British businessman charged over helping Russian oligarch evade U.S. sanctions

St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF)
Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska attends the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg, Russia June 17, 2022. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo

NEW YORK, Oct 11 (Reuters) - British businessman Graham Bonham-Carter was arrested on U.S. charges of conspiring to violate sanctions placed on Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, prosecutors said on Tuesday.

Bonham-Carter was arrested in the United Kingdom, and federal prosecutors in Manhattan said they will seek his extradition. Prosecutors said Bonham-Carter made payments for U.S. properties owned by Deripaska and tried to move the aluminum magnate's artwork in the United States overseas.

Following the U.S. extradition request, Bonham-Carter appeared in a London court and was released on conditional bail, Britain's National Crime Agency said in a statement.

A lawyer for Bonham-Carter, who is also charged with wire fraud, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The charges come as the U.S. Department of Justice tries to pressure Russian oligarchs through sanctions, asset seizures and criminal probes to stop backing Russian President Vladimir Putin after the country's invasion of Ukraine. Moscow calls its activities in Ukraine a "special military operation."

"Bonham-Carter obscured the origin of funding for upkeep and management of Deripaska's lavish U.S. assets, in violation of the international sanctions," Damian Williams, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, said in a statement.

Deripaska, the billionaire 54-year-old founder of aluminum giant Rusal (RUAL.MM), was among two dozen Russian oligarchs and government officials blacklisted by Washington in 2018 in connection with Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

The Justice Department last month charged Deripaska with violating sanctions by using the U.S. financial system to maintain three luxury properties, employing a woman to buy a California music studio on his behalf, and by trying to have his girlfriend travel to the United States to bear his children.

Prosecutors said Bonham-Carter has worked for entities controlled by Deripaska since around 2003, and managed his residential properties in the United Kingdom and Europe.

Prosecutors said that in 2021, Bonham-Carter wired just over $1 million from a Russian bank account for a company he controlled on Deripaska's behalf to a New York bank account for Gracetown, Inc., which manages Deripaska's residential properties in the United States.

The payments were meant to pay for the maintenance of Deripaska's two residential properties in New York and one in Washington, D.C., which he purchased between 2005 and 2008, prosecutors said.

Bonham-Carter also sought in 2021 to transfer artwork Deripaska bought from an auction house in New York City to London, and falsely told the auction house that the art did not belong to Deripaska, prosecutors said.

Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; additional reporting by Muvija M in London; editing by Jonathan Oatis, Noeleen Walder and Deepa Babington

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Reports on the New York federal courts. Previously worked as a correspondent in Venezuela and Argentina.