Western nations have imposed several rounds of crippling sanctions against Russia and those who influence the decision-making process in Moscow since President Putin sent troops to neighboring Ukraine. Since then, Russian bank accounts around the world have been frozen and assets seized in several European countries.
To help trace assets purchased with ill-gotten gains diverted from Russia and hidden around the world, Western countries have joined together to form the Multilateral Task Force on Russian Elites, Proxies and Oligarchs (REPO). The entity that was announced after Russia invaded Ukraine was launched on March 16.
Assets of Russian banks frozen
Although no bank account associated with the Kremlin was seized, a number of banks linked to Vladimir Putin and the Russian government had their assets frozen, including the central bank. This caused the value of the national currency, the rouble, to plummet.
Russia’s first default on foreign currency debt since 1918 was averted on Wednesday when a debt of $117 of interest denominated in dollars was paid in dollars and not in rubles. The nation has about $700 million in payments due this month. Between government and business, Russia owes $140 billion in foreign currency debt. After midnight on May 25, Russia will no longer be able to service its dollar debts a Treasury spokesperson told Bloomberg.
European countries have seized more than $1 billion in Russian assets
After announcing sanctions against Russian oligarchs and key Kremlin decision-makers, European nations began to seize or freeze many assets belonging to them. Among the sequestered assets are planes, villas and superyachts.
Italy has been the most aggressive, seizing more than 780 million euros in assets belonging to seven Russian billionaires in the past two weeks. The biggest catch was a €530 million mega-yacht owned by Russian billionaire Andrey Igorevich Melnichenko.
International cooperation to locate and seize Russian assets
According to a 2017 National Economic Bureau, Russian billionaires control around 30% of the country’s wealth. Around $800 billion, equivalent to the wealth of the entire Russian population, is hidden away in offshore banking centers. The Swiss financial industry association, the Swiss Bankers Association, estimates that wealthy Russians have up to $213 billion hidden away in the country’s banks.
By using offshore accounts, they can launder their money through blind trusts and real estate, making it difficult to associate assets with a specific person. To help uncover where the Russian oligarchs have their money stashed, Western nations have come together to create the REPO Task Force, Russian Elites, Proxies and Oligarchs. The eight nations of which, Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, France, Japan, United Kingdom and United States, as well as the European Commission, will assist each other and other nations to “locate and freeze assets within their jurisdictions”.
Rule of law nations face a difficult challenge in tracking down and seizing the filthy assets of Putin and his oligarchs. I commend the Biden administration for its leadership in mounting new efforts to hold Putin’s corrupt regime accountable. https://t.co/QjWtjm7UAx
— Sheldon Whitehouse (@SenWhitehouse) March 17, 2022
US senators to introduce legislation to offer bounties on assets of Russian kleptocracy
The US Department of Justice has created a new Task Force KleptoCapture contribute to the international effort. To let individuals know where Russia’s elite are hiding their ill-gotten gains, a bipartisan group of senators plan to issue legislation calling on the Treasury Department to offer cash rewards for information leading to the capture of assets of sanctioned Russian oligarchs. . .
The bill would authorize the confiscation of assets worth more than $2 million. These assets would then be used to support Ukraine, fund reconstruction, humanitarian and military aid, as well as support Ukrainian refugees.
“Putin and his oligarchs put their dirty money in countries where the rule of law prevails by buying mansions, mega-yachts, works of art and other valuable assets. We must seize these ill-gotten luxuries and use them to help the people of Ukraine,” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse said in a statement.