been authorized had they known of Vekselberg’s involvement.
Matthew Graves, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, where the charges were filed, said those trying to circumvent sanctions against oligarchs who support Putin’s regime were flouting U.S. law.
“The United States will not allow its financial institutions and people to be manipulated or defrauded for the benefit of those who support an unlawful war,” he added.
Andrew Adams, director of the Justice Department’s KleptoCapture task force, said Masters must face the “consequences” of his actions.
“Businesses and leaders have a choice,” he said. “They can participate in the global effort to root out corruption, sanctions violations and money laundering, and reap the benefits of prompt and comprehensive cooperation; or they may, as Osipov and Masters would have done, attempt to protect themselves and their clients behind a veil of fraud.
Adams added, “These men have made up their minds, and now face the consequences of a failed attempt to benefit, rather than oppose, a sophisticated transnational criminal enterprise.”