Federal Bureau of Investigation agents on Tuesday searched a luxury Washington mansion and a New York property with links to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire under US sanctions who once employed Paul Manafort, chairman of Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.
Two sources familiar with the investigation told Reuters the US Attorney's office in Manhattan, also known as the Southern District of New York, is leading the probe related to Mr Deripaska, a metals industry magnate with Kremlin ties.
The raids were being carried out on the basis of two court warrants related to US sanctions, an FBI representative said, and added that Mr Deripaska was not the owner of the houses.
“The FBI really is searching houses that are owned by Deripaska’s family members,” the representative said.
The US imposed sanctions in 2018 on Mr Deripaska, a close ally of Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Announcing the sanctions, the Treasury Department said Mr Deripaska has been investigated for money laundering, extortion and racketeering.
“There are also allegations that Deripaska bribed a government official, ordered the murder of a businessman and had links to a Russian organised crime group,” the Treasury Department said.
Mr Deripaska filed a lawsuit in March 2019 against the Treasury Department, accusing it of illegally targeting him with sanctions, but the suit was tossed out this year by a federal judge.
Washington has previously dropped sanctions against his two main companies, aluminium producer Rusal and its parent, En+ Group, but has kept them in force on Mr Deripaska.
Yellow tape blocked off the $15 million mansion located in Washington’s wealthy Kalorama neighbourhood, where the likes of Amazon's Jeff Bezos and former president Barack Obama have homes.
Some locals drove by and snapped pictures from their cars as federal officers transported bins in and out of the property, and unsuspecting dog walkers stumbled around local police cars assisting with security at the scene.
Property records list the mansion's owner as Hestia International LLC in Delaware, a state known for being a US tax haven.
The Russian citizen is also a known associate of Paul Manafort, Mr Trump's former campaign manager and among the first people to be charged in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, which examined possible co-ordination between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 presidential election.
Mr Manafort was convicted of eight financial crimes as part of the Mueller investigation, but was later pardoned by Mr Trump.
Court documents revealed after Mr Deripaska sued Mr Manafort that he lent the Trump adviser $10m and paid him for consulting services in Ukraine.
Another Russian associate of Mr Trump's found himself in hot water on Monday: Lev Parnas has been charged with breaking campaign finance laws.
Agencies contributed to this report