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NEWS: US sets up ‘KleptoCapture’ task force to identify and seize assets of sanctioned Russians and their companies; will work with EU and Canada

By STEPHEN RAE for AML Intelligence

THE UNITED States has announced the setting up a KleptoCapture Task Force to enforce all the new banking and economic sanctions against Russia.

“Task Force KleptoCapture” will co-operate with the transatlantic task force set up late last month by US, EU, UK and Canada to identify and seize the assets of sanctioned individuals and companies around the world.

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland (pictured) announced the task force to ensure the full effect of sanctions designed to isolate Russia from global markets and impose serious costs for its invasion of Ukraine. It will target “the crimes of Russian officials, government-aligned elites, and those who aid or conceal their unlawful conduct.”

The new unit will be led by a veteran corruption prosecutor from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

It will include agents and analysts from the FBI; U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Secret Service; Department of Homeland Security–Homeland Security Investigations; IRS–Criminal Investigation; and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

KlepoCapture is authorized to investigate and prosecute any criminal offense related to its mission, including money laundering; false statements to a financial institution; bank fraud; and various tax offenses. The maximum penalty under several of these authorities is 20 years in prison.

“The Justice Department will use all of its authorities to seize the assets of individuals and entities who violate these sanctions,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland.

“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.”

“To those bolstering the Russian regime through corruption and sanctions evasion: we will deprive you of safe haven and hold you accountable,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco. “Oligarchs be warned: we will use every tool to freeze and seize your criminal proceeds.”

Task Force KleptoCapture will be run out of the Office of the Deputy Attorney General and staffed with prosecutors, agents, analysts, and professional staff across the Department who are experts in sanctions and export control enforcement, anticorruption, asset forfeiture, anti-money laundering, tax enforcement, national security investigations, and foreign evidence collection.

It will leverage all the Department’s tools and authorities against efforts to evade or undermine the economic actions taken by the U.S. government in response to Russian military aggression.

Its mission includes:

  • Investigating and prosecuting violations of new and future sanctions imposed in response to the Ukraine invasion, as well as sanctions imposed for prior instances of Russian aggression and corruption;
  • Combating unlawful efforts to undermine restrictions taken against Russian financial institutions, including the prosecution of those who try to evade know-your-customer and anti-money laundering measures;
  • Targeting efforts to use cryptocurrency to evade U.S. sanctions, launder proceeds of foreign corruption, or evade U.S. responses to Russian military aggression; and
  • Using civil and criminal asset forfeiture authorities to seize assets belonging to sanctioned individuals or assets identified as the proceeds of unlawful conduct.

The task force says it will use the most cutting-edge investigative techniques — including data analytics, cryptocurrency tracing, foreign intelligence sources, and information from financial regulators and private sector partners — to identify sanctions evasion and related criminal misconduct.

“Arrests and prosecution will be sought when supported by the facts and the law. Even if defendants cannot be immediately detained, asset seizures and civil forfeitures of unlawful proceeds — including personal real estate, financial, and commercial assets — will be used to deny resources that enable Russian aggression,” the AG’s office said in a statement.

“Where appropriate, information gathered through Task Force investigations will be shared with interagency and foreign partners to augment the identification of assets that are covered by the sanctions and new economic countermeasures,” it added.  

The Task Force leadership will include Deputy Directors from both the National Security and Criminal Divisions, and more than a dozen attorneys from these divisions, as well as the Tax Division, Civil Division, and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country.

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