The United States should offer cash rewards on the hunt for Russian oligarch assets, senators say

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The United States should offer cash rewards on the hunt for Russian oligarch assets, senators say


The bill is presented by sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (DRI), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Lindsey O. Graham (RSC) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.). The United States and its European allies have tried to influence these financial elites by targeting the money they have hidden overseas, but the effect of these moves on Russian President Vladimir Putin remains unclear. The fate of the legislation is also unclear, with the administration so far resisting attempts by Congress to control Russian sanctions policy.

“Anything that encourages people to come forward and provide information on where to find these resources would be of great help,” said Daniel Glaser, who served in the Treasury Department’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence under the Obama administration. “The Justice Department has the authority to seize these assets, but they have to find them.”

According to a 2017 document published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, Russian billionaires control about 30% of the nation’s wealth and have the same financial wealth in offshore foreign accounts as the entire Russian population in Russia itself.

“Putin and his oligarchs deposit their dirty money in nations where the rule of law buys villas, mega yachts, works of art and other high-value goods. We should take sixteen of those illicit luxuries and use them to help the Ukrainian people, “Whitehouse said in a statement.

Whitehouse added that the bipartisan group of senators have worked closely together since they recently traveled to Germany together: “It would be a measure of justice for a nation besieged by a corrupt dictator … We stand united in our commitment to strike a massive blow. financial to Putin and his oligarchs ”.

The White House did not immediately return a request for comment. To date, the administration has moved swiftly to impose crippling measures on the Russian economy, targeting the country’s central bank, curbing its technology imports and cutting oil and gas imports to the United States, among other measures.

But the administration remains under pressure to go further. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday asked Biden to expand the US sanctions campaign, including by dramatically increasing the number of Russian elites subject to economic sanctions. The UK has sanctioned some Russian elites that the US has not touched so far, such as Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.

Sanctions experts say part of the problem with imposing economic sanctions on Russian oligarchs close to Putin is that their assets are often hidden in opaque financial deals. The Treasury Department is working on a law passed by Congress last year to put an end to anonymous shell companies by requiring companies to disclose their owners to the federal government. That law provided exemptions for about two dozen types of entities, and the Treasury Department has not yet implemented the measure.

The legislation would aim to help the United States work much faster to find out where the assets of the Russian oligarchs are hiding. Since the war began, the United States has sanctioned more than 200 Russian individuals and entities, according to a tracker from the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank. But where their properties are found often remains a mystery.

The bill would allow the administration to confiscate assets worth more than $ 2 million. The legislation says that funds seized from Russian oligarchs’ assets could be used for Ukraine’s reconstruction, humanitarian assistance, military support to Ukraine, and support for Ukrainian refugees, among other potential uses.

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