(NewsNation Now) — Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen used a visit to Chicago on Wednesday to spotlight the Biden administration’s effort to strip Russian oligarchs of their wealth in response to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Former Treasury Department spokeswoman Hagar Chemali told NewsNation Now that the process of seizing oligarchs’ assets is more straightforward than people may expect.
“The way [the Treasury Department] does that is they have their own in-house intelligence shop,” she said. “In fact, the U.S. Treasury Department is the only finance ministry in the world with its own intelligence shop with analysts that receive intelligence and analyze it for the expressed purpose of disrupting and dismantling criminal financial networks.”
When the department has zeroed in on targeted billionaires, the U.S. has the authority to freeze any assets in America’s jurisdiction.
“Once they’re seized, the assets go into a law enforcement slush fund that then finance future law enforcement efforts,” she said.
The sanctions have already had a crushing impact on the Russian economy, causing the ruble to plunge and forcing the closure of Russia’s stock market. By targeting oligarchs, the Biden administration is going after the elites who owe their fortunes to Putin and could possibly be used to pressure the Russian leader.
On Wednesday, authorities in Germany seized Russian oligarch Alisher Umanov’s 500-foot yacht, according to Forbes. That megayacht alone is worth an estimated $600 million. Five other megayachts are reportedly anchored or heading to the Maldives, which does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S.
U.S. President Joe Biden, in his State of the Union address Tuesday, briefly addressed oligarchs, saying, “We are coming for your ill-begotten gains.”