In the United States, the other “war” against Russia concerns offshore accounts, mansions and yachts

In the United States, the other “war” against Russia concerns offshore accounts, mansions and yachts

The yacht “Amadea”, owned by Russian billionaire Senator Suleiman Kerimov, on June 27, 2022 in San Diego Bay, California.  Immobilized in Fiji in early May, she was brought to the United States. The yacht “Amadea”, owned by Russian billionaire Senator Suleiman Kerimov, on June 27, 2022 in San Diego Bay, California. Immobilized in Fiji in early May, she was brought to the United States. GREGORY BULL / AP

The war in Ukraine continues in the mud, in the cold and in the snow. But it also takes on an unprecedented international, legal dimension, turning the planet into a giant chessboard. Hunters are western investigators. The expelled Russian individuals and entities who have been on the bulging sanctions lists in the United States and European Union since the Kremlin’s aggression.

As with military support in Kyiv, the United States is at the forefront of this operation. In early March 2022, a week after Russian troops invaded Ukraine, Attorney General Merrick Garland set up a task force called KleptoCapture. This group brings together judges and experts specialized in fighting corruption, tax evasion or money laundering. Relying on human sources, analysis of bank records or information from private companies, the task force embarked on an extensive hunt for Russian goods: from boats to planes, mansions to cryptocurrencies and works of art.

Circuit opacity remains a major challenge. According to the US Treasury Department, “several Russian oligarchs” through offshore companies “have made large cash transfers to their children, particularly those studying in the United States, and these transfers have funded large purchases, generally residential real estate and luxury goods.” .

An unprecedented effort

The targets are hundreds of names appearing on the Office of Foreign Assets Control and Department of Commerce lists. These are powerful businessmen who take advantage of government contracts or their proximity to the Kremlin, members of the defense and intelligence sectors, and entities involved in circumventing American sanctions specifically targeting the military, naval, and aerospace sectors. “After the annexation of Crimea in 2014, we had set concrete goals,” recalls Daniel Fried, then coordinator for sanctions policy in the State Department, the US Department of State. Today, the Biden administration is targeting Russian assets across the board. The perception is that the Putin system is a network that needs to be addressed as a whole. Efforts have intensified, with many more government agencies involved. »

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Andrew Adams, 40, is the director of KleptoCapture. Assistant District Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the magistrate explains to Le Monde how the task force works. “The possible charges against those on these lists correspond to whatever can be found: money transfer fraud, tax evasion, visa fraud, drugs… We have endeavored to prioritize based on the availability of certain assets or the progress of the files, when the task force was established. Some are strategically important actors, such as Russian politicians or people close to the military and intelligence services. »

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