Ukrainian Accused of Election Interference Charged With Money Laundering


2022-12-08 06:11:44

A member of Ukraine’s parliament who federal authorities said meddled in America’s 2020 presidential campaign on behalf of Russia’s intelligence services has been charged with money laundering tied to his purchase of two Beverly Hills apartments he used while sowing disinformation.

The charges against the member of parliament, Andriy Derkach, 55, grew out of an investigation into whether he and other Ukrainians had interfered in the 2020 campaign — including by using Rudolph W. Giuliani, who was Donald J. Trump’s personal lawyer, to spread misleading claims about President Biden, according to people with knowledge of the matter. That inquiry was first reported by The New York Times last year.

In an indictment that was unsealed on Wednesday that also charged him with bank fraud conspiracy, sanctions violations and other crimes, Brooklyn federal prosecutors said Mr. Derkach decades ago was a combat crew commander in the Soviet Union’s Strategic Missile Command. When U.S. Treasury officials sanctioned him in 2020 for his election meddling, they said he had been “an active Russian agent for over a decade, maintaining close connections with the Russian Intelligence Services.”

Mr. Derkach’s whereabouts is unknown, a law enforcement official said, and federal authorities do not foresee his arrest anytime soon. He faces one count of conspiracy to violate sanctions, one count of bank fraud conspiracy, one count of money laundering conspiracy and four counts of engaging in monetary transactions involving criminally derived property.

A separate civil complaint, also filed in Brooklyn federal court, seeks to seize the apartments and funds in U.S. brokerage and bank accounts he controls.

The charges were announced in a news release by the Brooklyn U.S. attorney, Breon Peace; the New York FBI assistant director, Michael Driscoll; and Andrew C. Adams, who heads a Justice Department unit called Task Force Kleptocapture, which targets oligarchs.

“Attempting to enjoy the safety, security, and freedoms of an open society, while secretly working to undermine that very society, is a hypocrisy that runs through every sanctions charge announced by the task force,” Mr. Adams said, calling it a “particularly egregious hypocrisy” in Mr. Derkach’s case, because he was “sanctioned for attempts to undermine American democracy, while corruptly seeking to benefit from its protections.”

For almost 25 years, Mr. Derkach, who met with Mr. Giuliani in Europe in 2019, was a member of the Party of Regions, a pro-Russia political party.

In 2013, according to the indictment, Mr. Derkach and his wife bought two condos in a complex in Beverly Hills — one for them, and one for their children.

In the filings unsealed in federal court, prosecutors said Mr. Derkach concealed his purchase by moving millions of dollars through a network of shell companies and bank accounts in the United States and overseas.

Mr. Derkach and his wife relied on the assistance of a financial services professional, a “nominee” unnamed in the indictment, who prosecutors said was kept in the dark about Mr. Derkach’s identity. The nominee helped establish corporate entities to hide Mr. Derkach’s ownership interest, managed the condominiums, worked with them to open U.S. bank accounts and received wire transfers from overseas accounts tied to shell companies.

When one international investment bank declined to open a brokerage account for Mr. Derkach’s wife, citing negative press about him, Mr. Derkach told the nominee that the bank must have confused him with somebody else of the same name. A subsequent application to another bank made no mention of Mr. Derkach, the indictment said.

Mr. Derkach spent “significant time” in the United States, including at the apartments, prosecutors said. At the same time, he was “actively involved in deceiving U.S. law enforcement and border authorities.” In one example cited by prosecutors, in 2018 Mr. Derkach retained the services of a U.S. consulting firm but hid his identity behind a Ukrainian shipping company.

In the months leading up to the 2020 presidential election, prosecutors said, Mr. Derkach and others tried to “sow discord in the U.S. political system,” including by creating a website to publish disparaging information about a Ukrainian anticorruption organization whose work his party opposed.

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