The U.S. Treasury Department added three Russian individuals and five companies associated with Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin to the sanctions list.
"Today, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the U.S. Department of the Treasury took further action as part of ongoing sanctions efforts against financier Evgeny Prigozhin, targeting companies located in Sudan, Hong Kong and Thailand that allowed him to avoid U.S. sanctions. The current bet makers have directly contributed to Prigozhin's global operations and tried to suppress and discredit protesters seeking democratic reforms in Sudan," the State Department said in a statement.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Prigozhin's network was using Sudan's natural resources for personal gain and "spreading harmful influences around the world." The ministry also noted that Prigozhin funded the Internet Research Agency, a Russian "troll factory" that was added to the sanctions list in 2018. "Prigozhin is also considered to be the financier of Wagner's private military company, which the Russian Ministry of Defense uses as a "proxy force". Wagner's activities in other countries, including Ukraine, Syria, Sudan and Libya, have created insecurity and provoked violence against innocent civilians," the U.S Department of the Treasury said.
Among the sanctioned entities are the St. Petersburg company M Invest, Sudanese Meroe Gold Co Ltd, China's Shen Yang Jing Cheng Machinery Imp&Exp, Hong Kong Shine Dragon Group and Zhe Jiang Jiayi Small Commodities Trade Company. The State Department considered all the companies to be linked to Prigozhin.
Among the individuals, the list includes Igor Lavrenkov (for their association with Prigozhin), Andrei Mandel (associated with M Invest LLC) and Mikhail Potepkin (associated with the listed "M Invest" and Meroe Gold Co Ltd).
U.S. authorities believe that the Russian "M Invest" belongs to or controlled by Prigozhin. M Invest serves as a cover for Wagner's Private Military Company forces operating in Sudan. In addition, in 2017, M Invest became a party to the concession for exploration and production of gold in Sudan and operates in the country through its subsidiary Meroe Gold. Mandel is the CEO of M Invest, and Potepkin is the regional director of M Invest and Meroe Gold, according to a press release from the U.S. Treasury Department.
Shine Dragon Group Limited, Shen Yang Jing Cheng Machinery Imp&Exp and Jiang Jiayi Small Commodities Trade Company are based in Hong Kong and Thailand and have carried out more than 100 transactions worth more than $7.5 million for Prigozhin, the document says. Lavrenkov was a director and owner of Shine Dragon Group Limited and was personally involved in establishing the company's relationship with M Invest. Shine Dragon owns two other listed companies, the U.S Department of the Treasury said.
Businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin was placed on U.S. sanctions lists in December 2016. After special prosecutor Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election, a case was filed against 13 Russian individuals, including Prigozhin himself, and several of his companies. But in March 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice asked the court to drop charges against two Russian companies, Concord Management and Consulting and Concord Catering, which the US authorities accused of funding interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Concord Management and Consulting was founded by Prigozhin in 1995, concord Catering is its subsidiary.
Yevgeny Prigozhin is known as “Putin’s chef”, since amongst other things, he deals with food supplies for the Russian authorities. The businessman met the Russian president in 2011 when, as the owner of an elite restaurant, he personally served Vladimir Putin and former French President Jacques Chirac.