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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Treasury Sanctions Companies and Individuals Advancing Russian Malign Activities in Africa

WASHINGTON – Today, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned two companies – one in Russia and one in the Central African Republic (CAR) – for their efforts in advancing Russia’s malign activities in CAR. Today’s targets have played an important role enabling the Private Military Company ‘Wagner’ (Wagner Group) and, by extension, the activities of the Russian Federation. Those designated sought monetary gain from illicit natural resource extraction and provided material and financial support to the Wagner Group and other organizations associated with the enterprise of Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the former Wagner Group owner who died in August 2023 in a plane explosion in Russia.  

“Russia has sought to leverage these Wagner-affiliated companies in its efforts both to secure additional revenue from abroad and to advance its interests in Africa, often at the expense of the host countries, their institutions, and their citizens,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson. “The United States remains focused on disrupting the networks that enable Russia’s illicit and destabilizing activities in Africa.” 

OFAC’s designation of Bois Rouge and Broker Expert would not have been possible without the cooperation and support of Homeland Security Investigations.

PRIGOZHIN ENTERPRISE COMPANIES

Bois Rouge SARLU (Bois Rouge), a.k.a. Wood International Group SARLU, is a Bangui, CAR-based timber company. Established in 2019, Bois Rouge is just one of many Prigozhin-associated companies operating in CAR, which constitutes a vast malign network spanning the spectrum of CAR’s political, economic, and information sectors. Like other Prigozhin-associated companies in CAR, Bois Rouge received a natural resources concession in exchange for the services the Wagner Group provided in CAR. Bois Rouge acquired a timber permit in early 2021 around the same time Wagner Group mercenaries, in conjunction with CAR military forces, seized control of the corresponding area from rebels opposed to the CAR government. This land is in CAR’s Lobaye prefecture, which is part of the Congo Basin and contains some of the largest undeveloped tracks of rainforest in the world. Bois Rouge has since exported tropical timber species, such as azobe, iroko, mukulungu, sapeli, and tali, to buyers in China, the Middle East, Europe, and Central Asia. In 2022, Bois Rouge’s name changed to Wood International Group SARLU. 

Limited Liability Company Broker Expert (Broker Expert) is a St. Petersburg, Russia-based company with a lengthy track record of supporting Prigozhin’s exploits throughout Africa. Broker Expert has exported goods to several Prigozhin-associated companies, including dozens of shipments to Bois Rouge in CAR, multipurpose vehicles to U.S.-designated Meroe Gold Co. LTD. in Sudan, and helmets to Wagner Group forces in Ukraine. Moreover, Prigozhin’s enterprise had used Broker Expert, among other companies, to regularly move cash to fund malign activities. For example, in Madagascar, a Prigozhin-associated company involved in a joint mining venture with a Malagasy state-owned enterprise received funds from Broker Expert. 

OFAC designated Bois Rouge pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 14024 for being owned or controlled by, or having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the Wagner Group. OFAC designated Broker Expert pursuant to E.O. 14024 for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of Bois Rouge. 

THE WAGNER GROUP 

The United States has sanctioned numerous entities and individuals globally that support the Wagner Group and other Russian private military companies. The Wagner Group has committed widespread human rights abuses and has appropriated natural resources across multiple countries in Africa. A proxy military force of the Kremlin, the Wagner Group has carried out combat operations around the world, including in Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine. Wagner has also participated in a scheme to procure weapons for its operations in Ukraine, using false end-use certificates in Mali.

On June 20, 2017, OFAC designated the Wagner Group pursuant to E.O. 13660 for being responsible for or complicit in, or having engaged in, directly or indirectly, actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine, and on November 15, 2022, the Department of State redesignated the Wagner Group pursuant to E.O.14024 for operating or having operated in the defense and related materiel sector of the Russian Federation economy. The Wagner Group has also been sanctioned by Australia, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the European Union.

On January 26, 2023, OFAC redesignated the Wagner Group pursuant to E.O. 13581, as amended by E.O. 13863, for being a foreign person that constitutes a significant transnational criminal organization. Wagner Group personnel have engaged in an ongoing pattern of serious criminal activity, including mass executions, rape, child abductions, and other brutalities against innocents in the CAR and Mali. On the same day, OFAC designated the Wagner Group pursuant to E.O. 13667 for being responsible for or complicit in, or having engaged in, the targeting of women, children, or any civilians through the commission of acts of violence, or abduction, forced displacement, or attacks on schools, hospitals, religious sites, or locations where civilians are seeking refuge, or through conduct that would constitute a serious abuse or violation of human rights or a violation of international humanitarian law in relation to the CAR.

SANCTIONS IMPLICATIONS

As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of the designated persons described above that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. In addition, any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, individually or in the aggregate, 50 percent or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked. Unless authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC, or exempt, OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all transactions by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of designated or otherwise blocked persons. 

In addition, financial institutions and other persons that engage in certain transactions or activities with the sanctioned entities and individuals may expose themselves to sanctions or be subject to an enforcement action. The prohibitions include the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any designated person, or the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person. 

The power and integrity of OFAC sanctions derive not only from OFAC’s ability to designate and add persons to the SDN List, but also from its willingness to remove persons from the SDN List consistent with the law. The ultimate goal of sanctions is not to punish, but to bring about a positive change in behavior. For information concerning the process for seeking removal from an OFAC list, including the SDN List, please refer to OFAC’s Frequently Asked Question 897 here. For detailed information on the process to submit a request for removal from an OFAC sanctions list, please click here.

Click here for more information on the individuals and entities designated today.

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Official news published at https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy2164

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