WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today joined Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Representatives Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) and Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), in introducing the bipartisan, bicameral Asset Seizure for Ukraine Reconstruction Act. The bill would allow the Department of Justice to seize high-value assets owned by sanctioned Russian oligarchs more quickly through existing administrative forfeiture processes and transfer the proceeds from those assets to Ukraine. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) also cosponsored the legislation.
“The Ukrainian people have suffered unspeakable atrocities at the hands of Russia. As such, it is only fair that Putin and his henchmen pay to help Ukraine and its people recover. This legislation will help ensure the private financial assets of those enabling Russia’s war are seized and used to help the people of Ukraine, rather than fund terror and genocide,” said Risch. “But this bill is just a first step. We must also act to seize Russia’s sovereign assets in the United States. That is why I have been working with Senator Whitehouse on the REPO Act to rachet up pressure on Russia and send a strong message of American support for Ukraine.”
“Putin and his oligarch cronies launder their dirty money by purchasing super-yachts, priceless artwork, and other high-value assets in rule-of-law nations. We must shutter the sanctuaries for oligarchs’ riches and punish the enablers propping up Putin,” said Whitehouse. “Getting this bipartisan bill over the finish line will give the Biden administration the tools it needs to seize oligarchs’ ill-gotten assets more expeditiously and repurpose them to support Ukraine.”
“Dictators like Putin care only about themselves and their cronies,” said Graham. “All the Russian oligarchs – Putin’s partners in crime – should lose their yachts, luxury apartments, and pay a price for being part of a thuggish group – a nation-state that really is a mafia-state. I want to see the Department of Justice, Treasury, and law enforcement partners go in and take apartments, fine art, and seize yachts from a bunch of thugs and crooks. This is an important step in the effort to push back against Putin and his misadventures.”
“War criminal Putin’s oligarchs have played a major role in financing the mass murder of Ukrainians while lining their own pockets and benefitting from freedoms they actively work to destroy. This commonsense legislation provides a clear mechanism to expedite the seizure of Putin-connected illicit assets and transfer those funds to support Ukraine. Putin and his cronies will be held accountable for the death and destruction they have caused,” said Wilson.
“We must do all we can to assist Ukraine, and that should include making use of forfeited Russian assets to defend and rebuild,” said Cohen. “The corruption we have uncovered through whistleblowers and the Magnitsky Act is staggering. Rather than line the pockets of Putin's friends, these assets should be used to support the Ukrainian people, and rebuild their institutions, in the face of Russian aggression.”
“Our bipartisan bill holds accountable the cruel enablers of Putin’s murderous invasion of Ukraine. By providing necessary authorities to U.S. law enforcement, it will enable swift seizures of super yachts, jets, mansions, penthouses, and other luxury assets belonging to Putin’s partners in conflict to support the brave Ukrainian freedom fighters,” said Blumenthal.
“Over the past two years, the sUkrainian people have made tremendous sacrifices in the name of democracy. They are winning on the battlefield, and we cannot let them down on Capitol Hill,” said Bennet. “Putin and his oligarchs are directly responsible for the death, destruction, and dislocation wrought by their illegal war in Ukraine. Our bipartisan legislation will make them pay by directing funds from their seized assets to support Ukraine’s reconstruction and recovery.”
Russian oligarchs have played a major role in financing Russian aggression while profiting personally from their alliance with the Putin regime. The legislation would aid Ukraine by facilitating the forfeiture of oligarchs’ ill-gotten assets and the transfer of such proceeds to Ukraine. The bill would lift the $500,000 cap on administrative forfeitures of assets owned by Russian oligarchs and others that aid the Russian government in violation of U.S. laws. The bill would also clarify DOJ’s transfer authority, ensuring that the U.S. government can transfer to Ukraine all the funds it acquires through seizure of Russian oligarch assets.
Full text of the legislation can be found here.