Clevelandgrade doesn’t sound quite as good as Londongrad, but money traps from the kleptocracy born out of the ruins of the Soviet Union reach Ohio City, as well as the British capital. The oligarchs close to Russian President Vladimir Putin own private jets in the United States, superyachts or Aspen in Florida or luxury mansions in New York, real estate businesses, and metallurgical factories in unexpected corners of the Midwest, in addition to private jets in California. Corners like Cleveland.
All of this stuff is in the crosshairs of sanctions imposed a month ago by the United States and its allies in response to the invasion of Ukraine. And this is not a closed list. Biden expanded it to cover 400 Russian politicians, companies and plutocrats during his visit to Brussels this Thursday.
The oligarchs on that payroll have so far inadvertently moved into the American system, based on welcoming money, legal or illegal, without asking too many questions. Neither the war in the Donbass nor the annexation of Crimea in 2014, nor Moscow’s interference in the 2016 election, which ended Donald Trump in the White House, persuaded Washington to do much about it. This time it is different, although the odds of the sanctions taking effect have not changed.
This is explained by investigative journalist Casey Mitchell, author of the book american kleptocracy (St. Martin’s Press). lead by subtitle How the United States Created the Largest Money Laundering System in History. He published it in November, and the war has unexpectedly turned it into a manual for impunity use that is not entirely new: already in 1999, on New Year’s Eve when Putin visited the Kremlin, Handled Richard Palmer, who was a CIA agent in Moscow, he warned Congress that sly and former KGB members were drowning in black money in the United States.
Michel hailed the sanctions as “fantastic in itself, more daring than expected (and above all, more than Putin expected), but also inadequate.” “If they are not accompanied by reforms that strengthen transparency and work to combat money laundering, it will be much easier for them to stop them. It is imperative in the United States to end regulations that allow anonymity of shell companies and trusts,” he says.
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A senior National Security Council official, who has been working on the punishment program for months and who asked to remain anonymous, admitted the problem to EL PAS last week. “Disturbing the oligarchs is one of the most important steps in the American response to unreasonable and unprovoked Russian aggression, and there is no doubt that I cannot elaborate, as it is before we freeze our assets. will be allowed to transfer. them. But it is not just about adding names to the list, but about finding a way to access their assets and businesses, which are usually hidden under multiple layers of anonymous signatures,” he explained.
He also recalled that Congress approved a law in 2020, a still pending application, that requires the government to identify these middlemen, especially those from the small state of Delaware, under President Joe Biden. Places like the home benefit from the looser rules that are in place. , a tax haven with one million residents that is home to 1.5 million companies, as Mitchell recalls, its capital, Wilmington, is a “world mecca for shell companies.” An initiative called the Enablers Act (something akin to the Recipients’ Law) is also in process, which expands this obligation to attorneys, investment advisors, accountants, art dealers or public relations workers with dirty money exposure.
The Justice Department earlier this month also created a working group called Kleptocapture to chase down “corrupt Russian oligarchs” as defined by US Attorney General Merrick Garland. And last week, the Treasury and Justice Departments signed an agreement to coordinate the efforts of G-7 members. A senior National Security Council official gave as an example the case of Spain (which is not a member of the club), where “three superyachts have been confiscated”, before adding that the United States has built something called this. Is team zillow (Similar to the most famous real estate portal in the country idealist), designed to locate and act on the mansions of the oligarchs near the Kremlin.
This is understandable: Putin’s friends in the United States have a wide range of businesses, but they have shown a penchant for real estate: between 2015 and 2020, it is estimated that about $2.3 billion will be spent in the United States. was refined. [unos 2.094 millones de euros] through real estate deals, according to a report by Global Financial Integrity, a Washington-based organization dedicated to checking illegal money flows.
Those tangible assets are also the easiest to identify. And so some targeted elites are rushing to get rid of them before they freeze up; financial Times New York reported this week’s desperate moves to try to sell properties hastily standing high, It is more difficult to tie the knot with investments in private equity funds, venture capital funds and hedge funds, US law does not require these firms to verify the identities of investors, nor to be excellent with the origin of that money, something that banks have been obliged to do by anti-money laundering regulations since the seventies.
One such company is Concorde. Founded in 1999 and headquartered in Tarrytown, New York State, this consultancy doesn’t like advertising, so it doesn’t have a website. Like others of its nature, it has been breaking ties with Russian oligarchs in a forced march during these weeks. The same can be said for the lawyers who represent them and the firms operating in Washington to pressure lawmakers. They are what are known in the city as “K Street People”, but the definition is more due to state of mind than a postal address: most of them were based in that artery of the federal capital decades ago, but today probably Only a trace is left. According to data compiled by OpenSecrets, a watchdog organization of the relationship between politics and money in the United States, Russian oligarchs have spent about $500 million on this type of influence, completely legal, since 2014, when The first sanctions came to Crimea for the occupation of…
It is also common for Congressmen to open their revolving doors when these companies leave. One of the most famous is called Mercury, representing Sovcombank, a bank that was involved in the first round of penalties and came out again in the last: on Thursday, 17 members of its board of directors were removed by the United States. was chosen.
Mercury’s partner is David Vitter, who was a Republican senator from Louisiana from 2005 to 2017. As of February, Vitter was still advocating for his client, Sovcombank. He wrote to members of Capitol Hill to avoid penalizing a financial institution “with strong ties to the United States and the West.” On March 3, Biden announced that he was freezing bank assets in the United States and barring its citizens from doing business with it. In view of this, Mercury has suspended its relationship with the Russian bank. They simply could not continue doing business together.