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How monogrammed bathrobes led US to put a $1M bounty on Russian yacht manager’s head

You can’t cover up the truth – not even in a luxury robe.
The US government is offering a reward of up to $1 million for a businessman who allegedly helped a Russian oligarch’s yacht circumvent sanctions – until the scheme was revealed by an order for monogram bathrobes.
Swiss-based businessman Vladislav Osipov, 52, is wanted on charges including bank fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy for his role as a high-level employee of billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, the Justice Department announced last month.
A few months after Vekselberg was sanctioned by the US government in April 2018, Osipov allegedly instructed a boat management firm in Spain to disguise his $90 million yacht, Tango, by referring to it as the “Fanta,” the federal indictment stated.
3 Vladislav Osipov is wanted by the federal government.
Under Osipov’s instruction, yacht employees used the false name to buy thousands of dollars worth of goods and services that were processed by US companies and financial institutions that would otherwise have recoiled from doing business with a sanctioned buyer, the document alleged.
In addition to navigation software, leather magazine holders, and web services, the management company running the Tango also shelled out over $180,000 to a US internet provider, the feds said.
But a smoking gun came on Sept. 3, 2020 with the purchase of $2,600 monogrammed luxury robes — that gave away the “Fanta”’s real name, Tango.
The company ordered a second set of robes the following year, which contained explicit instructions that the ship should be referred to as “Fanta” on the invoice, even though the robes themselves bore a different name, the indictment read.
The Tango was seized in the Mediterranean by the FBI and Spanish authorities shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the Washington Post reported.
Osipov was initially indicted last year, documents showed. The owner of the Spanish management company, Richard Masters, was charged with conspiracy to defraud the US and violating federal sanctions, the Washington Post added.
As of late February, the Justice Department is offering up to $1 million for information leading to Osipov’s arrest.
3 The scheme to conceal the Tango’s real ownership was thwarted by an order for monogramed bathrobes. Getty Images/iStockphoto
The Swiss-based former Russian citizen may be in Herrliberg, Switzerland; Majorca, Spain; or Moscow, the feds warned.
The charges against Osipov are indicative of the government’s increased interest in expanding the reach of sanctions against Russian interests by targeting Western associates, the Washington Post suggested.
Just last month, the Justice Department announced charges against two stateside “facilitators” who supposedly helped Russian bank head Andrey Kostin conceal his ownership of a $12 million Aspen, Colo., property the outlet noted.
The threat of criminal charges, the Washington Post said, is more concerning to Russians living and working in the West than the slew of Treasury Department sanctions.
“What you have seen through today’s public announcements are our efforts at really targeting the facilitators who possess the requisite skill set, access, connections that allow the Russian war machine [and] the Russian elites to continually have access to Western services and Western goods,” David Lim, co-director of the Justice Department’s KleptoCapture task force, said last month.
3 Vladislav Osipov’s lawyer argued that the charges against him are “unconstitutional..” FBI
“It seems to me they have gone through a comprehensive list of the oligarchs, and you can debate whether or not it’s had a meaningful impact on the Russian war effort,” Thad McBride, an international trade partner at the law firm Bass Berry & Sims, told the Washington Post.
“Because they’re getting smarter about who’s who, they’re finding other people who play meaningful roles in these transactions, even though they’re not showing up in the headlines.”
Vekselberg, 66, has previously complained that he is unfairly targeted by US sanctions simply because he is Russian, wealthy, and connected with President Vladimir Putin, the newspaper said.
According to the documents, Osipov also helped Vekselberg use the shadow entities to circumvent the Treasury Department’s 50 percent ownership rule, which makes it illegal to do business with a firm if the sanctioned owner controls over 50 percent of the company.
Osipov’s attorney, Barry J. Pollack, argued that the Tango was not more than 50% owned by Vekselberg, and that the government’s application of the federal sanctions in this case was “unconstitutional.”
“The government points to no precedent that supports its extraordinary interpretation and cites no authority that allows the traditional rules of statutory construction to be turned on their head,” Pollack wrote in the opposition filing.
Pollack also insisted that his client is not a fugitive because he never engaged in illegal activity on US soil and never lived there.
Pollack did not immediately return The Post’s request for a comment.

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