Briton arrested after ‘hiding’ Russian superyacht by changing name from Tango to Fanta

Richard Masters was arrested by the Spanish Civil Guard

A British man has been arrested, after allegedly helping an oligarch to hide his ownership of seized superyacht Tango — by renaming it Fanta.

Richard Masters, 52, was arrested by the Civil Guard in Madrid, Spain, on Friday (20 January 2023). Masters is accused of helping Viktor Vekselberg — a billionaire Russian-Cypriot businessman with ties to Putin — to hide transactions related to his 78-metre superyacht Tango, worth an estimated $90m (£73m), from authorities.

Masters has reportedly been released by Spanish authorities — without his passport — while an extradition agreement is confirmed.

Another man, Russian national Vladislav Osipov, has also been accused of the same crime but remains at large.

The US initially imposed sanctions on Vekselberg, the founder of a Russian energy conglomerate, in 2018, after Russia’s annexation of Crimea. After the 2022 invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration signed a new order seizing Vekselberg’s Airbus A319-115 jet and the motoryacht Tango.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) claims Masters had been managing Tango through a yacht company based in Palma de Mallorca.

It’s claimed that Masters used a false name for the yacht, “the Fanta“, to mask payments in dollars that were for the benefit of the vessel, to hide the transactions from financial institutions and prevent them from being blocked. This allowed Vekselberg to continue using the vessel.

Seizure of the Tango yacht last April 2022
Seizure of the Tango in April 2022. Image courtesy of Spanish Civil Guard

The US Department of Justice confirmed Masters and Osipov are charged with: Conspiracy to defraud the US and to commit offences against the US; violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA); and money laundering.

Spain’s Guardia Civil police force said a British national had been arrested at Madrid’s Barajas airport, following a joint operation with the Homeland Security Investigation and the FBI.

“The arrested British citizen is the owner and administrator of a trading company based in Mallorca that offers maintenance and administrative services to boats,” the Guardia Civil said in a statement.

“Among his clients is a Russian citizen who has been prohibited from operating in US markets and with US financial businesses. The yacht in question was used by the aforementioned Russian citizen and his family.”

It’s reported that Masters may have earned up to €800,000 (£707,000) for protecting Tango.

Andrew Adams, the director of the Department of Justice’s department KleptoCapture taskforce, says Masters is about to face the consequences of his attempt to profit through crime.

“Corporations and executives have a choice,” he says. “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.

“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.”

Earlier this month, MIN reported that a yacht owned by sanctioned Uzbek oligarch Alisher Usmanov had disappeared from its dock in the central Adriatic after an apparent heist.

The 35-metre Sunseeker 115 Irina VU, which had been dry-docked at a marina in Betina as part of western sanctions on Usmanov, was removed and sailed away to Turkey under cover of darkness, only to be replaced by an identical luxury ship to avoid any suspicion.

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