Spanish law enforcement today executed a Spanish court order freezing the Motor Yacht (M/Y) Tango (the Tango), a 255-foot luxury yacht owned by sanctioned Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. Spanish authorities acted pursuant to a request from the U.S. Department of Justice for assistance following the issuance of a seizure warrant, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, which alleged that the Tango was subject to forfeiture based on violation of U.S. bank fraud, money laundering, and sanction statutes. Separately, seizure warrants obtained in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia target approximately $625,000 associated with sanctioned parties held at nine U.S. financial institutions. Those seizures are based on sanctions violations by several Russian specially designated nationals.
According to documents filed in this case, the U.S. investigation alleges that Vekselberg bought the Tango in 2011 and has owned it continuously since that time. It further alleges that Vekselberg used shell companies to obfuscate his interest in the Tango to avoid bank oversight into U.S. dollar transactions related thereto. Additionally, after Vekselberg was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department on April 6, 2018, the warrant alleges that Vekselberg and those working on his behalf continued to make U.S. dollar payments through U.S. banks for the support and maintenance of the Tango and its owners, including a payment for a December 2020 stay at a luxury water villa resort in the Maldives and mooring fees for the yacht. Vekselberg had an interest in these payments and therefore a license was required from the Treasury Department, which was not obtained.
“Today marks our taskforce’s first seizure of an asset belonging to a sanctioned individual with close ties to the Russian regime. It will not be the last,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “Together, with our international partners, we will do everything possible to hold accountable any individual whose criminal acts enable the Russian government to continue its unjust war.”
“Today’s action makes clear that corrupt Russian oligarchs cannot evade sanctions to live a life of luxury as innocent Ukrainians are suffering,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco. “Today the Department of Justice delivers on our commitment to hold accountable those whose criminal activity strengthens the Russian government as it continues to wage its unjust war in Ukraine. That commitment is one we are not finished honoring.”
“Today we announce another example of the FBI using our worldwide presence and partnerships, as well as our expertise and experience, to track and seize illicit money and assets, to counter threats to our safety and national security,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “We will continue to use every lawful tool to go after designated Russian oligarchs’ assets – however and wherever they hide them.”
The seizure was coordinated through the Justice Department’s Task Force KleptoCapture, an interagency law enforcement task force dedicated to enforcing the sweeping sanctions, export restrictions, and economic countermeasures that the United States has imposed, along with its allies and partners, in response to Russia’s unprovoked military invasion of Ukraine. Announced by the Attorney General on March 2 and run out of the Office of the Deputy Attorney General, the task force will leverage all the Department’s tools and authorities against efforts to evade or undermine the economic actions taken by the U.S. government in response to Russian military aggression.
“The seizure of this luxury yacht demonstrates our determination to hold accountable those who support Vladimir Putin’s unwarranted invasion of another sovereign nation,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves for the District of Columbia. “We will continue to use every tool to enforce the sanctions aimed at Putin’s regime and the oligarchs who support it. Working with our federal and international partners, we will be unflagging in our efforts to bring to justice those who violate these sanctions, and to seize assets where appropriate and lawful.”
“Today’s seizure of Viktor Vekselberg’s yacht, the Tango, in Spain is the result of an unprecedented multinational effort to enforce U.S. sanctions targeting those elites who have enabled Russia’s unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine,” said Director Andrew Adams of Task Force KleptoCapture. “For those who have tied their fortunes to a brutal and lawless regime, today’s action is a message that those nations dedicated to the rule of law are equally dedicated to separating the oligarchs from their tainted luxuries. This seizure is only the beginning of the Task Force’s work in this global effort to punish those who have and continue to support tyranny for financial gain.”
“The FBI will continue to work with its partners to protect the integrity of the banking system and support the enforcement of sanctions programs,” said Special Agent in Charge Michael F. Paul of the FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office. “FBI agents and analysts, regardless of where they are assigned around the world, will work tirelessly to ensure those who attempt to evade sanctions are held accountable.”
“The Russian invasion of Ukraine was an unprovoked act of aggression that has targeted the lives and well-being of millions of people and threatened international security,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Ricky J. Patel of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York. “For decades, the Putin regime has been supported by a group of Russian oligarchs that abused their power for private gain to amass untold riches. As DHS’s investigative arm, HSI stands at the forefront of combatting global networks that seek to violate U.S. law and exploit our nation’s financial systems. Working with our partners at the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI, we will hold Putin’s oligarchs accountable and deny them the lavish lifestyles they cherish.”
Upon receipt of a request from the United States pursuant to a bi-lateral treaty for mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, the Spanish central authority for mutual legal assistance forwarded the request to a Spanish prosecutor, who obtained a freezing order from a Spanish court. The order was executed by Spain’s Guardia Civil on April 4.
The Tango, International Maritime Organization number 1010703, is believed to be worth approximately $90 million or more. The yacht is now in Mallorca.
The burden to prove forfeitability in a forfeiture proceeding is upon the government.
The matter of the Tango is being investigated by the FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office with assistance from the HSI New York Field Office.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen P. Seifert for the District of Columbia and Paralegal Brian Rickers and Legal Assistant Jessica McCormick for the District of Columbia are handling the seizure. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance in working with the Spanish authorities, as well as the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section (MLARS).
- Cybercriminal Connected to Multimillion Dollar Ransomware Attacks Sentenced for Online Fraud Schemes
March 25, 2022An Estonian man was sentenced today to 66 months in prison for his years-long role in furthering and facilitating computer intrusions, the movement of fraudulently obtained goods and funds, and the monetization of stolen financial account information.
- Justice Department Requires Divestiture of Credit Karma Tax for Intuit to Proceed with Acquisition of Credit Karma
November 25, 2020The Department of Justice announced today that it is requiring Intuit Inc. and Credit Karma Inc. (Credit Karma) to divest Credit Karma’s tax business, Credit Karma Tax, to Square Inc. in order for Intuit, the creator of TurboTax, to proceed with its $7.1 billion acquisition of Credit Karma. The department said that without this divestiture, the proposed transaction would substantially lessen competition for digital do-it-yourself (DDIY) tax preparation products, which are software programs used by American taxpayers to prepare and file their federal and state returns.
- On the Passing of Rayan Oram
February 7, 2022Ned Price, Department [Read More…]
- Priority Open Recommendations: Environmental Protection Agency
July 6, 2021What GAO Found In April 2020, GAO identified 21 priority recommendations for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Since then, EPA has implemented six of those recommendations by, among other things, taking actions to better track and promote water utilities’ implementation of asset management and updating its guidance on testing for lead in drinking water at schools. In June 2021, GAO identified seven additional priority recommendations for EPA, bringing the total number to 22. These recommendations involve the following areas: assessing and controlling toxic chemicals; reducing pollution in the nation’s waters; ensuring cybersecurity at EPA; addressing data, cybersecurity, and risk communication issues for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure; managing climate change risks; and protecting the nation’s air quality. EPA’s continued attention to these issues could lead to significant improvements in government operations. Why GAO Did This Study Priority open recommendations are the GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation could save large amounts of money; improve congressional and/or executive branch decision-making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and funds are legally spent, among other benefits. Since 2015 GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations. For more information, contact Mark Gaffigan at (202) 512-3841 or email@example.com.
- COVID-19 Contracting: Indian Health Service Used Flexibilities to Meet Increased Medical Supply Needs
October 15, 2021Why This Matters The Indian Health Service (IHS) serves over 2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives. These groups have been disproportionately vulnerable to negative outcomes from COVID-19. During emergencies, federal contracting staff face pressure to work quickly to meet increased needs. We examined some of IHS’s COVID-related contracts to see how the agency’s efforts fared. Key Takeaways Despite facing challenges, including unprecedented demand for medical supplies, IHS was able to acquire needed products from a variety of vendors. IHS contract obligations for products, excluding prescription drugs, increased substantially during COVID-19 to address emergent needs for additional personal protective equipment, lab supplies, and more. Using emergency contracting flexibilities available under federal regulation, IHS bought personal protective equipment and other medical products in bulk awarded contracts noncompetitively used streamlined procedures for higher dollar contracts to obtain medical supplies faster However, we found that IHS contracting officers did not notice that some COVID-related supplies were delivered late. Officials attributed this oversight to the spike in volume as well as the urgency of procurements during a pandemic. Contracting officers are responsible for ensuring the terms of a contract are met—under normal circumstances and in emergency acquisitions. IHS officials told us that they began taking intermediate steps to improve tracking of products during 2020; the agency is currently obtaining new software to improve contractor oversight. IHS Contract Obligations Increased Substantially Due to COVID-19 How GAO Did This Study We analyzed relevant federal procurement data through June 30, 2021. We also reviewed four contracts—covering about 1/4 of obligations in IHS’s largest product category (medical and surgical instruments, equipment, and supplies). We also interviewed IHS contracting officials. For more information, contact Marie A. Mak at (202) 512-4841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Senate Disbursing Office: Procedures Related to 2021 Cash Count
September 30, 2021What GAO Found GAO performed agreed-upon procedures at the Senate Disbursing Office (SDO) consisting of (1) identifying the authorized and reported amount of cash accountability for the Secretary of the Senate, (2) counting all cash items that support the cash accountability level of the SDO, (3) counting all noncash items that support the cash accountability level of the SDO, and (4) agreeing the total amount counted to the authorized amount and reported amount of cash accountability. The total value of cash and noncash items counted on August 10, 2021, agreed to the cash accountability level that the SDO authorized and reported, except for a difference of $3.06, which SDO officials stated is a known overage that has accumulated over time. The Secretary of the Senate is responsible for the sufficiency of these agreed-upon procedures to meet the SDO’s objectives, and GAO makes no representation in that respect. The report provides the details on the agreed-upon procedures and the results of performing each of the procedures. The Secretary of the Senate in an email response stated that she had no comments on the draft report. Why GAO Did This Study The Chairwoman and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration requested that GAO perform procedures on the cash accountability level that the SDO authorized and reported. The cash accountability level represents the value of cash and noncash items for which the Secretary of the Senate, as disbursing officer for the U.S. Senate, is responsible. For more information, contact Hannah Padilla at (202) 512-5683 or email@example.com.
- Five Alleged Members of the Gangster Disciples Indicted on Federal Racketeering Charges
October 15, 2020A federal grand jury in Oxford, Mississippi, returned a six-count superseding indictment charging five alleged members of the Gangster Disciples gang, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney William C. Lamar of the Northern District of Mississippi.
- Acting AG and Five Country Statement on the Temporary Derogation to the ePrivacy Directive to Combat Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse
January 12, 2021Acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen joined the Home Affairs, Interior, and Security Ministers of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom in issuing the following statement:
- Engineer Pleads Guilty to More Than $10 Million of COVID-Relief Fraud
February 9, 2021A Texas engineer pleaded guilty today for filing fraudulent bank loan applications seeking more than $10 million dollars in forgivable loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
- Uzbekistan Travel Advisory
March 24, 2022Do not travel to [Read More…]
- Azerbaijan Travel Advisory
September 26, 2020Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
- VA Police: Actions Needed to Improve Data Completeness and Accuracy on Use of Force Incidents at Medical Centers
September 8, 2020The Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) policy on use of force states that police officers must use the minimal level of force that is reasonably necessary to gain control of a situation and should only utilize physical control methods on an individual when the force is justified by the individual’s actions. To guide officers, VA developed a Use of Force Continuum Scale to define and clarify the categories of force that can be used. Categories of Force on the VA’s Use of Force Continuum Scale According to VA policy, all police officers must receive training on the VA’s use of force policy when hired and biannually thereafter. Officers are trained—through classroom lectures and scenarios that emphasize effective communication techniques—to use the minimal level of force to deescalate a situation. Officers record use of force incidents electronically and the chief of police decides which, if any, use of force incidents need to be investigated in accordance with VA guidance. Chiefs of Police at the six facilities GAO visited conducted investigations in a similar manner, by reviewing evidence and comparing an officer’s action with the VA’s use of force policy to determine whether actions were justified. While most investigations are conducted at the local level, VA headquarters may also run investigations for certain incidents, such as when it receives a complaint against an officer. VA police officers record incidents in a database, Report Executive, but GAO’s analysis indicates that VA data on use of force incidents are not sufficiently complete and accurate for reporting numbers or trends at medical centers nationwide. For example, GAO found that 176 out of 1,214 use of force incident reports did not include the specific type of force used. Further, Report Executive does not track incidents by individual medical centers. By addressing these limitations, VA can more effectively monitor use of force trends by type of force or medical facility, among other variables, to understand the VA’s use of force incidents nationwide. GAO also found that VA does not systematically collect or analyze use of force investigation findings from local medical centers, limiting its ability to provide effective oversight. Specifically, there is no policy requiring Chiefs of Police to submit all investigations on use of force to VA headquarters, and VA does not have a database designed to collect and analyze data on use of force investigations. Collecting and analyzing such data nationwide would allow VA to better assess the impact of its deescalation policies and improve the agency’s oversight efforts. About 5,000 VA police officers are responsible for securing and protecting 138 VA medical centers across the country. These officers are authorized to investigate crimes, make arrests, and carry firearms. The Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 included a provision that GAO assess aspects of the VA police services. This report addresses (1) what the VA’s policies are on the use of force by police officers at medical centers, and what training officers receive on the use of force; (2) how VA records and investigates use of force incidents at medical centers; and (3) the extent to which VA sufficiently collects and analyzes use of force data at medical centers. To address these objectives, GAO reviewed VA policies, procedures, and training materials on the use of force and interviewed VA officials at headquarters and six local medical centers, selected to represent varying size and locations. GAO reviewed VA data on use of force incidents recorded from May 10, 2019, through May 10, 2020—the most recent full year data were available. GAO is making five recommendations, including that VA improve the completeness and accuracy of its use of force data; implement a tool to analyze use of force incidents at medical centers nationwide; ensure that medical centers submit all use of force investigations to VA headquarters; and analyze the use of force investigation data. The VA concurred with each of GAO’s recommendations. For more information, contact Gretta L. Goodwin at (202) 512-8777 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Disqualification of Pan-Democratic Lawmakers in Hong Kong
November 12, 2020Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
- Drug trafficker sent to prison for trafficking meth via FedEx
In Justice NewsAugust 31, 2021A 20-year-old McAllen [Read More…]
- Justice Department Addresses Rise in Criminal Conduct on Commercial Aircraft
November 24, 2021As the holiday travel season commences, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland today directed U.S. Attorneys to prioritize prosecution of federal crimes occurring on commercial aircraft that endanger the safety of passengers, flight crews and flight attendants.
- Remarks by Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband on the Announcement of Olmstead Settlement with the State of North Dakota
December 14, 2020Good afternoon and thank you for joining us. Today, we are pleased to announce that the Department of Justice and the State of North Dakota have reached a comprehensive settlement agreement to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The agreement commits North Dakota to expand services for individuals with disabilities so, when appropriate, they will be able to choose to remain in their own homes, near family and friends, while receiving the services they need, instead of entering or remaining in nursing facilities to receive care.
- Department Press Briefing – September 15, 2021
September 15, 2021Ned Price, Department [Read More…]
- Firearms Trafficking: More Information is Needed to Inform U.S. Efforts in Central America
January 11, 2022What GAO Found The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) receives firearm trace requests from the governments of Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras for some, but not all, firearms recovered in those countries. ATF tracing data for approximately 27,000 firearms recovered from 2015 through 2019—the most recent data available—show that 40 percent came from the U.S. and the rest from 39 other countries. ATF data also indicate that almost half of the U.S.-sourced firearms were likely diverted from legitimate commerce in the four countries rather than smuggled from the U.S. From January 2015 through March 2021, more than 100,000 firearms were legally exported from the U.S. to the four countries, according to agency data. Firearms are not manufactured in these countries, but U.S. and foreign officials stated that criminals can obtain them through illegal markets and theft, among other means. ATF data show most firearms submitted for tracing were handguns. Types of Firearms Recovered in Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras and Submitted to ATF for Tracing, 2015–2019 Although disrupting firearms trafficking is not a specific U.S. goal for the region, U.S. agencies have broad capacity-building, investigative, and border security efforts, which may help disrupt firearms trafficking. For example: The Department of State provided a total of $38 million for capacity-building programs in fiscal years 2015 through 2019, which included some activities related to firearms trafficking—for example, training on firearms-trafficking investigations. ATF assisted partner governments by tracing recovered firearms, which provided investigative leads and helped law enforcement agencies in partner countries to link disparate criminal acts. U.S. Customs and Border Protection shared information on criminal activity, including firearms smuggling, with the four countries. The 2021 U.S. Strategy for Addressing Root Causes of Migration in Central America directs U.S. agencies to address violence, crime, and security in the region. State officials said that in response to this strategy, they plan to develop new projects or modify existing projects to focus on firearms. However, according to the officials, they lack sufficient information about relevant country conditions to tailor these projects to address each country’s needs. State officials have not sought such information from the four countries’ governments or other U.S. agencies because State has not focused on firearms trafficking in the countries. Obtaining such information would enhance State’s ability to develop effective programs to reduce criminal access to firearms and firearms-related violence in Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Why GAO Did This Study The four Central American countries Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras have high rates of violence, including homicide. According to foreign crime data and foreign officials, most homicides in the countries are committed with firearms imported legally or illegally from other countries. Violence and insecurity in the countries have been identified as contributing factors in migration to the U.S. GAO was asked to report on U.S. efforts to counter firearms trafficking to Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. This report examines (1) U.S. agencies’ knowledge about firearms trafficking to criminals in these countries, (2) U.S. agencies’ efforts to disrupt firearms trafficking in these countries, and (3) U.S. planning to address firearms trafficking in these countries. GAO reviewed firearms tracing and other agency data, related analysis, and program information for fiscal years 2014 through 2020. GAO also interviewed U.S. and foreign officials.
- Two ISIS Members Charged with Material Support Violations
September 30, 2020Two United States citizens who were detained by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and recently transferred to the custody of the FBI have been charged with material support violations relating to their support for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization.
- Secretary Michael R. Pompeo With Amy Kellogg of FOX News
October 1, 2020Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]