- US investigators have found proof of Russian oligarchs attempting to evade sanctions, per Reuters.
- Andrew Adams heads the new Justice Department task force targeting Russia’s wealthiest individuals.
- Adams said so-called safe havens have actually helped reveal useful information to US prosecutors.
US investigators have found evidence of Russian oligarchs attempting to evade sanctions amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In an interview with Reuters, the head of a new Justice Department task force, Andrew Adams, said that even individuals who have not yet been targeted are pre-empting future sanctions by attempting to move assets.
Adams leads the new “KleptoCapture” task force, which was established last month to target Russian oligarchs in an effort to put pressure on Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to cease his unprovoked war in Ukraine.
He told the news agency: “There are efforts afoot — some of them publicly reported — to move, for example, moveable property in the forms of yachts, airplanes … into jurisdictions where, I think, people have the perception that it would be more difficult to investigate and more difficult to freeze.”
However, despite Russian tycoons’ attempt to hide their assets, they still face an “all-time high” level of international cooperation. “Especially in the current context, and the current climate … the level of shared sense of purpose I think is at an all-time high,” Adams told Reuters.
The US Department of Justice did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment made outside of normal working hours.
The US, the EU, and the UK have drawn several lists of sanctions imposed on Russia, including on Putin’s close circle.
As Insider previously reported, it can be tricky to track down oligarchs’ assets as they often hide behind companies that are designed to simply own the asset, rather than conduct any business.
Adams told Reuters that despite previous beliefs that certain locations can be safe havens, they have instead provided information to US prosecutors.
He declined, however, to provide details of specific jurisdictions that have provided them with information, or to name specific people under investigation.
The task force is prepared to enter into lengthy battles against oligarchs who may wish to prevent the US from permanently confiscating their assets. Adams said: “We should anticipate that extremely well-heeled litigants will take things to court. We will be engaged in litigation that will take a while.”
“The United States has not been a friendly place to be parking your money as an oligarch,” Adams told Reuters in the interview. “The most ostentatious, the most obvious types of assets are not in the United States.”
Elsewhere, European countries such as Italy, France, and Spain have detained superyachts belonging to Russian oligarchs. The UK recently detained a yacht, whose ownership remains unknown.
Meanwhile, a cruise port operator is reportedly in danger of breaking sanctions law by letting Roman Abramovich’s $600 million superyacht dock in Turkey.