Violations of new U.S. sanctions on export restrictions, Russian banks and individuals can be revealed through U.S. whistleblower laws

The U.S. Attorney General’s new Task Force KleptoCapture, an interagency law enforcement task force will enforce the sanctions, export restrictions, and economic countermeasures that the United States has imposed, along with allies and partners, in response to Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine. Task Force KleptoCapture will ensure the full effect of these actions, which have been designed to isolate Russia from global markets and impose serious costs for this unjustified act of war, by targeting the crimes of Russian officials, government-aligned elites, and those who aid or conceal their unlawful conduct. Anyone living here or outside the U.S. may report information on anyone violating those sanctions through counsel and assert the information through the Federal False Claims Act.

The Task Force will be staffed with prosecutors, agents, analysts, and professional staff across the Department who are experts in sanctions and export control enforcement, anticorruption, asset forfeiture, anti-money laundering, tax enforcement, national security investigations, and foreign evidence collection. It will leverage all the Department’s tools and authorities against efforts to evade or undermine the economic actions taken by the U.S. government in response to Russian military aggression. The mission of the Task Force will include:

  • Investigating and prosecuting violations of new and future sanctions imposed in response to the Ukraine invasion, as well as sanctions imposed for prior instances of Russian aggression and corruption;
  • Combating unlawful efforts to undermine restrictions taken against Russian financial institutions, including the prosecution of those who try to evade know-your-customer and anti-money laundering measures;
  • Targeting efforts to use cryptocurrency to evade U.S. sanctions, launder proceeds of foreign corruption, or evade U.S. responses to Russian military aggression; and
  • Using civil and criminal asset forfeiture authorities to seize assets belonging to sanctioned individuals or assets identified as the proceeds of unlawful conduct.

Arrests and prosecution will be sought when supported by the facts and the law. Even if defendants cannot be immediately detained, asset seizures and civil forfeitures of unlawful proceeds — including personal real estate, financial, and commercial assets — will be used to deny resources that enable Russian aggression. Where appropriate, information gathered through Task Force investigations will be shared with interagency and foreign partners to augment the identification of assets that are covered by the sanctions and new economic countermeasures.  

Task Force KleptoCapture will complement the work of the transatlantic task force announced by the President and leaders of the European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Canada on Feb. 26, which has a mission to identify and seize the assets of sanctioned individuals and companies around the world.

Task Force KleptoCapture will be led by a veteran corruption prosecutor assigned to the Deputy Attorney General’s Office from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. This prosecutor has a long and successful track record of investigating Russian organized crime and recovering illicit assets. The Task Force leadership will include Deputy Directors from both the National Security and Criminal Divisions, and more than a dozen attorneys from these divisions, as well as the Tax Division, Civil Division, and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country.

The Task Force will include agents and analysts from numerous law enforcement agencies, including the FBI; U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Secret Service; Department of Homeland Security–Homeland Security Investigations; IRS–Criminal Investigation; and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

The Task Force is authorized to investigate and prosecute any criminal offense related to its mission, including conspiracy to defraud the United States by interfering in and obstructing lawful government functions; money laundering; false statements to a financial institution; bank fraud; and various tax offenses. The maximum penalty under several of these authorities is 20 years in prison.

JEFFREY NEWMAN REPRESENTS WHISTLEBLOWERS. JNewman@Newmanshapiro.com 617-823-3217