US begins passing confiscated Russian money on to Ukraine
US Attorney General Merrick Garland has authorized the first-ever transfer to Ukraine’s state coffers of expropriated Russian funds.
In a statement on Wednesday, the official said the money seized from Russian businessman Konstantin Malofeyev will be sent for the reconstruction of Ukraine, in response to Moscow’s military operation in that country, which began in February 2022.
“While this represents the US’ first transfer of forfeited Russian funds for the rebuilding of Ukraine, it will not be the last,” the Attorney General stated.
Last year, the US Department of Justice charged Malofeyev with sanctions evasion. At the time, prosecutors claimed the businessman had provided financing for Russians promoting separatism in Crimea, the formerly Ukrainian territory that reunified with Russia in 2014.
At the time Garland announced “the seizure of millions of dollars from an account at a US financial institution traceable to Malofeyev’s sanctions violations.”
Washington and its allies have been debating the issue of expropriating Russian funds since last year, arguing over, among other aspects of the scheme, the legality of using such frozen assets to help Ukraine.
The US Department of Justice has launched a dedicated unit called KleptoCapture to help enforce sanctions on Russian government officials and business figures, targeting their yachts, jets, real estate, and other assets.
In December, the US Congress passed a law directing the State Department to award certain proceeds from confiscated Russian assets to Ukraine. The first such transfer was approved in February and involved $5.4 million seized from Malofeyev.
Moscow has called Western attempts to transfer the seized assets to Ukraine “barbarism,” saying that, if necessary, Russia will respond in kind. Moscow has also described the freezing of its assets as “theft,” warning that it violates international law.
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