Justice Department launches special unit to enforce Russia sanctions

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department launched a task force Wednesday to enforce the new sanctions imposed by the U.S. on Russia.

President Joe Biden previewed the creation of the unit in his State of the Union address, saying it would “go after the crimes of Russian oligarchs.”

“Tonight, I say to the Russian oligarchs and corrupt leaders who have bilked billions of dollars off this violent regime: No more,” Biden said Tuesday, adding, “We are joining with our European allies to find and seize your yachts, your luxury apartments, your private jets. We are coming for your ill-begotten gains.”

The new unit, known as Task Force KleptoCapture, will investigate and prosecute current and future sanctions resulting from the Ukraine invasion, the Justice Department said. That will include combating illegal efforts to undermine the restrictions on Russian financial institutions, targeting efforts to use cryptocurrency to evade sanctions, and using both civil and criminal asset forfeiture authority to seize assets belonging to individuals subject to sanctions.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said the new task force will target “those whose criminal acts enable the Russian government to continue this unjust war.”

The task force will call upon agents from the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service as well as law enforcement components of other departments, including the Secret Service, IRS, Postal Inspection Service, and Homeland Security Investigations.

“Oligarchs, be warned,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said. “We will use every tool to freeze and seize your criminal proceeds.”

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