Alleged Russian agent charged in U.S. with sanctions violations, money laundering

Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Derkach attends a news conference titled "Publication of facts of pressure of U.S. Embassy on Ukraine's law enforcement agencies to interfere in electoral process in U.S." in Kiev, Ukraine October 9, 2019. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

NEW YORK, Dec 7 (Reuters) - A Ukrainian lawmaker accused of helping Russia interfere in the U.S. presidential election in 2020 was charged on Wednesday with money laundering and sanctions violations by buying two Beverly Hills, California, properties and concealing his involvement.

Andrii Derkach, who is at large, was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in September 2020 for being an active Russian agent for over a decade. Democrats have said Derkach was instrumental in a push by allies of former Republican U.S. President Donald Trump to dig up dirt on President Joe Biden.

The indictment unsealed on Wednesday in Brooklyn federal court said that since 2013 Derkach has used overseas accounts in Latvia and Switzerland belonging to companies registered in the British Virgin Islands to pay for the purchase and maintenance of the properties.

Derkach has previously denied wrongdoing and said he has been targeted for exposing corruption. He could not immediately be reached for comment.

The charges come as the U.S. Department of Justice seeks to use criminal charges and asset seizures targeting wealthy and powerful individuals linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin to pressure Moscow to halt its invasion of Ukraine.

"The conduct of this Kremlin asset, who was sanctioned for trying to poison our democracy, has shown he is ready, willing, and capable of exploiting our banking system in order to advance his illicit goals," Breon Peace, the top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, said in a statement.

The Kremlin calls its activities in Ukraine a "special military operation" and denies interfering in U.S. elections.

Derkach has been a member of Ukraine's parliament for more than two decades, though Kyiv in 2021 imposed its own sanctions on him.

Ukraine's main domestic security agency in June said Derkach set up a network of private security firms to support the entry of Russian military units into cities during Moscow's Feb. 24 invasion, citing testimony from a parliamentary aide of his who was arrested at the beginning of the war.

Prosecutors also filed a civil complaint seeking forfeiture of the two condominium units and funds in two bank accounts linked to Derkach.

Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Richard Chang

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Thomson Reuters

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