March 01,2022

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Wyden Outlines Finance Committee Next Steps to Hold Russia Accountable for Ukraine Invasion

Washington, D.C.— Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today released the following statement on next steps to hold Russia accountable for its invasion of Ukraine:

“The key to holding Vladimir Putin accountable for his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is following the money, and rooting out billions in illicit assets stashed around the world by Putin and his cronies.

“As chair of the Senate Finance Committee I’ve had a long-time interest in illicit finance and sanctions policy, and I’m going to push for every possible economic tool to make Putin pay for his actions. While the Treasury Department has done a remarkable job to implement tough sanctions, there are several key areas Congress needs to address and should support. 

  • First, the IRS Criminal Investigations Unit has been starved of resources. This unit plays a critical role in going after illicit Russian assets, and Congress needs to give these experts the resources they need for these highly complex investigations. The committee is also taking a hard look at loopholes and preferences in our tax system that allow Putin’s oligarchs to hide assets and avoid taxes on the assets they’ve stashed in the United States. 
  • Second, we need to make sure tariff treatment of Russia reflects its pariah status. Permanent normal trade relations are extended to countries as they join the World Trade Organization (WTO) and agree to abide by rules that ensure a level playing field in international trade. Removing normal trade relations will raise tariffs on Russian goods and send a message that unprovoked invasions of a foreign nation will not be tolerated in any arena. In addition, Russia's actions to throttle internet access and censor online content as a means to crush dissent and limit access to reliable information not only raise human and civil rights concerns, but also act as a barrier to trade. We must consider how trade tools can be used to address such digital authoritarianism by any actor.
  • Third, we need to close the Investment Company Act loophole that exempts private equity and hedge funds from implementing basic anti-money laundering requirements. This is an area that can be addressed, in part, administratively as well. The Securities and Exchange Commission should consider a rulemaking to update disclosure requirements regarding the foreign beneficial owners of private investment funds. I have also asked the Treasury Department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis to conduct a thorough review of the risks posed by these loopholes. Private investment funds are now a $10 trillion industry and there needs to be far more scrutiny of offshore cash moving through these funds.
  • Fourth, we need to ensure the Treasury Department has sufficient funding for FinCen to implement the bipartisan anti- money laundering law passed in 2020. The key feature of this law is a new beneficial ownership registry so we know the true owners of shell companies invested in assets like luxury real estate. Russian oligarchs have relied on anonymous shell companies to hide their wealth and while we’ve given the Treasury Department the tools to go after them, they need the resources. 
  • Fifth, we should require financial institutions to rigorously monitor and eliminate correspondent banking services for Russian oligarchs and sanctioned entities associated with the Russian state. There are recent lessons from history here. The largest sanctions evasion scheme in U.S. history involved the movement of over $20 billion in restricted Iranian funds by Turkish state-owned Halkbank through the networks of several large U.S. financial institutions. 
  • Sixth, I would strongly support an agency task force led by the Treasury and Justice Departments to identify and seize the property and other physical assets of Russian oligarchs and Kremlin-linked companies. If Congress needs to provide additional resources for this effort, it should do so.  

“Lastly, it’s important to remember that the path to Putin’s invasion was paved, in part, by Donald Trump’s blackmail of President Zelensky and a sham Senate ‘investigation,’ which sought to mainstream Russian propaganda against Ukraine. In particular, the Republican senators relied on propaganda from Andrii Telizhenko, who, after long delays, was finally sanctioned by the Treasury Department in the final days of the Trump administration. 

“Some Republicans are going to try to whitewash this history, but the facts are clear. They pushed Russian propaganda in an attempt to justify Donald Trump’s extortion of President Zelensky and his undermining of Ukraine’s national security.”