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U.S. prosecutors secure warrant to seize Russian oligarch's $90M plane

Federal prosecutors said Monday that sanctioned Russian oligarch Andrei Skoch's $90 million Airbus aircraft is subject to seizure as its registration and insurance premiums were paid for in U.S. dollars. Photo courtesy of Department of Justice
Federal prosecutors said Monday that sanctioned Russian oligarch Andrei Skoch's $90 million Airbus aircraft is subject to seizure as its registration and insurance premiums were paid for in U.S. dollars. Photo courtesy of Department of Justice

Aug. 9 (UPI) -- Federal U.S. prosecutors have been authorized to seize a sanctioned Russian oligarch's $90 million private jet as the United States continues to ratchet up the pressure on the Kremlin to end its war in Ukraine.

The Justice Department said Monday that it has secured a seizure warrant from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to confiscate the Airbus A319-100 owned by Andrei Skoch.

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According to an affidavit in support of the warrant, Skoch owns the Airbus through a series of shell companies and trusts that are tied to his unnamed romantic parter.

"Once again, U.S. law enforcement has demonstrated that international shell games will not suffice to hide the fruits of corruption and money laundering," Andrew Adams, director of the Justice Department's KleptoCapture task force, said in a statement.

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"Through today's warrant, the Department of Justice lays out a roadmap for those engaged in the legitimate financial sector to follow when assessing transactions with Skoch's laundering network, while taking steps to freeze, seize and forfeit the fruits of his criminal activities."

Federal prosecutors said the plane can be seized as U.S. dollar transactions were made through U.S. financial institutions to register the plane and to cover aviation insurance premiums in violation of sanctions imposed against Skoch.

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The court document states he paid some $113,180 into a U.S. bank account to register the Airbus with Aruba and $284,459 in insurance premiums to a Swiss bank that had to clear through U.S. correspondent banks as the payments were in U.S. dollars.

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Skoch has been a member of Russia's State Duma since 1999 and first came under U.S. sanctions in 2018 for being an official of the Russian government and because of his "longstanding ties to Russia organized criminal groups, including time spent leading one such enterprise."

He again came under U.S. sanctions when the Treasury designated 328 members of the Duma in March for their support of the Kremlin's war in Ukraine.

The seizure warrant states that the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control identified the airbus, a 324-foot Cayman Islands-flagged superyacht named Madame Gu and a helicopter on the yacht as blocked property of Skoch's on June 2.

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Since Russia launched its war against Ukraine on Feb. 24, the United States has been targeting those within the inner circle of Russian President Vladimir Putin with sanctions in an effort to exert pressure on the Kremlin leader to end his war.

Superyachts and aircraft have been repeatedly seized since the United States' unveiled its KleptoCapture task force in March with the aim to enforce sanctions imposed against Russian oligarchs.

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In late June, U.S. authorities took into possession a $300 million superyacht owned by sanctions Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov.

"The sanctions levied by the U.S. government and the work of this task force demonstrate to these offensively wealthy oligarchs who support Russia's military aggression that they are not untouchable, and we are dramatically impacting their way of life," said Michael Driscoll, FBI assistant director-in charge.

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