Biden Administration Releases Plan to Seize Russian Assets
On April 28, the Biden administration released a comprehensive proposal for a legislative package to hold the Russian government and Russian oligarchs accountable for the war against Ukraine. The package outlines new authorities granted to the U.S. government to assist with the seizure of Russian assets and enable the proceeds to go to Ukraine to assist in their fight against Russia.
Biden’s package is composed of six main proposals: establishing streamlined administrative authority to seize and forfeit oligarch assets; enabling the transfer of the proceeds of forfeited kleptocrat property to Ukraine to remediate harms of Russian aggression; clamping down on facilitation of sanctions evasion; modernizing racketeering to include sanctions evasion; expanding the statute of limitations to to pursue money laundering prosecutions (and post-conviction forfeitures) based on foreign offenses; and leveraging foreign partners’ ability to freeze and seize oligarch wealth.
You can read the proposal here or below:
FACT SHEET: President Biden’s Comprehensive Proposal to Hold Russian Oligarchs and Elites Accountable
Today, in concert with his supplemental request to Congress to support Ukraine, President Biden will send a proposal for a comprehensive legislative package that will enhance the United States Government’s authority to hold the Russian government and Russian oligarchs accountable for President Putin’s war against Ukraine. The proposals were crafted in close consultation with interagency partners, including the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Justice, the Department of State, and the Department of Commerce. The Biden Administration looks forward to working closely with Members of Congress as a whole to implement this package of proposals.
This package of proposals will establish new authorities for the forfeiture of property linked to Russian kleptocracy, allow the government to use the proceeds to support Ukraine, and further strengthen related law enforcement tools.
Establishing a Streamlined Administrative Authority to Seize and Forfeit Oligarch Assets: This proposal aims to streamline the process for seizure of oligarch assets, expand the assets subject to seizure, and enable the proceeds to flow to Ukraine. It would:
- Create a new, streamlined administrative process involving the Departments of the Treasury and Justice, for the forfeiture of property in the United States that is owned by sanctioned Russian oligarchs and that has a connection to specified unlawful conduct. A forfeiture decision would be reviewable in federal court on an expedited basis.
- Create a new criminal offense, making it unlawful for any person to knowingly or intentionally possess proceeds directly obtained from corrupt dealings with the Russian government.
Enabling the Transfer of the Proceeds of Forfeited Kleptocrat Property to Ukraine to Remediate Harms of Russian Aggression. This proposal would improve the United States’ ability to use forfeited oligarch funds to remediate harms caused to Ukraine by Russian aggression. Under the proposal, the Departments of Justice, Treasury, and State will work together to use forfeited funds related to corruption, sanctions and export control violations, and other specified offenses to remediate harms of Russian aggression toward Ukraine.
Clamping Down on Facilitation of Sanctions Evasion: This proposal would allow for the forfeiture of property that Russian oligarchs use to facilitate the evasion of sanctions. Under current law, the United States can forfeit the proceeds of sanctions violations, but it cannot forfeit property used to facilitate sanctions violations. This proposal closes that gap.
Modernizing Racketeering to Include Sanctions Evasion: This proposal would strengthen the United States’ ability to investigate and prosecute sanctions evasion by adding the crime of sanctions evasion to the definition of “racketeering activity” in the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. This proposal would give the Department of Justice a powerful forfeiture tool used against racketeering enterprises to dismantle organizations that enable violations of U.S. sanctions.
Expanding the Time Limit to Follow the Money: This proposal would improve the United States’ ability to pursue money laundering prosecutions (and post-conviction forfeitures) based on foreign offenses by extending the statute of limitations from five years to ten years. Criminal investigations of oligarchs can be complicated because sophisticated criminals use intricate schemes that may cut across multiple jurisdictions. The United States often works with international partners on these cases. Extending the statute of limitations would provide additional time for investigators and prosecutors to hold oligarchs criminally accountable.
Leveraging Foreign Partners’ Ability to Freeze and Seize Oligarch Wealth: This proposal would improve the United States’ ability to work with international partners to recover assets linked to foreign corruption. This proposal would make several amendments to improve our ability to enforce foreign restraint and forfeiture orders in the United States.
The United States has already been working with allies and partners to track down assets all over the world:
- In March, the U.S., led by the Department of the Treasury and Department of Justice, launched the Russian Elites, Proxies, and Oligarchs Task Force with international partners to coordinate the freezing and seizing of Russian assets around the world.
- So far, member states in the European Union have reported freezing over $30 billion in assets, including almost $7 billion in boats, helicopters, real estate, and artwork.
- Dozens of yachts have been seized by REPO Task Force member countries. The U.S. Treasury has sanctioned and blocked vessels and aircraft worth over $1 billion, as well as frozen hundreds of millions of dollars of assets belonging to Russian elites in U.S. bank accounts.
- Last week, in the wake of criminal charges, Treasury designated a global sanctions evasion network associated with Konstantin Malofeyev, crack downing on the movement of illicit assets.
- Earlier this month, the Department of Justice announced that Spain seized a 255-foot, $90 million yacht of sanctioned Russian Oligarch Viktor Vekselberg at the request of United States.