NEW YORK, Aug 8 (Reuters) - A judge has authorized U.S.
prosecutors to seize a $90 million Airbus plane owned
by sanctioned Russian oligarch Andrei Skoch, federal prosecutors
in Manhattan said on Monday.
Skoch, a member of the Duma, the lower house of the Russian
parliament, was initially sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury
Department in 2018 for alleged ties to Russian organized
criminal groups. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control
(OFAC) issued further sanctions against Skoch in the wake of
Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.
Washington has sought to pressure President Vladimir Putin
to stop the military campaign by freezing and seizing assets
belonging to wealthy Russians.
"U.S. law enforcement has demonstrated that international
shell games will not suffice to hide the fruits of corruption
and money laundering," Andrew Adams, the federal prosecutor
leading the Justice Department's KleptoCapture task force
targeting oligarchs' assets, said in a statement.
Skoch - a billionaire and member of the pro-Putin United
Russia party - owns the plane through shell companies and trusts
tied to his romantic partner, prosecutors said. Reuters could
not immediately reach Skoch for comment.
U.S. dollar payments for the registration and insurance of
the plane continued to be made between 2018 and 2021, despite
the sanctions, prosecutors said.
Moscow calls its activities in Ukraine a "special military
The plane is now in Kazakhstan, court papers show.
Kazakhstan's Embassy in the United States did not immediately
respond to a request for comment.
A 324-foot (98.76-m) yacht that belongs to Skoch in June
anchored in Dubai, which has emerged as a refuge for Russian
wealth as Western countries ramped up sanctions against Putin
Also in June, a U.S. court issued warrants for the seizure
of two luxury planes owned by Russian billionaire Roman
Abramovich. The KleptoCapture task force has also brought the
seized Amadea, a $300-million yacht owned by sanctioned oligarch
Suleiman Kerimov, to the United States.
(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien
and Leslie Adler)