The Justice Department will investigate and prosecute people, banks, cryptocurrency exchanges and others that help rich Russians hide or launder their luxury assets and money, a senior department official said.
The actions will be undertaken by a new task force dedicated to freezing or seizing the assets of Russian oligarchs and others under sanctions, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, said the official, who asked to remain anonymous to speak about the unit’s work.
On a call with reporters Friday, the official provided the first glimpse of the inner workings of the group — dubbed Task Force KleptoCapture — which was announced by Attorney General Merrick Garland this month, following the Feb. 24 invasion.
‘No Stone Unturned’
“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,” Garland said on March 2. “Let me be clear: if you violate our laws, we will hold you accountable.”
Officials on the call cited a case recently charged by federal prosecutors in New York as the type of work the new unit will pursue. The case, against former Fox News producer Jack Hanick, alleges he violated U.S. sanctions by helping launch a Russian television network for Konstantin Malofeyev, a Russian business tycoon blacklisted by the U.S. in 2014 for financing Russian separatism in Crimea.
Hanick was arrested last month in London, from which the U.S. is seeking to extradite him. Court records indicate the charges against him were filed under seal in November and that an FBI investigation into his activities dates back at least a year.
The task force is bringing together prosecutors, agents, analysts and translators from divisions and offices across the department and will pursue any appropriate charges to disrupt the wealthy Russians and their facilitators, the official said on the call.
A sweeping array of assets might be frozen or seized, including real estate, corporate shareholdings, bank accounts, yachts, airplanes, jewelry and artwork, the official said.
(Adds example of cases task force will pursue in fifth and sixth paragraphs.)