By Hannah Rabinowitz and Holmes Lybrand, CNN
Federal prosecutors unsealed charges on Wednesday against Andrii Derkach, a Kremlin-linked former Ukrainian lawmaker who repeatedly promoted disinformation about then-presidential candidate Joe Biden, for an alleged scheme to launder money and purchase real estate in violation of US sanctions.
In 2020, the US Treasury imposed sanctions against Derkach — who had close ties to President Donald Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani — for allegedly being an active Russian agent at the time, serving as part of the Russian government’s interference in the 2020 presidential election.
Despite the sanctions, prosecutors allege that Derkach and an associate created a series of shell companies around the world in a plot to buy luxury condominiums in Beverly Hills. The alleged scheme allowed Derkach to own and maintain the condos without the financial institutions’ knowledge.
“While participating in a scripted Russian disinformation campaign seeking to undermine U.S. institutions, Derkach simultaneously conspired to fraudulently benefit from a Western lifestyle for himself and his family in the United States,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael Driscoll said in a statement.
Derkach faces several charges, including conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Acts, money laundering, and bank fraud conspiracy.
A source familiar with the investigation said that Derkach is still at large, and that his whereabouts are unknown. A lawyer for Derkach is not yet listed.
If convicted, Derkach faces a maximum of 30 years in prison.
According to a US intelligence report in 2021, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s interference campaign in the 2020 election worked in part to tie Biden to claims of corruption over Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine. Derkach worked directly with Giuliani, CNN previously reported, allegedly seeking his help to set up an anti-corruption group in the Ukrainian parliament to investigate “the effectiveness” of US financial aid to Ukraine.
Biden and Giuliani are not named in the unsealed court files or accused of any wrongdoing.
Putin “had purview over the activities” of Derkach, the report said, who “played a prominent role in Russia’s election influence activities.” Derkach has previously denied that he is working for the Kremlin.
According to the report released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Derkach and others “sought to use prominent US persons and media conduits to launder their narratives to US officials and audiences. These Russian proxies met with and provided materials to Trump administration-linked US persons to advocate for formal investigations; hired a US firm to petition US officials; and attempted to make contact with several senior US officials.”
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