US Targets Banks, Crypto Exchanges Helping Sanctioned Russian Oligarchs

The US Department of Justice has said banks, cryptocurrency exchanges and other financial institutions that serve Russian oligarchs under US sanctions will be in its sights, detailing the agenda of a group of special work put in place to enforce sanctions in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

A senior DoJ official said Friday that the “KleptoCapture” task force launched last week would take a broad view, not just looking at parties that knowingly help people under sanctions.

“Financial institutions, banks, money transfer services, cryptocurrency exchanges that willfully fail to maintain adequate anti-money laundering policies and procedures and allow these oligarchs to move money money. . . will be in the crosshairs of this investigation,” the official said.

The task force will also target accountants and lawyers who have assisted sanctioned individuals.

“We will absolutely investigate, target and, if necessary, prosecute individuals who are not the oligarch themselves. . . but who are happy to help conceal or facilitate, aid or abet the evasion of sanctions in themselves or assist sanctioned individuals to commit any crime that we uncover in the investigation,” said said the DoJ official.

The Justice Department casts a wide net for its investigation as it seeks to step up enforcement of U.S. sanctions with the task force, which includes a wide range of law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and the American secrets.

“Actors who hide their heads in the sand or veil their faces to move dirty money may face money laundering charges for their role in concealing these proceeds,” the official said. DoJ, adding that individuals and entities were “actively” assisting a sanctioned person in moving assets. would also be targeted.

Since the start of the invasion of Ukraine, the United States has imposed sanctions on major Russian banks, key individuals and the country’s central bank, a list that could still grow. Washington has also targeted critical Russian officials such as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and President Vladimir Putin.

The United States has also imposed sanctions on a few oligarchs, including billionaire financier Alisher Usmanov, as well as some Russian elite family members.

On Friday afternoon, the US Treasury Department announced new sanctions against three members of the immediate family of Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, as well as members of the board of directors of VTB, the Russian bank that he sanctioned last month, and 12 Russian lawmakers.

The US Treasury has also identified as “safely blocked” a private jet and a yacht belonging to Viktor Vekselberg, a previously sanctioned wealthy Russian businessman.

The DoJ official declined to specify or quantify the assets targeted by the KleptoCapture task force, but said they would include assets that offer “attractive, often liquid or opaque means” to hide or quickly move capital across borders, such as real estate, company holdings, aircraft. , jewelry and works of art.

Crypto exchanges have come under pressure to block transactions with Russia as Western officials fear digital tokens could be used to transfer money across borders as they seek to exclude Russia from the global financial system .

Trading between the Russian ruble and crypto assets, including tether and bitcoin, has increased since the start of the Ukrainian invasion, doubling in early March, according to data from Chainalysis, a crypto research group.

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