- Luxury US real estate owned by Russian oligarchs is under scrutiny for money laundering.
- Specifically “extremely expensive real estate in stable economies,” a DOJ official told CNN.
- However, real estate needs to go through forfeiture litigation before the government can seize it, he noted.
Wealthy Russians have long invested in luxury real estate across the US, from high-end apartments in Florida to multi-million dollar townhomes in New York City.
Now, those assets are “at the top” of the Justice Department’s list as the US looks to crack down on Russian money laundering, according to Andrew Adams, the head of the Justice Department’s KleptoCapture task force.
“All sorts of assets are on the table, for sure. And bringing up real estate is particularly pertinent,” Adams told CNN in an interview published Friday. “The way in which much money laundering is occurring is through large, stable value assets. Real estate is at the top of the list for that kind of investigation.”
Money laundering investigators specifically look for “extremely expensive real estate in stable economies,” he told the outlet.
The Biden administration created the KleptoCapture task force “to hold accountable corrupt Russian oligarchs” following the invasion of Ukraine by seizing their US assets.
While luxury real estate remains a focus of the Justice Department, Adams noted that federal forfeiture law requires layers of litigation before the government can seize an individual’s private property. Last week, President Biden proposed a new White House plan that would expedite this legal process and allow the government to sell seized Russian assets to help fund Ukraine.
Compared to the rest of the world, US real estate is a steady, if not profitable, investment. But those characteristics also make it “perfect for illicit actors to hide their money,” Gary Kalman, executive director of the anti-corruption organization Transparency International, told Insider.
“I’m an anti-corruption guy, but I also believe in constitutional rights,” Kalman told Insider. “So we have a fourth amendment, you have due process and you gotta go through the courts to actually take somebody’s property.”
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