(Bloomberg) — The Justice Department will ask Congress for expanded authority to confiscate and sell assets such as superyachts, jets and mansions held by wealthy Russians as part of a U.S. crackdown on Russia for invading Ukraine, Attorney General Merrick Garland said.
The department will back new legislation that would make it easier to seize targeted Russian assets and to provide some of the proceeds from any sales directly to Ukraine, Garland said during a Senate budget hearing Tuesday.
“I expect very soon — within days — probably the administration will be able to present some request,” Garland said. “We would support legislation that would allow some of that money to go directly to Ukraine.”
The request for new authorities comes as part of a broader effort by President Joe Biden’s administration to find ways to increase U.S. assistance to Ukraine, which Russia invaded in February.
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The Justice Department is helping Ukrainian officials with the collection and preservation of evidence documenting possible Russian war crimes. Garland said during the hearing that Russia is carrying out “horrible atrocities” in the Eastern European country.
The department isn’t legally allowed to provide money from its assets forfeiture fund directly to Ukraine, Garland said.
Garland created a new team, officially called the KleptoCapture Taskforce, in March to enforce sanctions, export restrictions and economic measures against wealthy Russians imposed in response to the invasion.
The Justice Department unsealed an indictment in early April against Konstantin Malofeev for sanctions violations, representing the first U.S. charges against a Russian tycoon. A yacht belonging to Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg also was confiscated in early April in Spain at the request of the U.S. government.
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U.S. Seeks More Authority to Seize Russian Assets to Aid Ukraine