“We will have your yacht and your jet”

Status: 08/21/2022 06:25

Russian oligarchs raised and anchored their fortunes around the world. A new special unit in New York is now targeting exactly that – and providing the preparatory legal work for seizure.

By Antje Passenheim, ARD Studio New York

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco promised it would be tougher for the Russian oligarchs when American justice oversees them. No need to hide: “We’ll catch you, take your yacht, your jet, your account.

Antje Passenheim
ARD-Studio New York

Dirty assets, measures to circumvent sanctions – the US government has been cracking down on Moscow’s corrupt monetary elite since the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine, US Attorney General Merrick Garland agrees:

We spare no effort in our efforts to investigate, arrest and prosecute those whose criminal activities enable Russia to wage this unjust war.

“disturbing the comfort of the elites”

The task force hides on the trail of the oligarchs behind the windows of a dark administrative building in Manhattan’s Financial District. “Kleptocapture” is the name of the unit, which translates to “catch a thief”.

The name of the board game seems to have become fatal to many oligarchs and politicians: 28 names are on the US sanctions list, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The special Garland unit formed in New York in March must show that America applies its sanctions at all costs against the partisans of this war. And that no one can circumvent them through money laundering or networks, explained “Kleptocapture” director Andrew Adams in an interview with broadcaster NBC: “We want to disrupt the network. To the delight of oligarchs. Disrupt: real estate, bank accounts, art, unwanted harvests of a life of luxury – we have it all on the agenda.”

Andrew Adams leads the elite hunter group “Kleptocapture”.

Version: Picture Alliance / Consolidated

1st trophy: a yacht

Adams could play a good prosecutor in a black-and-white thriller. But behind his childish face hides the accumulated experience of years. As a prosecutor, he faced Russian organized crime groups. In his new job in Manhattan, he leads an entire armada of elite hunters.

The team includes more than 10 prosecutors and other criminal justice professionals, as well as experts from national security, FBI and tax investigators. “You can just go catch a yacht,” says Adams. “The facts linking property to crime need to be reviewed. You have to prove the crime.

The task force seized the first elite vessel in April: the luxury yacht owned by Russian investor Viktor Vekselberg. The billionaire has been on the US sanctions list since 2018 for alleged tax evasion, money laundering and falsifying documents to evade sanctions. With the help of Spanish police, “Kleptocapture” ties up his $90 million yacht “Tango” off Mallorca.

The elite yacht “Tango” was discovered in the port of Barcelona by US federal authorities and the Spanish Civil Guard.

Image: DPA

A private plane in Kazakhstan

Meanwhile, “Kleptocapture” is another Russian billionaire: State Duma deputy Andrei Schottsch. The United States and the European Union have imposed a number of sanctions on the oligarchs. Among other things, he is allegedly associated with Russian organized crime gangs. “Kleptocapture” wants to buy back his plane, which is worth more than 88 million euros. It’s in Kazakhstan now.

It’s not an easy deal, but it’s what haunts elite hunter Adams: “The reason I come to work is to get the money and then the crime behind it.”

The United States and other countries have the right to confiscate the assets of suspected oligarchs. The original owner will not be able to use that yacht, jet, home, or account until the restrictions are successfully lifted or challenged.

So far, the United States and its allies, including Germany, have frozen more than $330 billion in assets of Russian oligarchs.

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