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Senators Offer Russian Asset Seizure Legislation

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) have offered bipartisan legislation to empower U.S. authorities to seize high-priced assets of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s oligarchs, and to put the proceeds from the sale of those assets toward aid for the Ukrainian people. The senators have filed their legislation as an amendment to the pending defense authorization bill, which is due for action later this year.

“The Ukrainian people are fighting for their freedom in an unprovoked war, and have suffered unspeakable atrocities. This amendment will hit Putin and his henchman where it hurts by cutting off their access to financial assets in the U.S. and using that money to help the Ukrainian people,” said Risch. “Until we do this, these assets will continue to fund Russian terror and genocide across Ukraine. This amendment is not enough, but it’s a good start and would send a very strong message about American support for Ukraine.”

“Police tape around oligarch mega-yachts and luxury airplanes sends a simple, clear message to Putin:  Ukraine’s destruction spells personal pain for you and your cronies. That’s why there’s strong bipartisan support for seizing Russian oligarchs’ assets and selling them off to help rebuild Ukraine,” said Whitehouse. “Federal law enforcement needs new authority to carry out that mission, which we’ve included in this bill and the administration has called for. I hope we can pass this legislation as part of the defense bill pending before Congress.”

“Dictators like Putin care only about themselves and their cronies,” said Graham. “It is long past time for all the Russian oligarchs – Putin’s partners in crime – to lose their yachts, luxury apartments, and their assets 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 a good beginning on the long journey to push back against Putin and his misadventures.”

“Putin and his oligarchs are directly responsibility for the illegal war in Ukraine and the death, destruction, and dislocation it has wrought,” said Bennet. “This bipartisan bill will make Putin and his inner circle pay by directing funds from their seized assets to the Ukrainian people for resettlement, reconstruction, and recovery.”

“Our measure cracks down on the enablers and chief beneficiaries of Putin’s cruel invasion of Ukraine,” said Blumenthal. “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 cronies to support the brave Ukrainian freedom fighters. I am proud to join my colleagues in this bipartisan effort and will push for its passage in the upcoming defense legislation.”

The senators’ new legislation would allow narrow, streamlined authorities to pursue forfeiture of oligarch property that has been linked to specified illegal acts. It includes a clear asset-forfeiture procedure that balances due process with the need to move swiftly and decisively to respond to the crisis in Ukraine. The legislation:

  • Authorizes the president to unlock certain authorities after declaring a national emergency finding the Russian government’s actions threaten the peace and security of Ukraine;
  • Creates a new administrative forfeiture procedure that allows seizure of property that is derived from proceeds relating to terrorism or other illegal acts;
  • Ensures due process by requiring notice to the asset owner and providing judicial review, including a right to appeal;
  • Establishes venue for proceedings challenging forfeiture determinations in the District Court for the District of Columbia;
  • Authorizes proceeds from forfeited property to be used to provide humanitarian assistance to Ukraine; and
  • Sunsets this authority after three years.