The U.S. says that an ex-Fox News producer broke the law when he worked for a Russian oligarch.
An indictment says that John Hanick worked for Konstantin Malofeev after Mr. Malofeev backed Crimean separatists, which led to sanctions against him.
On Thursday, a former Fox News producer was charged with breaking U.S. sanctions by working for a Russian oligarch who has been accused of giving money to separatists in Crimea and eastern Ukraine and who has close ties to President Vladimir V. Putin, who has been accused of giving money to separatists in Ukraine.
This is the first time that a producer has been charged with violating sanctions that were put in place after Russia took Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. John Hanick, who made the movie, was arrested in London last month and charged in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
It says Konstantin Malofeev, the oligarch who hired Mr. Hanick, was "one of the main sources of financing for Russians who were trying to seize Crimea" when sanctions were put in place in December 2014. He worked for Mr. Malofeev from 2013 to 2017, the indictment says, adding that he was arrested.
People in the United States and most of the rest of the world are still punishing Russia financially because they want to stop its war in Ukraine. The case against Hanick, a 71-year-old American citizen, was announced. On Wednesday, the Justice Department set up a new task force to "hold accountable corrupt Russian oligarchs" who had helped the invasion, and they want to make them pay.
Even though the charges against Mr. Hanick come from sanctions that were put in place eight years ago, they are in line with other steps the United States and its allies have taken recently. This shows that the federal government will use every tool at its disposal to try to pressure Mr. Putin and his allies to do something about it.
As the US attorney for the Southern District of New York put it in a statement: "It's important to make this point."
The charges, he said, show a "commitment to the enforcement of laws that are meant to stop people from using their money to try to change the way democracy works."
Hanick, who worked for Fox News for 15 years before leaving in 2011, is charged with violating sanctions and lying to FBI agents last year.
In this case, lawyers for Mr. Hanick couldn't be reached to give their side of the story. On the other hand, a Fox News spokeswoman said that the indictment misreported Mr. Hanick's job title, that he had been a director at the network, not an editor. She didn't say anything else about the charges, though.
In Russia, Mr. Malofeev is one of the country's most powerful businessmen and a strong supporter of the Russian Orthodox faith. He is also one of the country's most important Kremlin-backed leaders. In the indictment, his name is written as Malofeyev.
One of Vladimir Putin's most important supporters, he has close ties to far-right politicians in the United States and Europe, and has been accused of funding separatists in eastern Ukraine. He has said that he doesn't believe the claims.
He has also been a big part of a push to make Russia more powerful in Africa and less powerful in the West.
In the indictment, it says that Hanick worked for Malofeev to build media outlets in Russia, Greece, Bulgaria, and other places. In July 2013, he moved to Russia, where he signed a contract with Malofeev that said he would get a salary, a $5,000-a-month housing stipend, and health insurance, the indictment says.
The government says that at the start, Hanick worked a lot on a project to build a Russian cable TV news network. The network went on the air in April of that year. His sanctions from the United States and other European countries were already in place at this point, but he was still subject to them.
The indictment says that Mr. Hanick had a big job at the network. In emails, he was called board chairman, general producer, and general adviser, the indictment says.
When Mr. Hanick sent an email to Mr. Malofeev in January 2015, he said that the network's draft policy statement was meant to "put into practice your vision."
He wrote an email that said: "You are the founder and chief architect of the project." It is our job, as board members, to tell the staff to do what you say.
It says that in May of this year Hanick moved from New York to Greece so he could start a television station in Greece that would "partner" with a Russian TV station. Later, Hanick wrote to Malofeev that the network would be a good place to "describe Russia's point of view on Greek TV."
In 2015, he helped Mr. Malofeev buy a TV station in Bulgaria, the indictment says. He went to the country and took steps to hide the oligarch's involvement, it says.
Agents from the FBI talked to Hanick in February 2021. When they asked him about sanctions against Malofeev, he said that he learned about them a few months after they were put in place, according to the indictment. It says that he said that he didn't know that Mr. Malofeev had a connection to the Bulgarian network until he saw it in a news report, but that was not true.
Malofeev has always been a strong supporter of the idea of Russia going back to being ruled by the monarch. In 2017, he told the Guardian that he fell in love with the idea after reading "The Lord of the Rings," which ends with the hero taking the throne. His law school thesis was about how to get back the Russian royal family through the courts.
Vladimir Putin's "quasi-monarchy" was "a very good thing" when the New York Times interviewed him at his office on Moscow's Garden Ring in March 2020.
It doesn't need to be changed much in the Constitution if people start calling him emperor instead of president now, he said.