US launches task force to pursue 'corrupt Russian oligarchs'

Justice Department announces launch of 'KleptoCapture' task force to seize assets of people who violate sanctions imposed on Russia

US Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department will use 'all of its authorities' to seize the assets of those who violate sanctions on Russia. Reuters

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US Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the launch on Wednesday of a task force to pursue “corrupt Russian oligarchs” and those breaching sanctions imposed on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

“The Justice Department will use all of its authorities to seize the assets of individuals and entities who violate these sanctions,” Mr Garland said in a statement announcing the launch of “Task Force KleptoCapture".

“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.”

The group’s creation is the latest sign of how the US and its allies are seeking to isolate Russia from the international financial system as President Vladimir Putin’s military presses forward in its war on Ukraine.

Amid international outrage over the war, pressure has been rising to seize the luxury assets of Russian oligarchs seen as lending support to Mr Putin.

US President Joe Biden, in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday evening, warned Russia's billionaires that the task force would “find and seize their yachts, their luxury apartments, their private jets".

“Tonight, I say to the Russian oligarchs and the corrupt leaders who’ve bilked billions of dollars off this violent regime: no more,” Mr Biden said.

Mr Garland said the task force would be made up of more than a dozen prosecutors from the National Security and Criminal Divisions of the Justice Department and assets from other law enforcement agencies.

“To those bolstering the Russian regime through corruption and sanctions evasion: we will deprive you of safe haven and hold you accountable,” said Lisa Monaco, the deputy attorney general.

“Oligarchs be warned: we will use every tool to freeze and seize your criminal proceeds.”

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: March 03, 2022, 7:10 PM
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