WASHINGTON, March 13 (AP) — The United States has embarked on aggressive new moves to inflict pain on the Russian economy, especially Russian oligarchs, in an effort to stop the Kremlin from invading Ukraine.
From the Treasury Department to the Justice Department, U.S. officials will focus on efforts to legally liquidate the fortunes of Russian oligarchs, expand financial penalties for those who help evade sanctions and close legal loopholes that allow oligarchs to trade using shell companies. through the U.S. financial system.
Andrew Adams, head of the KleptoCapture task force that enforces U.S. economic restrictions on Russia and its billionaires, told The Associated Press that the group is prioritizing efforts to identify those who help Russians evade sanctions and violate export controls people.
“These illegal procurement networks will continue to consume an increasing amount of our bandwidth,” said Adams, who is also acting deputy assistant attorney general.
More than $58 billion worth of sanctioned Russian assets have been frozen or frozen globally to date, according to a U.S. Treasury Department report last week. These include two $300 million luxury yachts in San Diego and Fiji, and six New York and Florida properties worth $75 million owned by sanctioned oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.
The US has begun trying to punish oligarch associates and wealth managers — in Vekselberg’s case, a New York federal court indicted Vladimir Voronchenko after he helped preserve Vekselberg’s estate. He was charged in February with conspiring to violate and evade U.S. sanctions.
The case was coordinated through the KleptoCapture team.
“I think sanctions mediators can be very effective,” Adams said, calling them “professional sanctions evasion brokers.”
Targeting a handful of major wealth managers would do far more damage to Russia than sanctioning oligarchs alone, according to a February study led by researchers at Dartmouth University.
Other attempts to inflict pain on the Russian economy will come from efforts to liquidate yachts and other property owned by Russian oligarchs and the Kremlin, turning them into cash for the benefit of Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has long called for the transfer of Russian assets to Ukraine, and Dalip Singh, a former Biden administration official, told the Senate Banking Committee on February 28 that confiscating billions of dollars in Russian assets held by the U.S. things we should pursue”. “
Singer suggested that the U.S. should “use the reserves that we have frozen at the New York Fed, move them to Ukraine, and allow them to use them as collateral to raise funds.” When he was national security adviser for international economics, he was in charge of Russia sanctions at the White House plan.
The KleptoCapture task force is working to sell the Russians’ yachts and other property, Adams said, despite the legal difficulties of turning properties whose owners’ access is blocked into confiscated assets that the government can sell and resell for Ukraine’s benefit.
He stressed that the United States will operate under the rule of law. “Part of what this means is that we’re not going to take assets that haven’t gone through the full judicial process and start to seize them without a legal basis,” Adams said.
He added that the task force “successfully worked with Congress and with those around the executive branch to obtain authorization to transfer certain seized funds to the State Department.”
The U.S. Treasury Department said on Thursday that the administration was “paving the way” to provide the seized $5.4 million in foreign aid to Ukraine.
In addition, strengthening laws that provide loopholes for those who evade sanctions will also be a priority for the federal department, officials said.
The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, part of the Treasury Department, is expected to roll out rules to address the exploitation of the U.S. real estate market for money laundering, including requiring the disclosure of the true ownership of real estate.
New real estate rules are long overdue, said Steven Tian, research director at the Yale University CEO Leadership Institute, which tracks companies disengaging from Russia.
“I would like to point out that this is not just exclusive to Russian oligarchs. As you know, the real estate market utilizes American shell companies,” Tian said.
Erica Hanichak, director of government affairs at the FACT Alliance, a nonprofit that promotes corporate transparency, urged the government to propose the rule by late March, when the U.S. will co-host the second Democracy Summit with the governments of Costa Rica, the Netherlands, South Korea and Zambia. .
“We see this as an opportunity for the United States to show leadership, not only in addressing corrupt practices abroad, but in our own backyard to find and address the loopholes in our system that fuel international corruption,” she said. (Associated Press)
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