March 21, 2022

US announces formation of Russian Elites, Proxies, and Oligarchs (REPO) task force and reveals other kleptocracy programs

On March 16, 2022, the US Departments of Treasury and Justice announced the launch of the Russian Elites, Proxies, and Oligarchs (REPO) multilateral task force made up of a group of participating countries that have agreed to use their respective authorities to collect and share information in order to freeze and seize the property of sanctioned Russian elites around the world.  Countries participating in the task force include Australia, Canada, the European Commission, Germany, Italy, France, Japan, UK, and the United States.  According to the US Treasury and Justice Departments, the collaboration has already resulted in some notable successes within the last three weeks, which include the restraint of multiple vessels worth hundreds of millions of dollars from sanctioned individuals and entities.

The US also reported that REPO task force members met virtually on March 16, 2022 to discuss multiple topics including ways to effectively coordinate financial sanctions related to Russia and assist other nations with locating and freezing assets within their jurisdictions; the need to preserve evidence and determine if frozen assets are subject to forfeiture; and ways to bring to justice those who facilitate the unlawful movement of sanctioned assets and illicit funds. The Treasury Department also provided the meeting attendees with a list of 50 individuals that the US has prioritized, 28 of which are individuals who have been sanctioned by multiple jurisdictions.

The international task force will also benefit from the US government’s internal efforts to enhance interagency cooperation related to Russia-related countermeasures such as the Department of Justice’s launch of Task Force KleptoCapture on March 2, 2022, aimed at identifying and prosecuting those who attempt to evade sanctions and engage in related criminal conduct.  The Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) also published a statement of intent of its commitment to join with task force members to increase information sharing among Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the UK.  As a demonstration of this commitment, FinCEN released an Alert to inform financial institutions of the importance of identifying and reporting suspicious transactions by sanctioned Russian elites and their families.  The Treasury Department also disclosed plans to launch the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Rewards Program, which would allow the US to offer rewards of up to $5 million for information leading to the restraint/seizure, forfeiture or repatriation of stolen assets linked to foreign government corruption that are 1) in an account at a US financial institution, including a US branch of a foreign institution; 2) come within the United States or 3) come within the possession or control of a US person.

Department of Justice Press Release | Department of Treasury Press Release – REPO task force | Department of Treasury – rewards program | FinCEN – REPO task force | FinCEN – FIU working group | FinCEN Alert