As part of its ongoing efforts to stop Russia’s invasion, the Justice Department is requesting more authority from Congress to distribute money from assets confiscated from Russia to the Ukrainian people.
According to Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco’s testimony before Congress on Wednesday, the United States is “leaving a lot of money on the table” from these forfeitures.
“The millions we are seizing and forfeiting because of export control violations, we can’t transfer those proceeds to Ukraine,” On Wednesday, Monaco spoke to the Senate Judiciary Committee. “There are measures of accountability to make sure that those assets get transferred.”
Federal agents can only use money seized under the present law in exceptional circumstances where people try to circumvent U.S. sanctions.
KletptoopCatpure, a federal task force, has been in charge of seizing a number of assets, including opulent yachts, homes, and private jets, that are thought to be linked to Russian billionaires and others who support Russia. Over 30 people have reportedly been prosecuted, and $500 million worth of Russian assets have allegedly been sought.
Congress enacted a law in December ordering the State Department to provide Ukraine with a particular portion of the revenues from assets seized by Justice Department investigators.
Additionally, in February, it was revealed by Attorney General Merrick Garland that he had approved the first transfer of frozen Russian assets for use in Ukraine, totaling $5.4 million taken from suspected Russian tycoon Konstantin Malofeyev.
Monaco claimed that the Justice Department wants Congress to expand the government’s forfeiture power to encompass anyone who breaks export restrictions, a class of trade regulations.
These rules control the transfer of specific goods and technologies, including radars, satellite sensors, drones, poisons, and more, to individuals abroad or foreign nationals in the United States.
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Prosecutors have charged the president of a building materials company with transacting $150 million in unlawful business with Russians subject to sanctions in exchange for metal components used in steel production.
Additionally, the deputy attorney general encouraged Congress to approve legislation empowering the Justice Department to pursue cases involving specific crimes against humanity.
A legal gap still allows for some heinous atrocities to be exempt from genocide or war crime laws. Monaco claimed that a new law will fill the vacuum and provide the power necessary to increase criminal accountability in nations like China and Venezuela.
“Right now, we cannot pursue the type of lawless activity…that has gone on in Venezuela, the types of atrocities that have been committed by the Chinese against the Uyghurs. We can’t pursue that type of justice here in U.S. courts without crimes against humanity statute,” Monaco said Thursday.
Senators pressed her to use the State Department’s authority to label Russia a state sponsor of terrorism. Monaco claimed that although there is no legal barrier to this designation, the State Department and President Biden oppose it. Last year, the Senate approved a bill requesting that the State Department label Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.
Only a few days had passed since Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin met with Garland and Monaco to discuss law enforcement in the area before turning the conversation to Russian war crimes and stopping the onslaught in Ukraine.
Kostin claimed that efforts are being made by his country and U.S. authorities to “deprive” Russia of the funds necessary to wage war.
The Justice Department has a “very long memory” for war crimes and crimes against humanity. In the long run, Garland anticipates there will be accountability for perpetrators, despite his suggestion that responsibility for war crimes isn’t coming anytime soon.
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