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Feds Search Park Ave High-Rise, Southampton Estate in Russian Oligarch Probe

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Federal agents were seen searching a Park Avenue high-rise and a Southhampton estate Thursday connected to a Russian oligarch who recently had his yacht seized, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and FBI agents along with NYPD detectives were seen carrying boxes during a search of 515 Park Ave. in Manhattan and 19 Duck Pond Lane in Southampton. Records show those properties are linked to sanctioned Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, a billionaire and close ally of President Vladimir Putin who heads the Moscow-based Renova Group, a conglomerate encompassing metals, mining, tech and other assets, according to U.S. Treasury Department documents

The U.S. seizure of Vekselberg’s $900 million superyacht off the coast of Italy in early April marked the first under newly western imposed sanctions targeting pricey assets of Russian elites in response to the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine. (More seizures here.)

In addition to sanctions, Vekselberg has been the subject of a U.S. Department of Justice Investigation surrounding allegations of bank fraud. No charges have been filed in that regard, and sources say Thursday’s law enforcement activity at the Manhattan and Long Island sites were just searches in connection with the ongoing sanctions. Those properties were not seized Thursday. A search is also underway at a property in Miami’s Fisher Island.

All of Vekselberg’s assets in the United States are frozen and American companies are barred from doing business with him and his entities. The Ukrainian-born businessman built his fortune by investing in the aluminum and oil industries in the post-Soviet era.

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Vekselberg has long had ties to the U.S., including a green card he once held and homes in New York and Connecticut. He was also questioned in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and has worked closely with his American cousin, Andrew Intrater, who heads the New York investment management firm Columbus Nova. Vekselberg is one of numerous Russian oligarchs to face sanctions since the start of the war in Ukraine.

A call to an attorney associated with the Hamptons property was not immediately returned Thursday. Attempts to reach a representative for Vekselberg were not immediately successful.

HSI and FBI confirmed their agents were at those locations but declined further comment. The U.S. Department of Justice and NYPD declined immediate comment.

Merrick Garland spoke after authorities seized a yacht from a Russian oligarch in Spain.

Source: NBC New York

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