US Treasury goes after the planes and yacht of Russia's troll farm founder

US Treasury takes new approach to imposing sanctions on IRA's owner.

IRA yacht - St. Vitamin

Image via US Treasury Department

The US Treasury Department announced today the third set of sanctions against the Internet Research Agency (IRA), also known as Russia's troll farm.

The Treasury previously sanctioned the IRA in March and December 2018.

This time, the sanctions are being imposed because of the Russian company's involvement in the 2018 US midterm elections, when it used social media campaigns in an attempt to influence the election's outcome.

Going after the IRA's founder private property

But this time, Treasury officials are taking a new route. Besides imposing new sanctions on the IRA and the private property of six of its employees, Treasury officials today also went after the private possessions of Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the IRA's founder and primary financier.

More specifically, US officials imposed sanctions on three companies that Prigozhin uses to manage three planes and a yacht.

The first is Beratex Group Limited, a company registered in the Seychelles, which the Russian oligarch uses to manage a private jet with the tail number of M-VITO, and a private yacht under the name of St. Vitamin.

"Beratex originally purchased M-VITO in 2012, and since then, photographs on social media accounts have shown that Prigozhin's family have used the plane," Treasury officials said. "Between 2017 and 2018, M-VITO conducted numerous flights throughout Africa, the Middle East, and Europe to include Sudan, the Central African Republic, Madagascar, Ethiopia, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Armenia, Germany, Spain, and Russia."

"In addition to M-VITO, Beratex is also the registered owner of St. Vitamin, a yacht the company acquired in 2014," officials added. "Prigozhin's family has vacationed on St. Vitamin, as evidenced by photographs posted on social media accounts."

M-VITO airplane

Image via Anna Zvereva/Flickr

Second, Treasury officials also imposed sanctions on Linburg Industries LTD, another Seychelles incorporated company, which Prigozhin used to manage and operate VP-CSP, a private jet registered in the Cayman Islands.

The third company is Autolex Transport Ltd. Also incorporated in the Seychelles, US officials said Prigozhin's employees used this company to arrange for the purchase of M-SAAN, a private jet registered in the Isle of Man.

As a result of today's sanctions, US entities are prohibited in engaging in transactions with these companies. In addition, if these properties enter US jurisdiction, they are also to be seized.

"The identification of these aircraft and vessel serves as a warning to those who continue to provide M-VITO, St. Vitamin, VP-CSP, and M-SAAN landing rights or other general services," Treasury officials said. "By continuing to service these aircraft and the vessel, providers of such services run the risk of facilitating or supporting Prigozhin's nefarious activities and may also be subject to future sanctions."

In addition to the three companies, the US Treasury also imposed sanctions on six other individuals it identified as IRA employees: Dzheykhun Nasimi Ogly Aslanov, Mikhail Leonidovich Burchik, Vadim Vladimirovich Podkopaev, Vladimir Dmitriyevich Venkov, Igor Vladimirovich Nesterov, and Denis Igorevich Kuzmin.