WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration has charged a Russian oligarch linked to the Kremlin with violating U.S. authorities sanctions, and disrupted a cybercrime operation that was launched by a Russian army intelligence company, officers mentioned Wednesday.
The actions got here because the Justice Department mentioned it was accelerating efforts to trace down illicit Russian property and as U.S. prosecutors helped European counterparts collect proof on potential conflict crimes dedicated by Russia throughout its conflict on Ukraine.
FBI and Justice Department officers introduced the strikes on the identical day that the U.S. individually revealed sanctions towards the 2 grownup daughters of Russian President Vladimir Putin and sanctions that blocked two key Russian banks.
“We have our eyes on every yacht and jet. We have our eyes on every piece of art and real estate purchased with dirty money and on every bitcoin wallet filled with proceeds of theft and other crimes,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco mentioned, including that “our goal is to ensure that sanctioned Russian oligarchs and cyber criminals will not find safe haven.”
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The indictment towards Konstantin Malofeyev, a Russian media baron and founding father of Russian Orthodox information channel Tsargrad TV, is the primary of an oligarch since Russia’s conflict with Ukraine started in February. Malofeyev has trumpeted the invasion as a “holy conflict” and has supported Russia-aligned separatist groups in Ukraine.
He was sanctioned by the Treasury Department in 2014 for financing Russians promoting separatism in Crimea. Though those sanctions barred him from doing business with U.S. citizens, prosecutors say Malofeyev evaded those restrictions by hiring an American television producer to work for him in television networks in Russia and Greece and enlisted his help in trying to acquire a TV network in Bulgaria. It was all part of an effort to spread pro-Russia propaganda throughout Europe, the Justice Department said.
Jack Hanick, a former CNBC and Fox News employee, was arrested last month for his work as a television producer for Malofeyev. That case is pending.
Malofeyev is not in custody and is believed to be in Russia. It was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer to speak on his behalf. The two sanctions charges each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
The Justice Department said it is seeking the seizure of a $10 million investment that Malofeyev had illegally transferred to a business associate in Greece.
Federal authorities also announced that they had taken down a botnet — a network of hijacked computers typically used for malicious activity — that was controlled by the Russian military intelligence agency known as the GRU. The botnet, which in this case involved thousands of infected network hardware devices, was dismantled before it could do harm, said FBI Director Christopher Wray.
Wednesday’s announcements came two days after U.S. officials seized a huge yacht in Spain belonging to a Russian oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, with close ties to Russian President Putin.
After the war began, the Justice Department set up a task force to enforce sanctions against Russian oligarchs and target ill-gotten proceeds.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said Wednesday that Justice Department prosecutors were also helping international efforts to uncover potential war crimes committed by Russia. U.S. officials have met with European prosecutors to develop a plan for gathering evidence, he said.
“We have seen the dead bodies of civilians, some with bound hands, scattered in the streets. We have seen the mass graves. We have seen the bombed hospital, theater, and residential apartment buildings,” Garland mentioned. “The world sees what is happening in Ukraine. The Justice Department sees what is happening in Ukraine.
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