A top Justice Department official has a stern warning for Russian oligarchs who attempt to evade U.S. sanctions: Nobody is out of the DOJ's reach.
"The point of going after Putin's cronies and Russian oligarchs who seek to violate our laws and shield their assets is to say that nobody is beyond the reach of our system of justice, beyond the reach of our work and cooperation with our allies, and that these cronies and oligarchs who seek to support and bolster the Russian regime shouldn't be able to get away with that while people are dying," Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco told ABC News' Byron Pitts.
The Justice Department on Wednesday announced a task force to target the assets of Russian oligarchs after President Joe Biden previewed the move in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.
The U.S. says some of the oligarchs have ties to President Vladimir Putin and he uses them to launder or hide hundreds of millions of dollars obtained through corruption.
Dubbed Task Force KleptoCapture, the group will investigate and implement new sanctions, combat unlawful efforts to undermine restrictions taken against Russian financial institutions, go after oligarchs who use cryptocurrency to evade U.S. sanctions and seize the assets of Russian oligarchs.
The deputy attorney general urged U.S. businesses to shore up their compliance with sanctions and make sure they know who they're doing business with.
"Because if they don't and they run afoul of the sanctions, the consequences can be quite severe," she said. "And our investigations are often aided by companies and financial institutions that say, 'You know what, we're seeing some unusual activity,' and sharing that information with us, and that's critically important."
Monaco said the task force is a "commitment" from the DOJ to put the full weight of the agency behind combatting "efforts of oligarchs and Putin's cronies to evade sanctions, to launder money, to violate the sanctions that we're imposing in an unprecedented way with our international partners."
The deputy attorney general juxtaposed the images playing out on TV of people suffering in Ukraine with some of Russia's wealthiest citizens evading sanctions.
"We've got people dying, bombs falling on civilian populations. All the while you've got oligarchs, Putin's cronies who have engaged in corruptly acquiring billions of dollars, shrouding it and hiding it in luxury items in the West," she said.
"That cannot stand," she added.