Thu, 02 Feb 2023

Washington [US], January 21 (ANI): The US on Friday (local time) recognized "Wagner" PMC as a "transnational criminal organization," said White House spokesman John Kirby.

In a White House briefing, Kirby said that additional sanctions would be imposed against Yevgeny Prigozhin's military company, which will be announced next week.

The US Treasury Department will designate the Russian mercenary organization Wagner Group as a "transnational criminal organization" and will impose additional sanctions next week against the group and its support network across the world, the White House said.

"These actions recognize the transcontinental threat that Wagner poses, including through its ongoing pattern of serious criminal activity," National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby told reporters on Friday, ahead of the Treasury Department announcement.

Along with the new sanctions, the US has released newly declassified photos of Russian railcars travelling from Russia to North Korea back in November, in what the US believes was the initial delivery of infantry rockets and missiles for use by the mercenary organization Wagner Group in Ukraine, reported CNN.

Kirby said that while the US does not believe the equipment has changed the battlefield dynamics in Ukraine, the US expects those kinds of weapons systems deliveries from North Korea to Russia to continue. Russia has also been receiving equipment, including drones, from Iran, as its military supplies have dwindled over the course of the war.

"The arms transfers from (North Korea) are in direct violation of United Nations Security Council resolution," Kirby said, adding that the US has shared its intelligence with the Security Council's DPRK sanctions committee panel of experts.

A senior western intelligence official echoed that assessment on Friday, telling reporters that the West is "certainly concerned that North Korea might plan to expand and deliver more military equipment or to sustain those deliveries," reported CNN.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department announced charges Friday against Russian and British businessmen accused of helping a Russian oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, hide his ownership of a luxury yacht in violation of US sanctions.

Vladislav Osipov, a dual Russian and Swiss national, and Richard Masters, a United Kingdom national, both face charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States and to commit offences against the United States, violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, and money laundering reported CNN.

The seizure, conducted by DOJ's Taskforce KleptoCapture, is one of the most recent moves by the US to increase pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin and his closest allies over his war in Ukraine. It is one of several yacht seizures since the task force was established last March.

"Corporations and executives have a choice: They can participate in the global effort to uproot corruption, sanctions violations and money laundering and enjoy the benefits of prompt and fulsome cooperation; or they can, as Osipov and Masters are alleged to have done, attempt to shield themselves and their clients behind a veil of fraud," Andrew Adams, the task force's director said in a statement Friday.

Adams continued, "These men made their decisions, and now face the consequences of a failed attempt to profit through, rather than standing against, a sophisticated, transnational criminal enterprise."Masters, who ran a yacht management company in Spain, allegedly used a fake name for the yacht so that it would remain unnoticed by US institutions, allowing for what prosecutors say was "hundreds of thousands of dollars of transactions" for the yacht that otherwise would not have been permitted.

Masters and Osipov, according to the indictment, also helped equip the luxury yacht with new internet, technology, weather forecasting, computing systems, satellite television and teleconferencing software - all from products made in the US.

Osipov, who worked for Vekselberg, allegedly hid Vekselberg's ownership of the USD 90 million yacht using shell companies and conspiring to avoid US sanctions.

Vekselberg's yacht was seized by Spanish law enforcement in April at the request of US officials, based on alleged money laundering, violations of sanctions statutes and bank fraud. Federal agents also searched several homes in the US linked to Vekselberg - who has close ties to Putin -- in September.

According to the Justice Department, Masters was arrested in Spain on Friday and will be extradited to the United States. Osipiv has not yet been arrested. (ANI)

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