Biden releases proposal to seize Russian oligarchs’ U.S. assets and give to Ukraine

President Joe Biden speaking about the Ukraine war in the White House on Thursday | Photo Credit: AP

In a step to redirect Russian wealth towards the rebuilding of Ukraine, some of whose cities have been decimated by sustained battering from invading Russian forces since the end of February, U.S. President Joe Biden announced he would propose that U.S.- based assets of Russian oligarchs be seized and directed towards Ukraine. Mr. Biden’s proposal was announced as part of a larger announcement that he was asking the U.S. Congress to approve an additional $33 billion dollars in security, humanitarian and economic assistance for Ukraine.

“We’re going to seize their yachts or luxury homes and the other ill begotten gains of Putin’s kleptocracy,” Mr. Biden said, as he delivered remarks at the White House on Thursday morning.

The President’s proposal involves the seizure of U.S.-based assets of sanctioned Russians, connected to a specific activity deemed unlawful. The process, which will involve the U.S. Treasury, State and Justice Departments, will also seek powers to expand the list of assets potentially available for forfeiture to include property that is used to assist in the evasion of sanctions. Current U.S. law only permits the forfeiture of proceeds from sanction violations not assets used to facilitate this process.

The proposal would also allow seized assets to be deployed towards helping Ukraine. “It’s going to ensure that when the oligarchs’ assets are sold off, funds can be used directly to remedy the harm Russia caused,” Mr. Biden said.

The U.S. Treasury has already sanctioned and blocked Russians’ aircraft and vessels worth over $1 billion, as per a statement from the White House on Thursday. European Union countries had reported freezing over $30 billion in assets, including nearly $7 billion in real estate, helicopters, boats and art work, according to the White House.

Asked last week about the U.S. using frozen assets of the Russian central bank to help rebuild Ukraine, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen demurred, saying it would probably involve legislative changes. “I am unclear whether or not it would be possible without legislation authorizing the use of those assets,” Ms. Yellen had said, adding the U.S. would need to “carefully” assess the consequences before undertaking it.

“I wouldn’t want to do so lightly and it’s something that I think our coalition and partners would need to feel comfortable with and be supportive of,“ she had said. Civil liberties groups had informed lawmakers earlier in April that a similar plan, floated in March, could have violated due-process rights granted by the U.S. Constitution, since, the Washington Post reported.

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Printable version | Apr 29, 2022 2:01:07 pm |