Former Putin media chief tied to $28 million California real estate
Friday, August 1, 2014 at 10:18AM
Richard L. Cassin in Brentwood, Dastel Corporation, Equatorial Guinea, HFC Management, Kremlin, Mikhail Lesin, RT network, Roger Wicker, Russia, Teodorin Obiang

Mikhail Lesin, left, with Russia Prsident Vladimir PutinThe Russian media boss who served as the Kremlin press secretary and helped set up the state-funded RT network has bought at least three houses in the Los Angeles area worth over $28 million, a U.S. senator said this week.

Mikhail Lesin, 56, bought a 13,000-square-foot Beverly Hills home in August 2011 for $13.8 million through a company, Dastel Corporation, according to a report Friday by Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty.

RFE/RL said Lesin’s son, Anton, was an officer of Dastel.

Senator Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) asked the DOJ in a July 29 letter to investigate whether Lesin used laundered money to buy the properties.

Dastel Corporation also bought a 10,600-square-foot house in Brentwood for $9 million in 2012, RFE/RL said.

Another company that shows Lesin's daughter as an officer, HFC Management, bought a 6,800 square foot house in Beverly Hills for $5.6 million.

Senator Wicker said in his letter to the DOJ: "I...understand that following his government service, Mr. Lesin moved his immediate family to Los Angeles, California, where he acquired multiple residences at a cost of over $28 million."

"That a Russian public servant could have amassed the considerable funds required to acquire and maintain these assets...raises serious questions,” Senator Wicker said.

Peter Carr of the DOJ told RFE/RL the letter is under review.

The DOJ started the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative three years ago. The program is intended to seize ill-gotten gains stolen from the developing world.

In 2011, the DOJ filed civil forfeiture complaints against the son of the president of Equatorial Guinea to recover $70.8 million in real and personal property located in the United States.

Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue allegedly "used his position and influence as a government minister for Equatorial Guinea to acquire criminal proceeds through corruption and money laundering, in violation of both Equatoguinean and U.S. law," the DOJ said. 

Lesin now heads state-controlled Gazprom-Media, the country’s largest media holding, RFE/RL said.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

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