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Saturday, December 9, 2023
Dec. 9, 2023

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Ukraine ex-lawmaker, alleged Russian agent, faces U.S. charges


NEW YORK (AP) — A former Ukrainian lawmaker who U.S. authorities say acted as a Russian agent for over a decade and tried to influence the 2020 presidential election through meetings with Rudy Giuliani has been criminally charged in New York in connection with purchases of luxury Beverly Hills real estate.

The charges against Andrii Derkach, 55, of Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, were announced Wednesday in Brooklyn by U.S. Attorney Breon Peace.

Derkach has been characterized by the U.S. government as an “active Russian agent” for over a decade. Authorities say he met multiple times during the 2020 race with Giuliani, a close Trump ally, and released heavily edited recordings of Democrat Joe Biden in an effort to disparage him.

Prosecutors also say Derkach sought to fund a lavish lifestyle for himself and his family through the purchase of two Beverly Hills condominiums even as he hid his interests in the transactions from banks.

The indictment includes charges of conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, bank fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and money laundering.

“The conduct of this Kremlin asset, who was sanctioned for trying to poison our democracy, has shown he is ready, willing, and capable of exploiting banking system in order to advance his illicit goals,” Peace said in a statement.

Michael J. Driscoll, head of the FBI’s New York office, noted that Derkach was sanctioned in September 2020 by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control for trying to influence the 2020 election on behalf of Russian Intelligence Services through a “covert influence campaign.”

“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,” Driscoll said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Adams, head of a task force pursuing criminal wrongdoing by Russian oligarchs, labeled Derkach’s pursuit of U.S. real estate “particularly egregious hypocrisy.”

“Attempting to enjoy the safety, security, and freedoms of an open society, while secretly working to undermine that very society, is a hypocrisy that runs through every sanctions charge announced by the Task Force,” he said.

Derkach, a fugitive whose whereabouts are unknown, could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted of conspiring to violate sanctions and other conspiracy and money laundering charges.

Derkach served for about a decade in Ukraine’s Parliament as a member of a pro-Russian political party that was in power from 2010 to 2014.

According to the indictment, Derkach and a co-conspirator began in 2013 to pursue the purchase of the two condominiums.

As part of Wednesday’s legal actions, prosecutors filed a civil forfeiture action to seize the condos and money that remains in U.S. brokerage and bank accounts controlled by Derkach.

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