As part of the US government’s efforts to support Ukraine in its war against Russia, the Biden administration has sent Congress a number of legislative proposals in addition to an additional request for $33 billion in additional funding. The legislative package addresses a number of important issues and targets assets held by the Russian government and oligarchs.
The proposal includes:
- Revisions to confiscation laws to expand and speed up confiscation of assets linked to Russian kleptocracy, to allow the government to use proceeds to support Ukraine and add to law enforcement tools used to investigate crimes financial.
- A proposal to streamline administrative authority involving the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Justice to seize and confiscate the assets of oligarchs located in the United States and linked to illegal activities.
- Procedural changes to expedite Federal Court review of any decision to confiscate these assets.
The proposed legislation includes several changes to criminal and forfeiture laws to provide additional tools for prosecutors and law enforcement to hold oligarchs accountable. Given the complexity of international investigations and the need to gather evidence from multiple jurisdictions, the proposed legislation includes procedural reforms to improve international investigations of oligarchs.
The legislation proposes to: (i) create a new criminal offence, making it illegal for a person to knowingly or intentionally possess the proceeds of Russian government corrupt activities; (ii) amend confiscation laws to include assets Russian oligarchs use to facilitate sanctions evasion; (iii) amend the RICO laws to add the crime of evading sanctions as a RICO predicate in the definition of “racketeering activity”; and (iv) extending the five-year statute of limitations to ten years for money laundering and asset forfeiture prosecutions involving foreign offenses.
On a broader note, the proposal would change DOJ and Treasury Department authorities to allow confiscated funds from the oligarch to be used to repair the damage done to Ukraine by Russian aggression. Under the proposal, the Departments of Justice, Treasury, and State will work together to use confiscated funds related to corruption, sanctions and export control violations, and other specified offenses to remedy the damage caused by Russian aggression against Ukraine.
In addition, the proposal would strengthen the ability of the United States to enforce foreign restraining and asset forfeiture orders in the United States.
The United States is aggressively pursuing Russian-related assets. The DOJ and Treasury Department created the Russian Elites, Proxies, and Oligarchs Task Force (REPO Task Force) which works with international partners to freeze and seize Russian assets around the world. The EU announced that it had frozen $30 billion in assets, including nearly $7 billion in boats, helicopters, real estate and works of art.
REPO task force countries have seized dozens of yachts; the Treasury Department has sanctioned and blocked ships and planes worth $1 billion and frozen hundreds of millions of dollars in assets in US bank accounts. The Treasury Department is focused on sanctions busting networks and recently designated a multiparty network of entities and individuals involved in such activities.