On March 2, 2022, U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced the start of Task Force KleptoCapture to enforce sanctions, export restrictions, and economic countermeausres the U.S. has issued, in coordination with U.S. allies, in response to Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine. Task Force KleptoCapture will aim to enforce these actions that are designed to isolate Russia from global markets. In particular, the U.S. restrictions target the crimes of Russian officials, government-aligned elites, and persons who help or conceal their unlawful conduct.
Andrew C. Adams, co-chief of the Money Laundering and Transnational Criminal Enterprise Unit in the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of New York, will manage the Task Force. 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. It will be staffed with prosecutors, agents, analysts, and professional staff across the Department of Justice who are experts in sanctions and export control enforcement, anti-corruption, asset forfeiture, anti-money laundering, tax enforcement, national security investigations, and foreign evidence collection. The Task force will strengthen DOJ’s abilities and authorities against efforts to evade or undermine the restrictions the U.S. government has imposed in response to Russian military aggression.
The Task Force’s mission will include the following: investigating and prosecuting violations of new and future sanctions imposed in response to the Ukraine invasion, and sanctions imposed for prior instances of Russian aggression and corruption; combating unlawful efforts to subvert restrictions imposed on Russian financial institutions, including the prosecution of persons who attempt 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. response 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 will be able to 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.
In addition to arrests and prosecution, the Task Force will employ asset seizures and civil forfeitures of unlawful proceeds, including personal real estate, financial, and commercial assets to deny resources that enable Russian aggression. When appropriate, the Task Force will share information obtained in its investigations with interagency and foreign partners to help the identification of assets that are covered by the sanctions and new economic countermeasures.
The Task Force KleptoCapture will complement the work of the transatlantic task force under President Biden and leaders of the European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Canada on February 26. The transatlantic task force has a mission to identify and seize the assets of sanctioned individuals and companies around the world.
The Task Force will involve agents and analysts from various law enforcement agencies, including the FBI; U.S. Marshal Service; U.S. Secret Service; Department of Homeland Security; IRS-Criminal Investigation; and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Meanwhile, on March 2 the Independent Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation (ICRICT) issued a statement in support of the call by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s for an international public register of wealth for Russian oligarchs with more than €10 million in assets.
If the US Task Force and the law enforcement authorities of its allies cooperate in terms of intelligence, evidence gathering, and extradition, they will exert pressure on the oligarchs. President Biden announced the creation of the Task Force in his state of the union speech on March 1. The initial one-third of the address dealt with the response by the U.S. and its allies to the Russian invasion. President Biden said:
“Tonight, I say to the Russian oligarchs and the corrupt leaders who’ve bilked billions of dollars off this violent regime: No more.
The United States — I mean it. The United States Department of Justice is assembling a dedicated task force to go after the crimes of the Russian oligarchs.
We’re joining with European Allies to find and seize their yachts, their luxury apartments, their private jets. We’re coming for your ill-begotten gains.”
To some extent the Biden speech and the Garland announcement mix persons who violate past, current and future sanctions against Russia with persons who have or are laundering proceeds of foreign corruption or U.S. responses to Russian military moves, such as export control and other restrictions. In particular, the announcement of the Task Force mentions false statements to a financial institution, bank fraud, tax offenses, and money laundering. In addition, as demonstrated by the non-compliant assessment in FATF’s 2006 and 2016 evaluation of the U.S. and the recent comments to the proposed CTA regulations, U.S. gatekeepers do not meet international standards and remain opposed to complying with the new regulations. As a result, notwithstanding the Task Force KleptoCapture, U.S. law and culture prevent proactive law enforcement cooperation.
Whether the Russian oligarchs will have any influence on Vladimir Putin remains to be seen. However, the sanctions and the emphasis on enforcement follow a recent trend of the U.S. since the Obama Administration: the emphasis on criminal and quasi-criminal enforcement of U.S. sanctions. The rest of world is following this trend. Actual close collaboration among law enforcement authorities and international organizations, informal groups (i.e., G7), and non-governmental organizations will help make sanctions enforcement more effective.
On March 1, Putin signed a decree that prohibits taking more than $10,000 worth of foreign currency in cash and “monetary instruments” out of Russia. The move responds to the sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
As the U.S. is trying to adopt regulations to make its Corporate Transparency Act operational, increasingly the European legislative and executive branches are debating making their corporate and trust registries more publicly accessible without cost and broadening the registries to include not only beneficial ownership of companies and trusts, but diverse assets, such as art, real property, crypto assets, and linking the registries, so that regulators and law enforcement have easy access. One gap is that, since the U.S. has not yet implemented the Corporate Transparency Act, does not fully reciprocate on information exchange pursuant to FATCA Intergovernmental Agreements and does not participate in the Common Reporting Standard, wealth structures have moved to the U.S. both for anonymity and to take advantage of the lucrative U.S. economic market.
 Katie Banner, Justice Department Announces Task Force to Go After Russian Oligarchs, N.Y. Times, Mar. 3, 2022.
 DOJ, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Announces Launch of Task Force KleptoCapture, Press Rel. 22-179, Mar. 2, 2022.
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