“The Justice Department is putting all available resources to use to hold accountable individuals whose criminal actions are enabling Russia’s unjust war in Ukraine. The President’s proposals will give the United States and our international partners critical resources and tools to dismantle the criminal networks that enable sanctions evasion; to freeze, seize, and forfeit kleptocrat assets; and to transfer the proceeds of those assets to remediate the harms the people of Ukraine are enduring from Russia’s aggression.”
~ Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, April 28, 2022
Today, as part of the President’s supplemental budget request to support Ukraine, the Administration will send a package of proposals to Congress that would enhance the Justice Department’s ability to hold the Kremlin and Russian oligarchs accountable for the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
In March, Attorney General Garland launched Task Force KleptoCapture, an interagency law enforcement task force led by Justice Department prosecutors that is 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. Since that time, the Justice Department has worked with international partners to seize a Russian oligarch’s $90 million luxury yacht and seized approximately $625,000 associated with sanctioned parties held at nine U.S. financial institutions. Those seizures are based on sanctions violations by several specially designated Russian nationals. The Justice Department has also charged Russian oligarchs and their associates for evading sanctions, as well as foreign malign influence operations, arising from illegal efforts to promote Russian propaganda and undermine Ukrainian democracy and society.
The President’s supplemental budget request and accompanying proposals will give the Justice Department critical resources and tools to impose serious costs for Russia’s unjustified aggression, and to isolate and target the crimes of Russian officials, government-aligned elites, and those who aid or conceal their unlawful conduct. In addition to the Administration’s announced proposal to streamline asset forfeiture proceedings in certain circumstances, the following critical proposals would strengthen the Justice Department’s efforts:
- Enabling the Transfer of the Proceeds of Forfeited Kleptocrat Property to Ukraine to Remediate Harms of Russian Aggression. The proposal would improve the United States’ ability to use forfeited funds to remediate harms caused to Ukraine by Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. Generally, forfeited funds are used to compensate victims of the crimes underlying the forfeitures and for law enforcement purposes. This proposal would permit the Departments of Justice, the Treasury, and State to work together to return funds forfeited to the U.S. government to remediate harms of Russian aggression toward Ukraine. Providing this authority requires amendments to multiple statutes governing the use of forfeited funds.
- Clamping Down on Facilitation of Sanctions Evasion. This proposal would expand forfeiture authorities under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) to reach property used to facilitate sanctions violations enabling the government to take away the violators’ “tools of the trade.” This proposal would amend IEEPA’s penalty provision to extend the existing forfeiture authorities to facilitating property, not just to proceeds of the offenses.
- Modernizing Racketeering to Include Sanctions Evasion. This proposal would improve the United States’ ability to investigate and prosecute sanctions evasion and export control violations by adding criminal violations of IEEPA and the Export Control Reform Act (ECRA) to the definition of racketeering activity in the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. This proposal would extend a powerful forfeiture tool against racketeering enterprises engaged in sanctions evasion.
- Expanding the Time Limit to “Follow the Money.” This proposal would ensure that the United States can prosecute violators and seek forfeitures based on foreign offenses more effectively by extending the statute of limitations from five years to 10 years. The change would also extend the statute of limitations for seeking forfeiture of property based on these offenses, as a critical tool to deprive criminals of their ill‑gotten gains.
- Leveraging Foreign Partners’ Ability to Recover Oligarch Wealth. This proposal would improve the United States’ ability to work with our international partners to recover assets linked to foreign corruption. As kleptocrats and other criminals commit crimes and launder money in multiple jurisdictions, this proposal would expand upon existing U.S. law to facilitate enforcement of foreign restraint and forfeiture orders for criminal property. The proposal would improve our ability to take these actions here in the United States in support of international efforts to forfeit criminal property.