By SDCN Staff
The Justice Department announced the unsealing of an indictment charging a U.S. citizen and three citizens of the Russian Federation with violating new U.S. sanctions imposed earlier this year in response to Russia’s unprovoked military invasion of Ukraine.
According to court documents, Oleg Vladimirovich Deripaska, aka Oleg Mukhamedshin, 52; and Natalia Mikhaylovna Bardakova, aka Natalya Mikhaylovna Bardakova, 45, both citizens of the Russian Federation (Russia), and Olga Shriki, 42, a New Jersey resident and naturalized U.S. citizen, are charged with conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions imposed on Deripaska and one of Deripaska’s corporate entities, Basic Element Limited (Basic Element). Shriki is further charged with obstruction of justice based on her alleged deletion of electronic records relating to her participation in Deripaska’s sanctions evasion scheme following receipt of a grand jury subpoena requiring the production of those records. Bardakova is charged with one count of making false statements to agents of the FBI. Additionally, Ekaterina Olegovna Voronina, aka Ekaterina Lobanova, 33, is charged with making false statements to agents of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security at the time of Voronina’s attempted entry into the United States for the purpose of giving birth to Deripaska’s child. Shriki was arrested this morning.
“In the wake of Russia’s unjust and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, I promised the American people that the Justice Department would work to hold accountable those who break our laws and threaten our national security. Today’s charges demonstrate we are keeping that promise,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The Justice Department will not stop working to identify, find, and bring to justice those who evade U.S. sanctions in order to enable the Russian regime.”
“As today’s charges reveal while serving the Russian state and energy sector, Oleg Deripaska sought to circumvent U.S. sanctions through lies and deceit to cash in on and benefit from the American way of life,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco. “But shell companies and webs of lies will not shield Deripaska and his cronies from American law enforcement, nor will they protect others who support the Putin regime. The Department of Justice remains dedicated to the global fight against those who aid and abet the Russian war machine.”
According to court documents, Deripaska, the owner and controller of Basic Element, a private investment, and management company for Deripaska’s various business interests, was subjected to economic sanctions on April 6, 2018. On that day, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Deripaska as a Specially Designated National (SDN), in connection with its finding that the actions of the Government of the Russian Federation with respect to Ukraine constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States (the OFAC Sanctions). In designating Deripaska, OFAC explained that Deripaska was sanctioned for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, a senior official of the Government of the Russian Federation, as well as for operating in the energy sector of the Russian Federation economy.
“Today’s indictment reflects the FBI’s commitment to use all of the tools at our disposal to aggressively pursue those who attempt to evade the United States’ economic countermeasures against the Russian government,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “We will continue to aggressively prosecute those who violate measures imposed to protect the national security and foreign policy of the United States, especially in this time of Russia’s unprovoked aggression toward Ukraine.”
“The indictment unsealed today signals the United States’ ongoing support for the people of Ukraine in the face of continued Russian belligerence,” said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams for the Southern District of New York. “The enforcement of sanctions is a vital tool wielded by this Office and our law enforcement partners as we seek to deter Russian aggression, and today’s indictment should be taken as a warning that, try as they might, individuals violating these sanctions will be held accountable.”
Following his designation by OFAC, Deripaska conspired with others to evade and violate those sanctions in various ways over the course of several years. Deripaska, through the corporate entity Gracetown Inc., illegally utilized the U.S. financial system to maintain and retain three luxury properties in the United States (the U.S. Properties) and further employed Olga Shriki and Natalia Mikhaylovna Bardakova to utilize U.S. financial institutions to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of services for his benefit in the United States. For example, in or about 2019, Shriki facilitated for Deripaska’s benefit the sale of a music studio in California for over $3 million. Deripaska had owned the studio through a series of corporate shell companies that obscured his actual ownership. Following the sale of the studio, Shriki attempted to expatriate over $3 million in proceeds through one such shell company, Ocean Studios California LLC, to a Russia-based account belonging to another Deripaska company.
Bardakova – largely based in Russia – directed Shriki to engage in particular illegal transactions on Deripaska’s behalf. These instructions included directing Shriki to obtain U.S. goods and technology for Deripaska. Moreover, between in or about May 2018 and in or about 2020, Bardakova instructed Shriki to purchase and send flower and gift deliveries on behalf of Deripaska to Deripaska’s social contacts in the United States and Canada. The deliveries included, among others, Easter gift deliveries to a U.S. television host, two flower deliveries to a then-former Canadian Parliament member, and two flower deliveries in 2020 to Voronina while she was in the United States in 2020 to give birth to Deripaska’s child.
Then, in or about 2020, Shriki and Bardakova helped Deripaska’s girlfriend, Voronina, travel from Russia to the United States, so she could give birth to Deripaska’s and Voronina’s child in the United States. Despite Deripaska’s ongoing support for the Russian regime, he funded hundreds of thousands of dollars of transactions so that his child would take advantage of the U.S. health care system and U.S. birthright citizenship. Despite Deripaska’s ongoing support for the Russian regime, Deripaska distrusted the safety of the Russian hospital system. As alleged, Shriki orchestrated the payment of approximately $300,000 worth of U.S. medical care, housing, childcare, and other logistics to support Voronina to give birth in the United States, which resulted in the child receiving U.S. citizenship. As part of this scheme, Deripaska counseled Voronina on obtaining a U.S. visa, including by telling her to be “careful” ahead of an interview by U.S. immigration authorities. Voronina thereafter applied for and obtained a U.S. visa for a purported 10-day tourism visit without disclosing her intent to travel and stay in the United States for approximately six months to give birth to Deripaska’s child. Following the birth, Shriki, Bardakova, and Voronina conspired to conceal the name of the child’s true father, Deripaska, going so far as to change, slightly, the spelling of the child’s last name.
Later, in or about 2022, Shriki and Bardakova attempted to facilitate Voronina’s return to the United States to give birth to Deripaska’s and Voronina’s second child. This second attempt included Bardakova and Voronina’s attempt to use false statements to conceal Deripaska’s funding and secure Voronina’s entry into the United States – an attempt that was thwarted, and Voronina was denied entry and returned immediately to Istanbul, through which she had flown from Russia to the United States.
Deripaska, Bardakova, and Shriki, are charged with one count of conspiring to violate and evade U.S. sanctions, in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Shriki is further charged with one count of destruction of records, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Bardakova and Voronina are each further charged with one count of making false statements to federal agents, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. The indictment also provides notice of the United States’ intention to forfeit from Deripaska the proceeds of his offense, including the U.S. Properties and the proceeds from the sale of the music studio. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The FBI New York Field Office and Counterintelligence Division are investigating the case, with valuable assistance provided by the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department’s National Security Division, Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.