A New York lawyer who admitted to arranging payments to retain American properties secretly owned by a Russian oligarch who had been sanctioned faces up to five years in jail.
According to information submitted on Tuesday by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the Southern District of New York, Robert Wise was hired to purchase opulent properties in the United States by Vladimir Voronchenko, a friend of Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian oligarch who the US imposed sanctions on in April 2018.
Vekselberg acquired the properties through shell companies between 2008 and 2017. The DOJ claimed that Wise managed their finances, which included paying insurance and property taxes. The interest on Wise's lawyer's trust account, sometimes known as an IOLTA account, was used to pay for the properties.
The Office of Foreign Assets Control of the Treasury Department designated Vekselberg after Wise participated in an attempt to sell the oligarch's separate estate and apartment in New York without first obtaining permission from OFAC, according to the DOJ.
After Vekselberg was sanctioned, Wise kept paying for the properties. Money was wired to his IOLTA account from a Bahamas account owned by a shell business Voronchenko controlled. Between June 2018 and March 2022, around 25 wire transfers totaling $3.8 million were sent to Wise's account, according to the data.
The properties owned by Vekselberg were seized by the US in February and were estimated to be worth $75 million.
Wise entered a guilty plea to one count of conspiring to commit international money laundering. He consented to a roughly $3.8 million forfeiture order, which will be fulfilled by a $210,441 payment, according to the DOJ.
According to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office, Robert Wise "has admitted that he misused his position of trust as a lawyer, laundering money to promote sanctions violations by Viktor Vekselberg’s longtime associate, Vladimir Voronchenko"
Voronchenko is wanted after being indicted on February 7.
The DOJ accused Vladislav Osipov of Russia and Richard Masters of the United Kingdom of trying to conceal Vekselberg's ownership of a yacht by using shell corporations and third parties.
By fLEXI tEAM