Richard Masters, 52, was arrested Friday on charges of violating US sanctions laws
A British national has been arrested in Spain following US criminal charges alleging he helped a Russian billionaire evade sanctions over his $90m megayacht.
Richard Masters, 52, was arrested by Spain’s Civil Guard on Friday and faces extradition to the US for attempting to hide Viktor Vekselberg’s 255-foot luxury yacht, the Tango, from authorities.
An unsealed indictment alleges that Masters, who runs a yacht management company, invented a false name, “the Fanta,” for the tango to hide the yacht’s connection to Vekselberg from financial institutions.
Despite the alleged plan, the Tango was seized by the FBI last April in Palma de Mallorca, the capital of Spain’s Balearic Islands and a playground and tax haven for the super-rich.
Masters is facing extradition to the US over charges he tried to hide sanctioned oligarch Viktor Vekselberg’s 255-foot luxury yacht, the Tango (above), from authorities
Vekselberg (right) is a billionaire and close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who runs the Moscow-based Renova Group
Also charged in connection with the alleged plot was Vladislav Osipov, 51, a Russian citizen with dual Swiss citizenship who remains at large.
Masters and Osipov are both charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States and committing criminal offenses against the United States, violating sanctions laws, and money laundering.
Vekselberg is a billionaire and close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who runs the Moscow-based Renova Group, a conglomerate that includes metals, mining, technology and other assets.
Vekselberg’s US assets have been frozen since 2018 and US companies are banned from doing business with him and his companies, but new sanctions were imposed on his yacht following last year’s Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Masters is the founder and director of Master Yachts, a yacht management company in Palma de Mallorca.
The company’s website boasts that it is “known for its highly ethical, no-nonsense and pragmatic approach” and is committed to “transparency and integrity”.
Masters is the founder of Master Yachts, a Palma de Mallorca yacht management company that claims to be “renowned for its highly ethical, no-nonsense and pragmatic approach”.
A civil guard stands by the yacht named Tango in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, Monday April 4, 2022 while FBI agents search and seize the vessel
A U.S. federal agent and two Civil Guards board the yacht Tango April 4, 2022 in Palma de Mallorca, Spain
However, US prosecutors claim that after sanctions were imposed on Vekselberg in April 2018, the Masters company took over management of Tango and conspired to evade US sanctions.
According to the indictment, Masters invented the wrong yacht name “The Fanta”.
According to the indictment, Masters invented the false name “the Fanta” and used various workarounds to avoid sanctions, such as payments in other currencies and through third parties.
As a result, Tango’s trappings, including its satellite television, luxury goods and teleconferencing software, were all US-origin products and services supplied by US companies, in violation of sanctions laws, prosecutors say.
“Instigators of sanctions evasion allow oligarchs supporting Vladimir Putin’s regime to flout US laws,” said United States Attorney Matthew M. Graves.
“The United States will not allow its financial institutions and individuals to be manipulated or defrauded to benefit those who support an illegal war,” he added.
The investigation was coordinated by a Justice Department task force called KleptoCapture, which aimed to impose sweeping sanctions on the Russian oligarchs following the invasion of Ukraine.
“These men have made their choices and are now facing the consequences of a failed attempt to profit from an elaborate, transnational criminal enterprise, rather than oppose it,” said Andrew Adams, director of KleptoCapture.
The US is demanding the extradition of Masters from Spain. It was unclear if he had an attorney speaking on his behalf. An arrest warrant is pending against Osipov.