US agents search properties linked to Russian oligarch

Sep 1, 2022, 2:40 PM | Updated: Sep 2, 2022, 5:36 am

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. federal agents on Thursday simultaneously searched properties in Manhattan, a posh Hamptons beach community, and an exclusive Miami island that have been linked to a billionaire Russian oligarch whose $120 million yacht was seized in April.

The FBI confirmed it was at a Park Avenue high-rise, an estate in Southampton, New York, and the enclave of Fisher Island on Thursday, conducting what Miami-based FBI spokesperson Jim Marshall described as “court-ordered law enforcement activity.” The bureau would not provide more information. Dozens of federal agents could be seen carrying boxes out of the Park Avenue property.

FBI agents and Homeland Security Investigations personnel searched the properties, linked to Viktor Vekselberg, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. There was no immediate response to a request for comment sent to lawyers who have represented Vekselberg.

A person familiar with the matter confirmed that Vekselberg was the target of the searches. The person was not authorized to speak publicly and did so on condition of anonymity.

A similar search occurred in Fisher Island, a stone’s thrown from Miami Beach, where dozens of agents from the FBI and other federal agencies could be seen on properties linked to Vekselberg and his associates.

NBC News first reported the searches.

A federal task force has been looking into Russian oligarchs and the money trail that helps fuel Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and the task force is working to enforce U.S. financial restrictions imposed on Russia and its billionaires. A spokesperson for the task force declined to comment.

Vekselberg, a Ukrainian-born businessman, built a fortune by investing in the aluminum and oil industries in the post-Soviet era. According to U.S. Treasury Department documents, Vekselberg heads the Moscow-based Renova Group, a conglomerate encompassing metals, mining, tech and other assets.

He was one of the first Putin allies sanctioned in April 2018 by the U.S. Treasury Department in response to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. Vekselberg’s assets in the U.S. are frozen, and American companies are barred from doing business with him and his entities.

In April, the U.S. government seized a 254-foot yacht owned by Vekselberg at a port in Spain. At the time, the U.S. Justice Department asserted that the yacht could be forfeited for violations of U.S. bank fraud, money laundering and sanctions laws.

All the properties searched Thursday are owned by Vekselberg’s childhood friend Vladimir Voronchenko or companies tied to Voronchenko’s family and associates. Voronchenko was the founding director of a St. Petersburg museum built to house the oligarch’s Faberge egg collection.

Among the properties were four luxury condominiums on Fisher Island. Three were purchased for a combined $42 million but are worth considerably more today, property records show. Two are owned by The Medallion Inc., a Panama-registered company that lists Voronchenko’s wife, Olesya Kharlamova, as a director.

Kharlamova, who like her husband was born and raised in Ukraine, is also an officer of a condominium association for two luxury high rises on Fisher Island, which is so favored by jet-setting Russians that they’ve been dubbed the “Red Zone” by other residents. Amenities include infinity-edge pools, a state-of-the-art theater and a fur coat storage facility to protect garments from Miami’s humidity.

In New York, Medallion Inc. in 2008 paid nearly $11 million for a penthouse unit at 515 Park Avenue in Manhattan and $11.4 million for the Southampton home. Both were searched Thursday.

Voronchenko’s family and associates did not immediately respond to a call placed to them seeking comment.


Goodman reported from Miami.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer speaks inside the Recorders Office, Nov. 9, 2022, in...
Associated Press

Dominion conspiracies highlighted by Fox lawsuit have election officials concerned for safety

Maricopa County officials are bracing for what could happen when it comes time to replace its contract for voting equipment.
2 days ago
A building is damaged and trees are down after severe storm swept through Little Rock, Ark., Friday...
Associated Press

Tornado causes widespread damage to buildings, vehicles in Little Rock

A tornado raced through Little Rock and surrounding areas Friday, splintering homes, overturning vehicles and tossing trees.
2 days ago
FILE - Former President Donald Trump speaks with reporters while in flight on his plane after a cam...
Associated Press

Worries grow that Trump indictment could undermine public confidence in other investigations

Trump’s attempts to overturn those results amid false claims of widespread fraud are at the heart of two other ongoing investigations.
2 days ago
(Facebook Photo/Superior Court of Arizona in Yavapai County)...
Associated Press

Arizona judge has cases reassigned following DUI arrest

The Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that all cases currently assigned to a Yavapai County Superior Court judge recently arrested on suspicion of extreme DUI will be reassigned to other judges.
6 days ago
Haitian migrant Gerson Solay, 28, carries his daughter, Bianca, as he and his family cross into Can...
Associated Press

US, Canada to end loophole that allows asylum-seekers to move between countries

President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday announced a plan to close a loophole to an immigration agreement.
9 days ago
Expert skateboarder Di'Orr Greenwood, an artist born and raised in the Navajo Nation in Arizona and...
Associated Press

Indigenous skateboard art featured on new stamps unveiled at Phoenix skate park

The Postal Service unveiled the “Art of the Skateboard" stamps at a Phoenix skate park, featuring designs from Indigenous artists.
9 days ago

Sponsored Articles

(Pexels Photo)...

Sports gambling can be fun for adults, but it’s a dangerous game for children

While adults may find that sports gambling is a way to enhance the experience with more than just fandom on the line, it can be a dangerous proposition if children get involved in the activity.
Fiesta Bowl Foundation

Celebrate 50 years of Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade magic!

Since its first production in the early 1970s, the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe has been a staple of Valley traditions, bringing family fun and excitement to downtown Phoenix.
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
US agents search properties linked to Russian oligarch