US Seizes Russian Foreign Assets Worth over $1 Billion

Monday, 4 September 2023

The US has seized over $1 billion in Russian assets abroad since the beginning of the full-scale war.

"We've grounded planes in Switzerland and the Middle East. We've arrested smugglers in Italy, in Germany, in Latvia. And we've charged money launderers in the UK. So basically, what we've shown is there's no place to hide," US Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said, as CBS News reports.

Monaco’s office manages the KleptoCapture Task Force, a unit created in March 2022 to enforce sanctions against Russian oligarchs and track down their hidden assets around the world. Monaco said extensive cooperation with foreign partners is the thing these efforts rely on.

"We need the cooperation of our international allies and partners," Monaco said. "We need their cooperation on investigations—and we're getting it. What we're seeing is this really unprecedented, galvanised international community coming together to isolate the Putin regime, to condemn its incredible brutality against the Ukrainian people," Monaco added.

Last year, the US Department of Justice seized a $300 million superyacht in Fiji belonging to oligarch Suleiman Kerimov. The US Department of Justice said the vessel was confiscated on the basis of a possible violation of US legislation, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, money laundering, and conspiracy.

The US Department of Justice also requested the seizure of a $90 million yacht off Spain’s coast that belonged to oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. Violations of US bank fraud, money laundering, and sanctions laws were involved in this case.

Both Kerimov and Vekselberg are under US sanctions.

Last year, the Senate included an amendment to an omnibus spending bill to use some of these seized Russian assets to help Ukraine in its war against Russia.

A $60 million Gulfstream jet and a $350 million Boeing aircraft are among the luxury goods the US Department of Justice has been trying to seize since the beginning of the war. These assets are registered to a network of five shell companies and an anonymous trust linked to a Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.

"We are seeking the authority from Congress to allow us to use the proceeds for the benefit of the Ukrainian people," Monaco said.

In June, the European Union decided that it could not legally confiscate Russia's frozen funds. The EU has since focused on a plan to confiscate the profits from the use of these assets.

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