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Former Putin media chief tied to $28 million California real estate

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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