US Justice Department charges Russian media baron with violating sanctions

The US Department of Justice has announced new steps it has taken to stop the flow of “dirty money” to Russia, including foiling a computer crime plot and charging a Russian oligarch with sanctions violations.

“Last month I said we would spare no effort in our efforts to investigate, arrest and prosecute those whose criminal activities are enabling Russia to continue its unjust war in Ukraine,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said on Wednesday. “That’s a promise we keep.”

Oligarch Russian media mogul Konstantin Malofeev has been accused of dodging US sanctions stemming from Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea. Because of these sanctions, Mr. Malofeyev was barred from doing business with US citizens. But according to the DOJ, he did it anyway.

“As stated in the indictment, the Ministry of Finance previously identified Malofeyev as one of the main sources of funding for Russians promoting separatism in Crimea and for providing material support to the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic,” Mr Garland said. “After being sanctioned by the United States, Malofeyev attempted to evade sanctions by using co-conspirators to covertly acquire and operate media companies across Europe.”

In addition to the indictment, the DOJ seized millions of dollars from “an account with a U.S. financial institution” linked to Mr. Malofeyev’s sanctions violations, Mr. Garland said.

The second announcement was that the ministry had disabled a global cybercrime operation dubbed “Botnet,” which Mr. Garland said was controlled by a Russian intelligence agency.

“The Russian government recently used similar infrastructure to attack Ukrainian targets,” Garland said. “Fortunately, we were able to disrupt this botnet before it could be used.”

The attorney general also listed a number of other actions taken by the DOJ in recent days, including shutting down a dark web marketplace and seizing an oligarch’s superyacht.

“Our message to those who continue to support the Russian regime through their criminal behavior is as follows,” Mr Garland said, raising his voice. “It doesn’t matter how far you sail your yacht. It doesn’t matter how well you hide your wealth. It doesn’t matter how skillful you write your malware or hide your online activities. The Justice Department will use any means available to find you, disrupt your plans, and hold you accountable.”

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