A New York attorney has pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit international money laundering in connection to maintaining properties in the U.S. owned by sanctioned Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.
The attorney, Robert Wise of Pelham, New York, admitted to taking part in a scheme that funneled approximately $3.8 million in U.S. dollars to six real properties, valued at around $75 million, on behalf of Vekselberg.
Wise pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit international money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. He also agreed to forfeit over $3.7 million, satisfied by a payment of $210,441. His sentencing is set for November 6.
Vekselberg, who was designated a Specially Designated National (SDN) by the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in 2018, owned the properties through a series of shell companies. OFAC found that the Russian government's actions in Ukraine posed an unusual and extraordinary threat to U.S. national security and foreign policy. Vekselberg's yacht and private airplane were also blocked by OFAC in March 2022.
Longtime associate of Vekselberg, Vladimir Voronchenko, retained Wise to assist in acquiring the properties and managing their finances. Following Vekselberg's designation as an SDN, the source of funds for maintaining the properties shifted to bank accounts in the Bahamas and Russia, controlled by Voronchenko and a related Russian national. Wise continued to manage these funds, knowing he was promoting sanctions violations.
Voronchenko, who is currently a fugitive, was indicted on February 7. A civil forfeiture complaint was filed against the properties on February 24. No licenses from OFAC were applied for or issued for the payments or attempted transfers.
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