Author: Dr. Angelika Hellweger 18 September 2023
Angelika Hellweger of financial crime specialists Rahman Ravelli details an example of the US aggressively pursuing those it believes are guilty of sanctions evasion
A businessman has pleaded guilty to violating US sanctions by purchasing metal products from companies owned by a sanctioned oligarch.
As a case, it is another example of the US targeting individuals and entities and aggressively prosecuting those that aid foreign state actors - particularly Russia - who are finding ways to evade the impact of sanctions and continue to participate in the global economy.
According to court documents filed on 6 September, Florida-based Belarusian Sergey Karpushkin has admitted taking part in a scheme to buy goods worth $140 million from Sergey Kurchenko. Kurchenko is a Ukrainian oligarch who was sanctioned in 2015 for misappropriating “state assets of Ukraine or of an economically significant entity in Ukraine.”
Karpushkin was arrested in April, two days after co-conspirator John Can Unsalan, the president of steel trading company Metalhouse. Karpushkin was charged with one count of conspiracy to violate and evade US sanctions against Russia. Unsalan faces 10 charges of violating and evading sanctions, 10 counts of money laundering, and related conspiracy charges.
The court documents state that Karpushkin conspired with Unsalan to buy the metal products, which included pig iron and wire rods, from two unnamed companies based in Hong Kong and Cyprus. Prosecutors allege that both men knew that the two companies were owned and operated by Kurchenko.
As a part of his plea, Karpushkin admitted to travelling to Moscow with Unsalan in January 2019 to meet with Kurchenko to discuss the current balances owed between Metalhouse, Karpushkin, Unsalan and the two companies. Karpushkin also agreed to forfeit $4.7 million in proceeds from the scheme. He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and to commit international promotional money laundering, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. A judge will determine any sentence after considering the US sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.
This recent case shows clearly how prosecutors are prepared to use money laundering legislation to target those they believe are evading sanctions.
Angelika is a specialist in international, high-level economic crime investigations and large-scale commercial disputes. She has widely-recognised expertise in representing corporates and conglomerates in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and United States.