Biden announces a plan to confiscate the assets of Russian oligarchs in the United States and deliver them to Ukraine.
In an effort to focus Russian riches toward the rebuilding of Ukraine, where some cities have been ravaged by invading Russian forces since the end of February, US President Joe Biden said that Russian oligarchs' assets held in the United States would be confiscated and given to Ukraine. Mr. Biden's proposal was made as part of a bigger announcement in which he asked Congress to authorize an additional $33 billion in security, humanitarian, and economic aid for Ukraine.
"We're going to seize their yachts or luxury residences and the other ill-gotten wealth of Putin's kleptocracy," Mr. Biden said Thursday morning at the White House.
The President's proposal calls for the seizure of sanctioned Russians' assets held in the United States, which are linked to a specific illegal behavior. The procedure, which will involve the US Treasury, State, and Justice Departments, will also seek powers to broaden the list of assets that might be forfeited to include property used to aid in sanctions evasion. Under current US law, only earnings from sanction violations can be forfeited, not assets used to facilitate the process.
The proposal also allows for the use of seized assets to assist Ukraine. Mr. Biden explained, "It will ensure that when the oligarchs' assets are auctioned, cash may be used directly to redress the harm Russia caused."
According to a statement released by the White House on Thursday, the US Treasury has already sanctioned and restricted Russian aircraft and vessels worth more than $1 billion. According to the White House, European Union countries reported freezing almost $30 billion in assets, including nearly $7 billion in real estate, helicopters, boats, and art.
When asked last week if the US might use blocked Russian central bank assets to assist rebuild Ukraine, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen declined, stating it would almost certainly require legislative reforms. "I'm not sure if it would be viable without legislation approving the use of those assets," Ms. Yellen had said, adding that the US would have to "seriously" consider the implications before proceeding.
"I wouldn't want to do it lightly," she had stated, "and I believe our coalition and allies would need to be comfortable with and support it." The Washington Post stated that civil liberties groups had notified lawmakers earlier in April that a similar scheme presented in March could have violated due-process rights given by the US Constitution.