Washington freezes more than $1 billion in assets of a Russian oligarch in the United States

The US Treasury Department on Thursday announced a $1 billion asset freeze at a US-based company controlled by Russian oligarch and politician Suleiman Kerimov, which has already been sanctioned by Washington.

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An investigation by US authorities “showed that Kerimov used a complex set of legal structures and front men to disguise his interest in Heritage Trust,” a company based in Delaware (eastern United States), according to a Treasury Department press release .

The billionaire was sanctioned by the United States in 2018 for alleged money laundering and is now among Russian oligarchs sanctioned by several countries and the European Union after Russia invaded Ukraine.

A native of the Russian Republic of Dagestan in the Caucasus, Suleiman Kerimov became one of the richest men in the world after the collapse of the Soviet Union. His family controls one of the gold mining giants: Polyus.

On Sunday, the first day of their summit in Germany, G7 leaders announced an embargo on newly mined gold in Russia.

Bloomberg’s ranking of the world’s richest people places him 127th, with an estimated fortune of $13.3 billion.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen accused Russian elites of “hiding behind intermediaries and complex legal arrangements” and said her department will use her authority to enforce sanctions against “those who fund and profit from Russia’s war in Ukraine”.

Delaware’s tax laws are among the most favorable in the world for business, and the East Coast state, stronghold of President Joe Biden, is home to many foreign companies.

In its statement, the US Treasury Department also claims that a nephew of Suleiman Kerimov, Ruslan Gadjiev, is one of the beneficiaries of the Heritage Trust.

Mr Gadjiev, who was elected to Russia’s parliament, has been under US sanctions since March, and his involvement in the company “provides a separate and independent ground” for the freeze, Washington says.

In early June, a Fijian court approved the handover of Suleiman Kerimov-linked superyacht Amadea to the United States. The boat, valued at around $300 million, was seized by Fiji at Washington’s request.

In 2017, Suleiman Kerimov was also the origin of a diplomatic incident between France and Russia when he was arrested stepping off a plane in Nice and accused of tax evasion in the suspicious purchase of five luxury villas on the French Riviera.

His lawyers managed to drop the initial charges before the judiciary reopened the case in March 2019.

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