Russian Charged by U.S. Over Hidden Swiss Accounts

A former executive of Russian steelmaker OAO Severstal was charged in the U.S. with hiding as much as $7.5 million from tax authorities in secret Swiss bank accounts held at UBS AG.

Victor Lipukhin, a Russian citizen who was president of a U.S. unit of Severstal, is accused of concealing assets in the UBS accounts and failing to report any income earned in them on his U.S. tax returns, the Justice Department said yesterday in a statement.

The indictment comes amid moves by the U.S. and the European Union to sanction Russia over the annexation of Crimea. The U.S. penalized officials and business leaders named as having ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. U.S. President Barack Obama also authorized potential future penalties on Russian industries, including financial services, energy, metals and mining, defense and engineering.

Lipukhin, 50, and another individual opened an account at Zurich-based UBS in 2002 in Switzerland with more $47 million transferred into it from a previously maintained UBS account in the Bahamas, the U.S. said.

In 2003, they transfered all of that money except $5.3 million to another account held by the second person. That individual was removed from the account, making Lipukhin the sole owner and signatory, according to the indictment.

Account Balance

From 2003 to 2006, the year-end account balance ranged from about $3.9 million to $7.4 million, according to the indictment filed in federal court in Kansas City, Missouri.

While Lipukhin controlled that account and another one, he typically operated through a Bahamian national to help conceal his ownership and control, the Justice Department said.

Lipukhin worked in Severstal’s trading office in the United States until 2002 and “was never a senior executive,” the company’s press service said today in an e-mailed statement. Severstal hasn’t had any relationship with Lipukhin “for an extended period of time” and doesn’t know where he is.

Lipukhin lived in St. Charles, Illinois, and was president of Severstal Inc. (USA). In 2007, he moved to Russia to work at a hotel and resort being built in Sochi, where this year’s winter Olympics were held, according to the indictment.

UBS, the largest Swiss bank, avoided prosecution in 2009 by paying $780 million, admitting it fostered tax evasion, and disclosing secret U.S. accounts. U.S. prosecutors are investigating 14 banks for helping Americans evade taxes. More than 70 U.S. taxpayers and about three dozen offshore bankers, lawyers and advisers have been charged in the crackdown, and 106 Swiss banks seek non-prosecution agreements with the U.S.

The case is U.S. v. Victor Lipukhin, 14-cr-00071, U.S. District Court, Western District of Missouri (Kansas City).

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