Biden Admin Forms Team To Seize Assets Of Russian Oligarchs

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The Justice Department has announced a new task force targeting those who have recently been subjected to sanctions by U.S. authorities in connection to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russia’s military, which has claimed the lives of over 2,000 Ukrainian civilians, according to officials in the smaller country. The new task force is called Task Force KleptoCapture, and the Justice Department said in a press release that the new entity constitutes “an interagency law enforcement task force dedicated to enforcing the sweeping sanctions, export restrictions, and economic countermeasures that the United States has imposed, along with allies and partners, in response to Russia’s unprovoked military invasion of Ukraine… [The task force] will ensure the full effect of these actions… by targeting the crimes of Russian officials, government-aligned elites, and those who aid or conceal their unlawful conduct.”

Individuals from the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security, IRS, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service are set for involvement. Attorney General Merrick Garland pledged that asset seizures would follow sanctions violations that are uncovered. As Garland explained:

‘The Justice Department will use all of its authorities to seize the assets of individuals and entities who violate these sanctions. We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to investigate, arrest, and prosecute those whose criminal acts enable the Russian government to continue this unjust war. Let me be clear: if you violate our laws, we will hold you accountable.’

In terms of logistics, the task force will operate out of the office of Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, and it will feature “experts in sanctions and export control enforcement, anticorruption, asset forfeiture, anti-money laundering, tax enforcement, national security investigations, and foreign evidence collection,” according to the Department, which also notes that it is prepared to pursue arrests and prosecutions when such moves are determined to be warranted. As Monaco herself put it: “To those bolstering the Russian regime through corruption and sanctions evasion: we will deprive you of safe haven and hold you accountable. Oligarchs be warned: we will use every tool to freeze and seize your criminal proceeds.” Specific criminal offenses that could fall under the task force’s purview include conspiracy to defraud the United States by interfering in and obstructing lawful government functions, money laundering, false statements to a financial institution, bank fraud, and related tax crimes.

In recent days, far-reaching sanctions have been rolled out in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, targeting financing for the military, individual oligarchs with ties to Putin, and a whole lot more. Hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign currency reserves held by Russia’s central bank have also been sharply restricted. The country is becoming economically isolated.

As for the progression of the conflict in Ukraine, thousands of Russian troops have been killed by Ukrainian forces according to the targeted country, but devastation in Ukraine is expanding — now, nearly 836,000 refugees have fled, and that number appears set to continue dramatically rising, providing a sobering look at the human toll of this crisis. When Donald Trump acts as though you’ve got to hand it to Putin for being “smart,” this devastating destruction is what he’s senselessly glossing over.