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The Kleptocapture Task Force is the US response to the 2022 challenge

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What is the KleptoCapture Task Force?

The KleptoCapture Task Force was established in March 2022 by the US Department of Justice. The task force’s main goal is to identify and sanction Russian oligarchs, government officials and other wealthy individuals involved in money laundering and terrorist financing in response to Actions of Russia against Ukraine earlier this year. The Ministry of Justice announced the creation of a working group on March 2, 2022.

The value of “KleptoCapture”

The name KleptoCapture was made using the word klepto, which means “to steal”. The term kleptocracy refers to a wealthy and powerful faction of society that has made its wealth by stealing money from other people. So KleptoCapture means capturing those who steal (here meaning money and resources that have been “stolen” through illegal activities) from society.

The goal of the KleptoCapture task force

According to the US Department of Justice, TaskForce Kleptocapture was created with these specific goals in mind-

  1. Investigate all violators sanctions introduced in connection with the invasion of Ukraine, as well as with past cases of Russian aggression and, if necessary, to bring them to criminal responsibility.
  2. Combat all attempts to circumvent sanctions imposed on Russian financial institutions, including entities attempting to circumvent AML and KYC measures.
  3. So that violators do not use cryptocurrency and other methods of anonymity to avoid sanctions and finance the Russian police and spread corruption.
  4. Identify and seize all assets belonging to sanctioned individuals in an attempt to deter them from using those assets to finance terrorism, and recover ill-gotten assets.

History of events between Russia and Ukraine

The conflict between Ukraine and Russia goes back a long time, and the former’s intention to join NATO became the straw on the camel’s back. NATO was created in 1949 after the Second World War with the aim of preventing the influence of the Soviet Union from spreading throughout the Union. The Soviet Union itself continued to exist until 1991, after which Ukraine became a free country.

Nevertheless, Russia still retained some influence over the newly independent country and considered it an ally. Ukraine borders Russia to the east and also has access to maritime trade through the Black Sea. It is also the second largest country in Europe. All these factors together made it extremely profitable for Russia.

According to reports, NATO promised Russia that it would not expand eastward after the fall of the Soviet Union. However, Ukraine’s determination to join NATO was seen as a threat to this promise and to Russia’s power over Ukraine. Ukraine ultimately reneged on its resolution, prompting Russia to launch a full-scale invasion of the country in an attempt to retake it.

The sheer scale of the violence and destruction shocked the rest of the world and prompted the United States to take action against disgraced Russia. To hold them accountable for their actions, they decided to impose a series of economic and financial sanctions against the country, blocking it from participating in international trade.

The sanctions included freezing Russian foreign assets, blocking air routes and revoking their investments in Russian enterprises and companies. One of the most famous of these was Executive Order 14068, which outright banned the import of Russian luxury goods, dealing a severe blow to their economy.

They also began to go after Russian oligarchs, a number of wealthy Russians who amassed wealth after the fall of the Soviet Union. These oligarchs openly support the violent policies of the Russian government and are known to use their wealth to finance military operations and other questionable activities, such as helping finance the invasion of Ukraine. The US has taken a stand against these powerful people, introducing laws to freeze their foreign property, yachts and other assets.

However, oligarchs found loopholes in the sanctions and were able to circumvent them by moving their assets to non-sanctioned countries, hiding their assets and investments, and creating irrevocable trusts. In this way they were able to avoid prosecution and escape, continuing to support and finance the current violent regime.

In response to this situation, the President of the United States approved the creation of the KleptoCapture Task Force.

Formation and structure of the KleptoCapture task force

The task force was created by appointing a number of agents and prosecutors from various federal agencies. Members of the squad have been given the authority to investigate and prosecute those who violate these sanctions, as well as prosecute them if necessary.

The task force is headquartered in the Office of the Deputy Attorney General and is led by the former Co-Chief of the Anti-Money Laundering and Transnational Criminal Enterprise Division of the Southern District of New York. The organization itself includes many experienced people, such as deputy directors and attorneys from the National Security and Criminal Divisions, the Tax Division, and the Civil Division. In addition, there are agents and other personnel from the US Marshals Service, the FBI, the Postal Inspection Service, the Secret Service, the Department of Homeland Security, and the FBI.

The KleptoCapture TaskForce will also collaborate with a transatlantic task force set up by the European Commission and other countries such as Germany, France, Canada and the UK. This would help improve communication channels regarding foreign assets and help apprehend offenders seeking asylum in other countries.

TaskForce has hired a number of data analysts and agents who use resources such as information from the public and private financial sectors, stock and cryptocurrency trading, foreign intelligence information and other such data. There is an emphasis on tracking cryptocurrency transactions, as oligarchs were found to be using increased levels of privacy and anonymity to transfer their assets in the form of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. When apprehending cases of money laundering, the Task Force successfully prevented the financing of terrorism and the promotion of violence by oligarchs.

So far, TaskForce Kleptocapture has seized a number of private jets, yachts and other property as directed by the US Treasury Department and the FBI.

Conclusion

In response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine, the United States imposed a series of sanctions against the country to isolate it from the rest of the world. However, Russian government officials, businesses and rich and powerful oligarchs have been able to circumvent these sanctions and continue to engage in illegal activities and money laundering. In March 2022, the US Department of Justice established the KleptoCapture Task Force to specifically identify, prosecute and prosecute violators of these sanctions.

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