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DOJ launches Russian task force

Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at the Department of Justice press conference, June 25, 2021. (Department of Justice/Released)
March 03, 2022

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on Wednesday the formation of a task force dedicated to enforcing the sanctions on Russian entities that President Joe Biden’s administration has imposed due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Task Force KleptoCapture, described in a Department of Justice press release as an interagency law enforcement task force, will ensure the full effect of the administration’s actions against Russia in an effort to isolate the nation from global markets “and impose serious costs for this unjustified act of war, by targeting the crimes of Russian officials, government-aligned elites, and those who aid or conceal their unlawful conduct.”

“The Justice Department will use all of its authorities to seize the assets of individuals and entities who violate these sanctions,” Garland said in a statement. “We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to investigate, arrest, and prosecute those whose criminal acts enable the Russian government to continue this unjust war. Let me be clear: if you violate our laws, we will hold you accountable.”

The Office of the Deputy Attorney General will run the new task force with a staff of prosecutors, agents, analysts, and DOJ staff who are “experts in sanctions and export control enforcement, anticorruption, asset forfeiture, anti-money laundering, tax enforcement, national security investigations, and foreign evidence collection.”

The department said the task force’s mission will include:

  • Investigating and prosecuting violations of the sanctions relating to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in addition to other sanctions imposed over previous “Russian aggression and corruption.”
  • Fighting illegal efforts to undermine the restrictions, including prosecuting those who attempt to avoid “know-your-customer” and “anti-money laundering measures.”
  • Focusing on the use of cryptocurrency to circumvent U.S. sanctions
  • Exercising civil and criminal asset forfeiture to “seize assets belonging to sanctioned individuals or assets identified as the proceeds of unlawful conduct.”

“To those bolstering the Russian regime through corruption and sanctions evasion: we will deprive you of safe haven and hold you accountable,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco said in a statement. “Oligarchs be warned: we will use every tool to freeze and seize your criminal proceeds.”

Task Force KleptoCapture will utilize agents and specialists from several law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security–Homeland Security Investigations; IRS–Criminal Investigation; and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

“The Task Force is authorized to investigate and prosecute any criminal offense related to its mission, including conspiracy to defraud the United States by interfering in and obstructing lawful government functions; money laundering; false statements to a financial institution; bank fraud; and various tax offenses,” the DOJ statement continued, noting that “the maximum penalty under several of these authorities is 20 years in prison.”