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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

US approves first transfer of seized Russian money to Ukraine

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US Attorney General Merrick Garland has authorized the first transfer of funds seized from a Russian oligarch to support Ukraine.

In a statement on Wednesday, Garland said the money seized from Russian tycoon Konstantin Malofeev would be used to pay for the February 24, 2022, invasion of war-torn Russia.

Garland said, “This is the first time the US has transferred seized Russian money to rebuild Ukraine, but it won’t be the last.”

Last year, the US Justice Department accused Malofeyev of violating sanctions against Russia. Prosecutors said he financed Russians promoting separatism in Crimea, which was annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

At the time, Garland announced that “millions of dollars had been seized from accounts in US financial institutions due to Malofeyev’s sanctions violations.”

Following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Garland announces a new task force called Kleptocapture.

Garland said at the time, “We will make every effort to investigate, arrest and prosecute those responsible for the criminal acts that have allowed the Russian government to continue this unjust war.”

Among the assets seized by Washington was a fleet of superyachts worth more than $300 million, including a 106-metre (348 ft) vessel owned by Suleiman Kerimov, which was docked in Fiji.

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden last year urged Congress to make it easier to transfer seized elite assets to Ukraine.

In December, Congress passed legislation allowing some assets seized by the Justice Department to be sent to Ukraine through the State Department.

In April, the Justice Department asked Congress to expand the types of assets that can be sent to Ukraine, specifically funds seized for export control violations.

Then-Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said Washington was “leaving a lot of money on the table.”

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