The U.S. Justice Department charged Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev with violating sanctions imposed on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, saying on Wednesday he provided financing for Russians promoting separatism in Crimea, Reuters reports. Attorney General Merrick Garland said authorities had disrupted a type of global malicious computer network known as a "botnet" controlled by a Russian military intelligence agency.
"The Justice Department will continue to use all of its authorities to hold accountable Russian oligarchs and others who seek to evade U.S. sanctions," Garland said. The department last month launched a federal "KleptoCapture" task force that is working to further strain the finances of Russia's oligarchs to pressure the country to halt its invasion of Ukraine.
U.S. authorities have long accused Malofeyev of being a main source of financing for Russians promoting separatism in Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014. He tried to evade American sanctions by using co-conspirators to acquire media organizations across Europe, Garland said. U.S. authorities seized millions of dollars from an account at an U.S. financial institution that are traceable to the sanctions violations. Spanish police impounded a superyacht belonging to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg on behalf of U.S. authorities, the first time the U.S. seized property belonging to a Russian oligarch since its invasion of Ukraine in February.
Garland said authorities disabled the Russian military intelligence botnet before it could be weaponized.