Businessman charged with conspiracy to evade sanctions for aiding Ukrainian oligarch

John Can Unsalan faces up to 20 years in prison.

April 18, 2023, 8:14 PM

The Orlando-based import export company Metalhouse LLC touts itself as a “highly reputable global trading partner for steel products” but federal prosecutors said the company’s president was anything but reputable.

The U.S. Department of Justice arrested businessman John Can Unsalan on charges that he aided in a three-year scheme to violate U.S. sanctions against oligarch Sergey Kurchenko, a Ukrainian national who made his fortune selling natural gas.

According to the indictment, Unsalan provided Kurchenko with more than $150 million in return for steelmaking materials.

“The arrest of John Can Unsalan should serve as a warning to those who seek to do business with sanctioned individuals or entities that endanger the security of the United States and our allies,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland. “The Justice Department is relentlessly pursuing those whose seek to evade sanctions imposed against the Russian regime and whose crimes enable the regime to continue its unjust, illegal war in Ukraine.”

Kurchenko was sanctioned in 2015 for his role in misappropriating state assets of Ukraine.

He controlled two sanctioned companies -- Kompaniya Gaz-Alyans, OOO, based in the Russian Federation, and ZAO Vneshtorgservis based in the Russian-occupied Georgian region of South Ossetia -- which were sanctioned in 2018 for acting on behalf of and providing material support to the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic in the separatist-controlled regions of eastern Ukraine.

Unsalan engaged in trade with these sanctioned individuals and entities to procure steelmaking equipment and raw material despite knowing that Kurchenko, Gaz-Alyans and Vneshtorgservis were subject to U.S. sanctions that prohibited Unsalan from doing business with them, the indictment said.

The Florida businessman is charged with one count of conspiring to violate and evade U.S. sanctions, 10 counts of violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, one count of conspiring to commit international money laundering and 10 counts of international money laundering.

He faces up to 20 years in prison.

“As highlighted by this arrest, we are firmly committed to enforcing the sanctions imposed by the United States against Russia for its malevolent military invasion of Ukraine,” U.S. Attorney Roger Handberg said.

The investigation was led by the Justice Department’s KleptoCapture task force, which has been seizing assets of sanctioned oligarchs and cracking down on people who allegedly help them evade sanctions.

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