An associate of a sanctioned Russian oligarch has been accused of violating U.S. sanctions and money laundering for the associate’s role in maintaining and trying to sell the oligarch’s Southampton mansion.
A Manhattan federal grand jury indicted Vladimir Voronchenko on charges unsealed Tuesday for allegedly scheming to make over $4 million in payments to maintain four U.S. properties worth $75 million combined — including a mansion at 19 Duck Pond Lane listed in 2020 for nearly $16 million that federal agents raided on September 1 — belonging to the sanctioned oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.
Voronchenko tried to sell the mansion and Vekselberg’s penthouse apartment on Park Avenue in Manhattan through an attorney with funds flowing through shell corporations and an escrow fund known as an Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts (IOLTA).
“Immediately after Vekselberg’s [sanctions were enacted in 2018] … the source of the funds used to maintain and service the properties changed,” Manhattan federal prosecutors said in a news release.
“The IOLTA account began to receive wires from a bank account in the Bahamas held in the name of a shell company controlled by Voronchenko, Smile Holding Ltd., and from a Russian bank account held in the name of a Russian national who was related to Voronchenko. … Although the source of the payments changed, the management of the payments remained the same as before: Voronchenko and his family member directed the attorney to use these funds to make various U.S. dollar payments to maintain and service the properties.”
Between approximately June 2018 and March 2022, approximately 25 wire transfers totaling approximately $4 million were sent to the IOLTA account while Voronchenko was controlling the properties, authorities alleged.
The 70-year-old permanent U.S. resident was charged with conspiring to violate and evade U.S. sanctions, violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, conspiring to commit international money laundering, international money laundering and contempt of court for fleeing the U.S. after receiving a grand jury subpoena in May 2022 on Fisher Island, Fla., that required his testimony.
Voronchenko took a flight from Miami to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and then to Moscow, authorities said.
Voronchenko has lived in Moscow, Manhattan, Southampton and Fisher Island while promoting himself as a successful businessman, art collector and dealer and a close friend and business associate of Vekselberg, whose yacht authorities seized off the coast of Spain last year.
As Dan’s Papers has reported, the two-acre Southampton property known as Villa Ledas has a 9,941-square-foot, two-story mansion built in 1998 with eight bedrooms and seven bathrooms, records show.
Amenities include a library, two bars, wine cellar, fitness center, heated pool, an all-weather tennis court and a sculpture garden.
Vekselberg, a Ukrainian-born businessman who is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, had been sanctioned in 2018, but the U.S. Department of Justice recently stepped up its efforts to seize his and other oligarchs’ assets after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
He is the founding chairman of Moscow-based Renova Group, an aluminum, oil, energy and telecoms conglomerate. Worth a reported $9.3 billion, he is ranked among richest people in the world and is believed to own the world’s largest collection of Fabergé eggs.
It was not immediately clear if Voronchenko has a lawyer. He faces up to 20 years in federal prison, if convicted. Federal authorities also filed court documents notifying the defendant of their intent to seize the four properties.
-With Associated Press