Pelham resident and attorney Robert Wise pleaded guilty Tuesday, April 25, to participating in a scheme to pay approximately $3.8 million to keep sanctioned Russian oligarch Victor Viktor The six real estate owned by Kesselberg in the United States are in the Southern District of New York.
According to the federal official, the Russian government’s actions in Ukraine were found to pose “unusual and extraordinary threats to U.S. national security and foreign policy.”
On or about March 11, 2022, Vekselberg was redesignated as an SDN and his yacht and private jet were blocked.
Before being designated by OFAC, between 2008 and 2017, Vekselberg acquired six properties in the United States through a series of shell companies. The properties are: two apartments on Park Avenue in New York City; a Suffolk County estate in Southampton; two apartments in Fisher Island, Florida; and a penthouse also in Fisher Island, Florida.
As of April 2023, the six properties are worth approximately $75 million.
Wise, who practices law in New York City, was hired by Vekselberg’s longtime partner, Vladimir Voronchenko, to help acquire the properties. In addition, Wise manages the property’s finances, including paying common charges, property taxes, insurance premiums, and other charges in interest on the attorney’s trust account (IOLTA account).
Between February 2009 and March 2018, a shell company owned by Vekselberg sent approximately 90 wire transfers totaling approximately $18.5 million to the IOLTA account. Wise will then use the funds to pay for property services, as directed by Voronchenko and his family living in Russia.
These sources of funds used to maintain the six properties changed after Vekselberg was designated an SDN, and Wise’s IOLTA account began receiving wire transfers from a Bahamian bank account held in the name of a shell company, Smile Holding Ltd. Chenko control.
The IOLTA account would also receive funds from a Russian bank account held in the name of a Russian national linked to Voronchenko, federal officials said.
Between June 2018 and March 2022, some 25 wire transfers totaling approximately $3.8 million were sent to Wise’s IOLTA account, which was then used again to maintain six Vekselberg properties, even though Wise knew he would facilitate violations sanctioned behavior.
Additionally, after Vekselberg was sanctioned in 2018, Wise and Voronchenko attempted to sell the Park Avenue apartment and the Southampton estate, despite not receiving payment from OFAC or attempting to transfer the license.
Wise pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit international money laundering and faces up to five years in prison. He also agreed to a forfeiture order of $3,771,727.67, paid by paying $210,441, federal officials said.
On Tuesday, February 7, indictments were filed against Wise’s accomplice and fugitive, Voronchenko, and on Friday, February 24, civil forfeiture proceedings were filed against the properties.
Commenting on the case, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “Through today’s guilty plea, Robert Wise admits that he abused his lawyer’s position to launder money in order to facilitate Vladimir Voronchen, Viktor Vekselberg’s longtime partner. Section violated sanctions.”
Williams continued: “The office is proud to continue its efforts to enforce the sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine.”
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