A Putin Crony Enlisted a Former Fox News Director to Tap $10 M in Frozen Assets. It Ended Badly
Konstantin Malofeyev, a sanctioned Russian Oligarch, has been indicted in New York for attempting to tap $10 million in frozen U.S. assets, a scheme he allegedly executed with the help of a former Fox News director, American Jack Hanick.
Malofeyev is an arch-conservative Russian nationalist and media mogul with close ties to Vladimir Putin. He was sanctioned by the United States in late 2014 for acting as “one of the main sources of financing for Russians promoting separatism in Crimea” and for threatening the “territorial integrity of Ukraine” by supporting the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic in the east of that country.
At the time, Malofeyev was about to launch — in partnership with Hanick — a Fox News clone in Moscow, catering to Russia’s religious right. Despite the imposition of sanctions, that launch went ahead as planned, as did the creation of another Kremlin-friendly news network in Greece, and an attempted launch of a similar venture in Bulgaria. Hanick was indicted last month (and is now in jail awaiting extradition to the United States) on charges he violated sanctions that barred him from doing business with the Russian, and also lied to the FBI about his dealings with Malofeyev.
On Wednesday, Malofeyev himself was indicted on criminal charges for violating U.S. sanctions. The charges largely relate to his employment of Hanick — who rose to prominence by helping Roger Ailes launch the Fox News network and worked as a director there for 15 years, before his departure in 2011. Rolling Stone reported on the backstory of Malofeyev’s partnership with Hanick, and how the American was seduced by the conservative Russian worldview, here.
The charges against Malofeyev largely mirror those faced by Hanick. But they also include new allegations of an overt financial crime, in which Hanick played the oligarch’s errand boy. (Hanick has not been charged in relation to this incident.)
The sanctions against Maloveyev froze his U.S. assets — including what the feds describe as “a $10 million investment in a Texas-based bank holding company.” Malofeyev had made the investment through a shell company, located in the Seychelles (down by the sea shore). Malofevey wanted to use the asset as collateral to fund his Greek network, which Hanick touted as an opportunity to “detail Russia’s point of view on Greek TV.”
In June 2015, the indictment alleges, Malofeyev tasked Hanick to physically carry the share certificate of the shell company from Moscow to Athens, where multi-million-dollar ownership stake was transferred to a Greek associate of the oligarch’s for the price of just $1. The transaction was then, allegedly fraudulently backdated to make it appear as if it had gone through in June 2014, prior to the imposition of sanctions.
Ultimately the transfer was blocked, and Malofeyev’s investment was liquidated and placed in a frozen cash account in the United States. The Justice Department also announced Wednesday that it had seized those funds and would seek their permanent forfeiture.
The criminal indictment of Malofeyev is largely symbolic, as he’s believed to be in Russia, beyond the reach of U.S. law enforcement. But in announcing the charges, Michael Driscoll of the FBI made it clear that the feds view Malofeyev as a both a criminal and an enemy of the state. “Malofeyev played a leading role in supporting Russia’s 2014 invasion of eastern Ukraine, continues to run a pro-Putin propaganda network, and recently described Russia’s 2022 military invasion of Ukraine as a ‘holy war,’” Driscoll said, adding bluntly: “The FBI works tirelessly to protect our national interests, and we will continue to use all the resources at our disposal to aggressively counter Russia’s malign activity around the world.”
Read the full indictment of Malofeyev below:
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