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Russian national with ties to Vladimir Putin arrested in Austin

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Vadim Wolfson, a Russian national and current U.S. legal permanent resident, was arrested earlier Thursday in Austin by local federal task force officers, according to court records.

Documents state Wolfson is the founder of Bank Otkritie, formerly one of the largest privately-held banks in Russia, before he moved to the U.S. around 2018.

The arrest came from a federal warrant issued by the Southern District of New York. According to court documents, Wolfson and others have been indicted on federal charges related to violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and money laundering.

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Court documents list two co-defendants, Andrey Kostin, a Russian national who resides in Russia, and a U.S. national residing in New Jersey.

Attorney information for Wolfson wasn’t listed as of Thursday evening. KXAN will update this story when that information becomes available.

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Records state the defendants all participated in a scheme using shell companies to own and control assets worth “tens of millions of dollars” to and for the benefit of Kostin, a Russian oligarch who, since 2002, has been the president and chairman of VTB Bank, one of the largest Russian state-owned banking groups.

Among those assets were a luxury home in Aspen, Colorado, which was primarily used by Wolfson, and two luxury superyachts valued at over $135 million, according to the Department of Justice.

In 2018, Kostin was sanctioned and designated a Specially Designated National and put on the Blocked Persons list (“SDN List”) by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”).

“Unless otherwise authorized or exempt, transactions conducted by U.S. persons, including U.S. financial institutions, or occurring in the United States are prohibited if they involve transferring, paying, exporting, withdrawing, or otherwise dealing in the property or interests in property of an entity or individual listed on the SDN List,” documents state.

According to court records, Kostin was made aware that the U.S. was likely going to impose new sanctions that would target Russian oligarchs as a result of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.

A news report cited in the court documents state Kostin was aware there was “a high risk his name would be added to a new U.S. list of people close to Vladimir Putin, but that he was unfazed by the prospect.”

The indictment states Wolfson moved to New York around 2018 where he resided at the time but does not specifically reference why Wolfson was in Austin.

KXAN found two property records in Austin listing Wolfson as the owner, a nearly 4.5-acre ranch in southwest Austin purchased by Wolfson in 2020, and a home in west Austin’s affluent Tarrytown neighborhood purchased by Wolfson in 2022.

The two properties are valued at nearly $10 million, according to property records.

According to the DOJ, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said:

“As alleged, sanctioned oligarch Andrey Kostin and his co-defendants flouted U.S. sanctions to support his exceptionally lavish lifestyle.  Through complex schemes involving shell companies and illicit transactions, Kostin and his associates allegedly laundered funds and illegally made transactions with U.S. currency for the maintenance and enhancement of Kostin’s superyachts and luxury Aspen home, blatantly disregarding U.S. law.  This investigation highlights the collaborative efforts of this Office and our law enforcement partners around the globe to uphold critical sanctions put in place to support our national security goals and hold accountable those who seek to undermine them.

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