US Obtains Warrants To Seize Airplane Of Oligarch Skoch Worth Over $90 Million
Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Lisa O. Monaco, the Deputy Attorney General of the United States, Michael J. Driscoll, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and Matthew S. Axelrod, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Enforcement, announced today that the United States of America has been authorized to seize an Airbus A319-100 (the “Airbus”) owned and controlled by sanctioned Russian oligarch Andrei Skoch, pursuant to a seizure warrant from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, which found that the airplane is subject to seizure and forfeiture based on probable cause of violation of the federal anti-money laundering laws.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “Today’s affidavit and warrant authorizing the seizure of Andrei Skoch’s private airplane demonstrate the Southern District’s partnership commitment with the task force to pursuing sanctioned Russian oligarchs and their blocked property. We will continue to use every legal tool available to enforce our anti-money laundering laws and to pursue those who seek to use the U.S. financial system to violate and evade sanctions.”
Task Force KleptoCapture Director Andrew C. Adams said: “Once again U.S. law enforcement has demonstrated that international shell games will not suffice to hide the fruits of corruption and money laundering. Through today’s warrant, the Department of Justice lays out a roadmap for those engaged in the legitimate financial sector to follow when assessing transactions with Skoch’s laundering network, while taking steps to freeze, seize, and forfeit the fruits of his criminal activities.”
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael J. Driscoll said: “An oligarchy is defined as a government in which a small group exercises control for their own selfish and corrupt gain. Members of that group in Russia have long hid and disguised their illegal activities using the U.S. dollar in the process. The sanctions levied by the U.S government and the work of this task force demonstrate to these offensively wealthy oligarchs who support Russia’s military aggression that they are not untouchable, and we are dramatically impacting their way of life.”
Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Enforcement Matthew S. Axelrod said: “Today’s action demonstrates that the U.S. government will be relentless in our efforts to bring to justice those that are enabling Putin’s heinous war against Ukraine. Coordination and collaboration between federal law enforcement and international partners is essential to effective enforcement of U.S. law, and I’m proud of our team of dedicated law enforcement professionals.”
According to the seizure warrant and affidavit sworn out today:
Pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (“IEEPA”), the National Emergencies Act, and Executive Orders Issued by the President of the United States, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) designated Andrei Skoch as a Specially Designated National (“SDN”) on April 6, 2018 “for being an official of the Government of the Russian Federation,” “a deputy of the Russian Federation’s State Duma,” and because of his “longstanding ties to Russian organized criminal groups, including time spent leading one such enterprise.” After Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, OFAC issued further sanctions against Skoch and his assets. On March 24, 2022, OFAC designated Skoch and other members of the Duma, for “support[ing] the Kremlin’s efforts to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” On June 2, 2022, OFAC identified the Airbus as blocked property in which Skoch had an interest.
Skoch is the beneficial owner of the Airbus through a series of shell companies and trusts tied to his romantic partner. After OFAC designated Skoch in April 2018 and continuing through at least 2021, U.S. dollar transactions were made to pay for the registration of the Airbus in Aruba and for aviation insurance premiums for the Airbus, each of which was a necessary expense to maintain and operate the Airbus.
The Airbus (pictured below), bearing tail number P4-MGU and serial number 5445, is believed to be worth more than $90 million.
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Mr. Williams praised the outstanding work of the FBI and U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security. Mr. Williams further thanked the Justice Department’s National Security Division and Office of International Affairs, and OFAC for their assistance in this investigation.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Money Laundering and Transnational Criminal Enterprises Unit and National Security and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Joshua A. Naftalis and Nicholas S. Bradley are in charge of the investigation.
The investigation was coordinated through the Justice Department’s Task Force KleptoCapture, an interagency law enforcement task force dedicated to enforcing the sweeping sanctions, export controls, and economic countermeasures that the United States, along with its foreign allies and partners, has imposed in response to Russia’s unprovoked military invasion of Ukraine. Announced by the Attorney General on March 2 and run out of the Office of the Deputy Attorney General, the task force will continue to leverage all of the Department’s tools and authorities to combat efforts to evade or undermine the collective actions taken by the U.S. government in response to Russian military aggression.