US Congress should amend existing laws governing asset forfeiture so funds Washington confiscated from Russian kleptocrats can be given to Ukraine, Andrew Adams the head of the interagency sanctions task force told the Senate on Tuesday.
Formerly a federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York (SDNY), Adams is the head of the interagency Task Force KleptoCapture, a sanctions enforcement outfit created in February.
While testifying at a hearing called “Tightening the Screws on Russia,” he presented, among other things, the US Department of Justice’s pitch for Congress to allow the government to remediate harms caused to Ukraine by Russia’s war of aggression by amending the existing US asset forfeiture laws.
Adams explained that amendments are necessary to multiple statutes governing the use of forfeited funds to give the ability to the departments of justice, treasury, and state to give the funds seized from Russia and Russians to the government in Kyiv and the Ukrainian people.
He told senators that the scope, intended impact, and international alignment of the sanctions imposed on Russia are unprecedented, mentioning earlier in his testimony that the measures implemented by the Biden administration and its allies have included immobilizing the Russian Central Bank’s assets, held in coffers around the world.
However, it is still not clear whether these funds would be included in the scheme to transfer money to Ukraine. That is something the government in Kyiv has demanded- both of the US and of the EU – for months.
Defended by proponents as a key tool for funding law enforcement and weakening organized crime, asset forfeiture is a highly controversial practice in US law.
Critics of the practice, such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), have described it as egregiously at odds with the US due process rights, calling it policing for profit.