In an effort to ramp up economic pressure on Russia, a group of Western governments including Canada and the U.S. are launching a task force to target the assets of Russian oligarchs and top officials.
Following a virtual meeting Wednesday, the G7 countries and Australia announced the launch of the Russian Elites, Proxies, and Oligarchs (REPO) multilateral task force, which pledged cooperation to freeze and seize the assets of top Russian officials.
“Our sanctions, trade restrictions, and other measures have already imposed significant costs on Russia, its leadership, and those who enabled Putin’s unprovoked invasion into Ukraine,” said U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in a release.
“This multilateral task force will raise those costs even more, by galvanizing coordinated efforts to freeze and seize assets of these individuals in jurisdictions around the world and deny safe haven for their ill-gotten gains,” she added.
At the same time, financial law enforcement authorities (including the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, or FINTRAC)) pledged to enhance cooperation and intelligence sharing.
The U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) also said it will alert financial institutions to the importance of identifying and reporting suspicious transactions involving sanctioned targets, and it announced the launch of a bounty program — the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Rewards Program — which offers rewards (up to US$5 million) for information leading to assets linked to foreign government corruption.
According to a release, the REPO task force members discussed ways to enforce economic sanctions and to engage other countries in the effort to locate and freeze assets within their jurisdictions.
They also discussed the need to preserve evidence and to determine whether frozen assets are subject to forfeiture, and considered tactics for pursuing gatekeepers that have helped move sanctioned assets.
“We are already working with our international partners to freeze and seize properties belonging to sanctioned Russian oligarchs worldwide,” said U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland.
“We will continue to work together to take all appropriate actions against those whose criminal acts enable the Russian government to continue its unjust war against Ukraine,” he added.