A Mallorca-based British CEO was arrested at Madrid airport on a US extradition warrant for allegedly helping a sanctioned Russian oligarch hide his ownership of a luxury yacht.

Richard Masters, 52, was stopped at Madrid-Barajas airport on Saturday along with Russian national Vladislav Osipov, 51.

The pair are facing charges in the US of money laundering and evading sanctions over trying to conceal the ownership of the $90 million, 78 metre motorboat ‘Tango’ by sanctioned Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.

Masters, a well-known resident of the Mallorcan town of Santa Maria, has been the chief of luxury yacht firm Master Yachts for the past 23 years.

Richard Masters
Mallorca-based businessman Richard Masters, 52, was arrested at Madrid-Barajas over allegations of sanction-busting for a Russian oligarch. Credit: Master Yachts

Despite a US request that he be extradited immediately, the National Court released Masters on bail having confiscated his passport.

According to the indictment, Masters stands accused of various schemes to disguise the ownership of ‘Tango’, including using shell companies and false documentation to evade detection and deceive financial institutions. 

The Brit allegedly devised a scheme to use the false name ‘the Fanta’ for the yacht in order to hide from financial institutions that payments in US dollars were ultimately for the benefit of Tango and Vekselberg.

It is thought Masters earned around €800,000 for these fraudulent services, to keep Vekselberg’s yacht – an oligarch with keen ties to Vladimir Putin – out of the clutches of US law enforcement.

The boat was searched in April of last year while in the port of Palma de Mallorca by a combined task force consisting of agents from the Guardia Civil, US Department of Homeland Security and the FBI.

It was found to be flying a Cook Islands flag and registered to a company in the British Virgin Islands which was administered by a law firm in Panama, all designed to obfuscate the true ownership.

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