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20 Sep, 2022 17:03

US reveals plan for seized Russian funds

The Department of Justice wants Congress to amend forfeiture laws so money can go to Ukraine
US reveals plan for seized Russian funds

The US Department of Justice would like Congress to amend laws governing asset forfeiture, so money confiscated from Russian “kleptocrats” can be given to Ukraine, the head of the interagency sanctions task force Andrew Adams told the Senate on Tuesday while testifying at a hearing called “Tightening the Screws on Russia.” 

Adams, formerly a federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York (SDNY), is the head of the interagency Task Force KleptoCapture, a sanctions enforcement outfit created in February. The “scope, intended impact, and international alignment” of the anti-Russia sanctions are “without precedent,” he told senators.

Among the proposals he listed at the hearing was a pitch for Congress to amend the existing US asset forfeiture laws, in order to allow the government to “remediate harms caused to Ukraine by Russia’s war of aggression,” as Adams put it. 

The departments of justice, treasury and state would like the ability to give the funds seized from Russia and Russians to the government in Kiev, but doing so “requires amendments to multiple statutes governing the use of forfeited funds,” he said.

Earlier in his testimony, Adams mentioned that the measures implemented by the US and its allies “have included immobilizing the Russian Central Bank’s assets, held in coffers around the world.” It was not clear, however, whether these funds would fall under the scheme to transfer money to Ukraine – something the government in Kiev has demanded for months, both of the US and of the EU.

Asset forfeiture is a controversial practice in US law, which proponents have defended as a “key tool” for weakening organized crime and funding law enforcement. Critics, such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), have called it “policing for profit” and described it as “egregiously at odds with our due process rights.”