US sanctions Maltese company and eight planes for transporting Russian oligarch

The United States government has sanctioned a Maltese-Russian luxury aviation company and eight of its aircraft for links to Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov and his family.

With a range of actions announced on Monday against Kerimov and members of his family, the US State Department and US Treasury are targeting a broad network of Kerimov’s family members, associates, and facilitators, of which the Maltese company was one, according to the US government.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken specified on Monday that the Malta- and Russia-based aircraft management company Emperor Aviation Ltd “coordinated luxury travel for Kerimov’s immediate family, including [his daughter] Gulnara Kerimova, even after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022.”

The US Treasury has also identified as blocked property eight luxury aircraft operated by the Birkirkara-based company. Founded and owned by Russian Irakli Litanishvili, the company offers aircraft management and charter, fuel and handling services from its base in Malta.

The sanctions notice provided the planes’ details, including their manufacturer serial number, which allowed The Shift News to determine that all eight aircraft have also been registered in Malta along with the company itself.

“These designations,” the US State Department said on Monday, “should serve as another warning that those who support sanctioned Russian persons risk being sanctioned themselves.

“The United States will continue to crack down on Russia’s attempts to evade international sanctions to fund its war machine.  Businesses worldwide are advised to do their due diligence in order to avoid being targeted for sanctions.”

The sanctions announced on Monday by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), alongside the US Department of State, targeted a transnational network procuring technology that supports the Russian military-industrial complex. OFAC also designated a global network of financial facilitators, enablers, and others associated with two key Kremlin-linked elites, one of whom is Kerimov.

Monday’s actions designated a total of 14 individuals and 28 entities, and identified eight aircraft belonging to Emperor Aviation as blocked property.

Emperor Aviation has also been sanctioned for operating or having operated in the aerospace sector of the Russian Federation economy and for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of the Russian Federation.

Kerimov himself has also been sanctioned by Australia, Canada, the EU, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. The US sanctioned him in September for being or having been a leader, official, senior executive officer, or member of the board of directors of the Government of the Russian Federation.

In June 2022, OFAC issued a Notification of Blocked Property on Heritage Trust, a Delaware-based entity in which Kerimov has a property interest. As of June 30, 2022, Heritage Trust held assets valued at over $1 billion. OFAC’s extensive enforcement investigation revealed that Kerimov used a network of relatives, advisers, and opaque legal entities to invest in the United States and utilised a complex series of legal structures and front persons to obscure his interest in Heritage Trust.

In May 2022, Fijian law enforcement executed a seizure warrant freezing the Motor Yacht Amadea, a 348-foot luxury vessel owned by Kerimov.

Kerimov was also sanctioned by the European Union earlier this year, along with fellow Russian oligarchs Alfa Group co-founders German Khan and Alexei Kuzmichev, MMK major shareholder Viktor Rashnikov, Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs President Alexander Shokhin, Rosseti head Andrey Ryumin, Yandex Managing Director Tigran Khudaverdyan, and EuroChem head Vladimir Rashevsky.

The Russian billionaire is the founder of the Suleiman Kerimov Foundation and the representative of the Republic of Dagestan in the Federation Council of Russia. Kerimov transferred a large part of his assets, including his shares in Russia’s largest gold producer, Polyus Gold, to his son, Said Kerimov.

Said Kerimov, who is also sanctioned by the EU, is associated with a leading businessperson involved in economic sectors providing a substantial source of revenue to the Russian government.

Suleiman Kerimov is also responsible, according to the EU sanctions, for supporting or implementing actions or policies which undermine or threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, as well as stability and security in Ukraine.

The US has now gone a step further and sanctioned family members and the family’s facilitators, which Emperor Aviation is suspected to have been, as well as business partners and holding companies from Switzerland to the United Arab Emirates.


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