US May Sell Seized Russian Yachts To Aid Ukraine

On Wednesday (27th April, 2022), the White House passed a symbolic bill that urged President Biden to sell off frozen assets of Russia’s oligarchs that were hit with sanctions. The idea is to use the funds to offer additional humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine.

The legislation is reportedly nonbinding. However, the 417-to-8 passage reflects a unique bipartisan desire for the president on Capitol Hill to adopt an aggressive posture as the US and European allies strive to do with assets seized from Russian citizens in response to Moscow’s planned invasion of Ukraine.

This was received a day after Merrick B. Garland, the Attorney General, approached a Senate panel for the administration to ask Congress for an expanded authority regarding the confiscation and liquidation of Russia’s property.

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Senator Chuck Schumer is consulting with the Biden administration and would like to have a provision that gives the authority to the president to sell seized assets of Russians, in legislation, to provide more aid to Ukraine’s citizens. Congress is expected to consider the decision, a spokesman mentioned.

Mr. Garland’s comments worked as a boost to the backers of the bill, especially those who have contended with many thorny legal issues to find a way for the US to transform items like upscale apartments and yachts into de-facto reparations for Ukraine citizens under siege.

Representatives Joe Wilson, South Carolina Republican and Tom Malinowski, the New Jersey Democrat, who had sponsored the legislation that was passed on Wednesday, have argued that Biden’s administration must sell off luxury items that were seized with the newly expanded sanctions. The government must also divert the proceeds to Ukraine than have the property languish and return it.

In recent weeks, law enforcement authorities who have seized several multimillion-dollar luxury yachts in Europe. In April, the FBI worked with authorities from Spain to take the 250-foot Tango worth $90 million, said to be owned by Viktor F. Vekselberg, Russia’s energy tycoon. If such vessels are not adequately maintained, they may become environmental blights.

Initial attempts to enact the bill had been stymied as lawmakers and lawyers raised issues stating that the legislation may even run afoul of legal protections by depriving Russians who were the owners of the seized items of the right to challenge the action and possibly reclaim the property. Such concerns were highlighted by The Washington Post earlier.

In reply to the highlighted concerns, lawmakers reportedly watered down this bill, making it appear as a nonbinding resolution, which can ask the administration for convening an “interagency working group” that is tasked with the act of assessing constitutional mechanisms via which the president will be able to take steps to confiscate and seize assets of oligarchs who had been punished via sanctions.

The Biden administration seems to be warming to this idea. The present theory that ensures freezing of the assets of malicious Russians is to bring about a change in the behavior those results in the individuals regaining access to the property.

Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser of Biden, had mentioned this month that as they seize the assets, the goal becomes not to give those back, but put them to better use.

Malinowski argued that his legislation is tailored narrowly to apply to uniquely egregious scenarios. Corrupt oligarchs of Russia who seek to retain state-owned assets must not be entitled to the due process rights as a US citizen.

Reference: nytimes.com

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