Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday announced the formation of an interagency task force designed to ensure sanctions and other actions implemented by the U.S. government against Russia and its officials are fully enforced.
“Task Force KleptoCapture” will be run out of the office of Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco. It will include prosecutors, agents, analysts, and professional staff representing the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Among the missions of the task force will be investigating and prosecuting sanctions violators, combating efforts to undermine restrictions placed on Russian financial institutions, and targeting the use of cryptocurrency to evade U.S. sanctions. Of note, several cryptocurrency platforms have said they won’t block all Russian users, exacerbating concerns sanctioned individuals might convert their assets into crypto to avoid the restrictions placed upon them.
Such actions would test financial institutions’ know your customer and anti-money laundering controls, as the Justice Department made clear in Wednesday’s announcement no excuses for aiding sanctioned Russian individuals or entities will be accepted.
“The Justice Department will use all of its authorities to seize the assets of individuals and entities who violate these sanctions,” said Garland in a press release. “We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to investigate, arrest, and prosecute those whose criminal acts enable the Russian government to continue this unjust war. Let me be clear: If you violate our laws, we will hold you accountable.”
The United States last week rolled out sanctions against Russia’s largest financial institutions and powerful officials, including President Vladimir Putin. The European Union, United Kingdom, Canada, and other international allies have announced similar measures.
Also on Wednesday, the Treasury Department issued public guidance to fight attempted sanctions evasion by the Central Bank of the Russia. “In the past two days, Russia has taken steps to use exporters to act as their agents and help them raise resources to prop up their currency and fund their priorities,” the Treasury stated. “Today’s guidance makes clear that such actions on behalf of Russia’s Central Bank are prohibited, closing off attempts to access the U.S. financial system.”